Jens Keukeleire started his sixth career Paris-Roubaix as one of Orica-GreenEdge's two protected riders alongside Mat Hayman and ended the 253km race in sixth place overall for his best ever result at a monument. Keukeleire's result was also one place better than Sebastian Langeveld's seventh in 2013 to record the team's best finish at the 'Queen of the Classics.'
The 26-year-old suffered a puncture in the treacherous Arenberg Forest but quickly recovered his position thanks to a quick wheel change from teammate Sam Bewley. Keukeleire continued to move through the groups until he was at the front of the race inside the final 10km, entering the velodrome with the seven-rider group.
"They always told me it's a really amazing feeling riding into the velodrome," Keukeleire said. "I have done it many times but not with the front group. No matter how bad I felt in the final, you always have to keep believing and I tried my best but I just didn't have any legs.
"It's a pretty amazing feeling riding for the win."I am definitely happy with the result," Keukeleire added.
Keukeleire's previous best finish at Paris-Roubaix was 25th in 2014 but having finished 19th at the Tour of Flanders last Sunday and ninth at E3 Harelbeke last month, on the eve of the race he announced that top-ten was a realistic aim and in duly doing so, announced himself as another Belgian cobbled classics rider to watch.
"Especially if you look at the race I did, I had a lot of bad luck and to be honest a couple of times I thought my race was over but I know from previous editions that you can never give up," he said of his result. "You always keep fighting because you never know where you'll end up and I'm still top ten."
For sport director Matt Wilson, Keukeleire's result coupled with the presence of Adam Blythe in the breakaway ensured it was the team's best Roubaix yet and a vast improvement on its 2012 debut when Stuart O'Grady finished a team high 53rd.
"All the guys were really good at the start covering the moves," Wilson said. "We were in a couple of other ones that went away and then Blythe was in the one that stuck. So at the start it was all going perfectly and even in the first 30-40km of the pave sections it was all going pretty well and then we started to get the punctures, crashes and bad luck but that's Paris-Roubaix.
"But it was the best result for us at a cobbled classic, that's huge for us, and Jens rode incredibly. He made all the right decisions, move all the right moves and gave himself every chance to win the race."
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