Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma-Lotto) continued his love-hate relationship with Paris-Roubaix in France on Sunday. The Belgian tends to get the best out of himself during 'the Queen of the Classics', but often bad luck has kept him from a podium spot or even victory.
This year Hoste was again part of the lead group and had anticipated Fabian Cancellara's (Saxo Bank) race winning move before he eventually punctured out of the main chase group. After crossing the line at the Roubaix velodrome in eighth, 5:16 after Cancellara, Hoste sat down, displaying the signs of a crash on his hand.
"That's nothing," he said of the injury. "I rode the race I wanted to race until that flat tyre. It was probably still more than 20 kilometres from the finish. It happened on the sector where Juan Antonio Flecha attacked. It's the same stretch where I had that flag in my wheel in 2004.
"I'd been struggling for 20 kilometres,” he continued. “It was very hard. I was on my own for such a long time, battling the wind. I was in a lot of pain but it all seems so unimportant compared to what my team-mate Wilfried Cretskens is going through. His sister died last night and when you think about that then all that suffering pails into insignificance.”
Some 20 kilometres before his flat tyre, Hoste had been witness to Cancellara's attack. The Swiss champion bridged up Hoste’s group, but he didn't stay there for long.
"I tried to anticipate. When Cancellara came I rode my own tempo as there wasn't much we could do against him. I didn't see him for a long time. Last week it was already clear that he's flying," Hoste said. "As a team we were there. We rode a good attacking race. Greg Van Avermaet punctured too. Jurgen Roelandts was there and also flatted at the worst moment. That's Paris-Roubaix I guess."
In 2004 Hoste launched an acceleration that could have been the winning move, but he was taken down by a Flemish lion flag that got stuck in his wheel. Two years later the Belgian was disqualified after crossing rail tracks while gates were down late in the race. Then last year he was taken out of the lead group when Juan Antonio Flecha crashed on the cobbles of the Carrefour de l'Arbre.