Despite strength in numbers on the final lap of the Kwaremont and Paterberg, the BMC Racing team was left to fight for the minor places in the Tour of Flanders with Greg Van Avermaet their best placed finisher in seventh place.
BMC, like the rest of the peloton in Flanders, was simply blown away by Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) who soloed clear on the Paterberg to win his second Ronde title. With Peter Sagan and Jurgen Roelandts second and third the best BMC could have hoped for was fourth place.
At the finish in Oudenaarde BMC's team manager Jim Ochowicz was philosophical in defeat, praising his team's effort but admitting that they were simply up against an unstoppable force of nature in Cancellara.
"Overall things were okay. We didn't really have any big incidents out there today. Physically we were okay. We had three riders in the group coming in but Cancellara was by far the best rider today," Ochowicz told Cyclingnews.
"Look, the more people you have the longer they stay, the better chance you have but in the end you still have to have the strongest rider to do what Cancellara did. You could have 20 riders there but only one guy could do what he did today and he did it."
BMC's tactic of strength in numbers was in contrast to Lotto Belisol's policy of repeated attacks. First André Greipel and then Marcel Sieberg formed part of a dangerous attack in the second half of the race, and then Jurgen Roelandts linked up with Yoann Offredo (FDJ), Sébastien Turgot (Team Europcar) and Sébastien Hinault (IAM Cycling) and Maarten Tjallingii (Team Blanco).
"The move paid off for Roelandts who stayed clear over the final ascent of the Kwaremont and then joined up with Peter Sagan on the run into the finish. That was good. Tactically that was really good," conceded Ochowicz.
"When Roelandts went I wish one of our guys had gone with him because it was much easier going in front of those guys. Going up the Kwaremont you saw what Cancellara did with Sagan barely on his wheel, so it was really a tactically great move by Lotto."
Greg Van Avermaert satisfied
With Cancellara clear and Sagan and Roelandts set to decide the final places on the podium BMC still had strength in numbers but was unable to remedy the situation with either a chase or a place in the top five. The responsibility fell on Van Avermaet, who was fourth in the Ronde last year, and who was the team's best sprinter.
"I can't blame myself because I rode a good race. I just couldn't follow when Cancellara and Sagan left off," said Van Avermaet.
"There was nothing possible against that. Too bad because I felt good but there are few opportunities to try something. I'm satisfied with my result. If you encounter Cancellara and Sagan...then there's not much to do about that."
Ochowicz agreed that there was little BMC could have done once the podium places had been decided and that Van Avermaet had performed to expectations.
"If you picked up yesterday's papers and looked at the star ratings he finished where he should have finished. Somewhere between 5 and 10. Okay, he wasn't a favourite to win and he wasn't a favourite to be on the podium. I'm not disappointed with him but I wish we could have had a better placing but we didn't."
"When people are that strong you're just trying to hang on for dear life and you hope for the best that they don't get too far ahead. When you're watching television and you see what he's doing and he's solo, I know there's no one in the world that can catch him."
With Cancellara in a rich vein of form similar to 2010 when he romped to a Flanders-Roubaix double, the rest of the peloton will be trying to play catch up, or hoping for divine intervention, before next week's arrival on the pave of France. Thor Hushovd may be better suited to that race than he is for Flanders, plus BMC's ranks will be bolstered in Paris-Roubaix with Taylor Phinney set to return from a knee injury, but BMC may have to take a leaf out of Lotto Belisol's book if they are to attain a podium place.
"Roubaix is a good race for us. Taylor will be there and he's really motivated. We have Burghardt who was in the front group, Oss and Quinziato wasn't too far behind. The guys who are going to be there for us next week are all in good shape, they like the distance and they like pavé."
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