Sebastian Langeveld gave the Cannondale-Drapac team something to cling to in a challenging Classics season as he secured third place at Paris-Roubaix. The Dutchman rode home with eventual winner Greg Van Avermaet and Zdenek Stybar, losing out in a sprint.
It would be fair to say that this year's Classics campaign has not gone the way Cannondale-Drapac would have hoped when they set down their ambitions over the winter. Team leader Sep Vanmarcke finished third at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February but suffered with stomach problems throughout much of the spring, and a crash at the Tour of Flanders would eventually rule him out of competing at Paris-Roubaix. Taylor Phinney also had a heavy fall at De Ronde, which left him with a concussion.
Losing them was a blow, but the team coped well in their absence, as Langeveld and Dylan Van Baarle both enjoyed good days on the cobbles. "Of course, it was really disappointing to lose Sep and Taylor. I think that we could have been stronger with those guys in the team," said Langeveld. "For myself and Dylan Van Baarle, we were on a high level in the last weeks. For Dylan, it came out last week, and for me it came today."
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Having hung on through the early goings and surviving a mechanical problem, Langeveld rode an aggressive strategy in the latter stages of the race, knowing that his opportunities would be better if he was in a smaller group. His moves drew out some strong contenders, and while he knew that he stood little chance of pulling one over on them in the sprint for the line, he took the opportunity to claim his first podium finish at a monument.
"I'm very proud and happy that I'm on the podium in Paris-Roubaix. If you see the race, I'm getting beaten by Greg Van Avermaet and Zdenek Stybar, two really strong riders. With a third place, that's the spot that I deserve today," explained Langeveld. "I knew man on man in a sprint it would be impossible, but my director told me on the radio after the forest that I was on a really good day and I had to believe on the cobbles with everybody.
"I had a bad moment in the race, I don't know which sector it was, but I had a flat tyre and I was almost out of the race, but I came back and I saw a lot of tired people. From there, the race was on and I attacked to get in a breakaway, and then I got a couple of really good people with me and then on Carrefour it was man against man, and you all saw the finale."
In the past, Langeveld regularly found himself in the top 10 at Classics, but his last visit came in 2014 with eighth at Paris-Roubaix. Illness and injury have taken their toll on his confidence over the past couple of years, but he could feel it returning as his 2017 campaign rolled along.
"I've had a lack of confidence the last two years, with a lot of injuries and sickness and disappointment every now and then. It was a long time ago that I was able to race with a podium in a monument," he said. "In the Classics, I had sickness at a bad time, crashes, and they all came a couple of weeks before the big events. The last years I was never in 100 per cent form for the Classics and twice in the Tour I had to abandon with sickness. Sometimes it felt like enough. This year, I was riding on a high level. It didn't always come out with results, and today it did, and I'm proud.
"I had a good feeling in Flanders, but I had a mechanical on the Taaienberg. The form was really good though. I've had a lot more confidence after the last weeks that I could do a good final but to ride for the win in Roubaix is something different."
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