Despite their lack of top results this year, the riders of Orica-GreenEdge were in good moods at the Paris-Roubaix team presentation in Compiègne on Saturday afternoon. Veteran Mathew Hayman and Jens Keukeleire will be the protected riders in the Australian team for the queen of the Classics. Hayman, in particular, is the man who can be expected to go well, according to Keukeleire.
"Just like in Flanders, Hayman and I are the protected riders once again. I’m learning a lot from him, not only for this race. It’s the race that suits him the best of all races. I wouldn’t exclude the podium for him," Keukeleire told Cyclingnews.
The 26-year-old Belgian rider explained what exactly Hayman teaching him at these Classics. "He’s learning me a lot about race situations, like who I have to keep in check and where I have to save energy. Sometimes his advice is surprising me. Every year I keep learning.
"I don’t have to learn a lot about the course though. It’s already my sixth participation. I’ve also done it in the youth categories."
His best result in those six participations was 25th. Then again, a splendid sixth place in the legendary 2014 Tour de France stage over the cobbles showed that Keukeleire can hope for more in the near future.
For now, the distance seems to be one of the biggest obstacles in his quest for glory at the Spring Classics. In the 215km-long E3 Harelbeke he cracked the top 10 but at the Tour of Flanders the only thing that cracked was himself.
"It went fantastic. Without doing much effort I featured in the group that rode away on the Taaienberg. I easily survived the Kruisberg [where eventual winner Alexander Kristoff and Niki Terpstra rode away] and planned to try something on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. Suddenly it was over.
"I hope it was not because of the distance but because I didn’t drink enough. I’ve got to pay attention to it. My ambition ahead of Flanders was top 10. It has to be my ambition again."
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