The majority of the attention in Paris-Roubaix is paid to the winner, the podium finishers, the close-but-not-close-enough riders in the pack. Little notice is given to the many riders who fail to finish. This year, 101 riders were given official placings, a dozen more - including a bereft Stijn Steels, whose Veranda's Willems teammate Michael Goolaerts had suffered a cardiac arrest during the race and later died - were listed as outside the time limit.
One hour after Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe out-sprinted Silvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale) to claim the cobblestone trophy, Siskevicius cut a lonely figure on the banking of the famous velodrome, silently taking his final lap in front of a smattering of VIPs still in the stands - finishing the race, if only ceremonially.
The Belgian news outfit Sporza captured the poignant scenes from the broom wagon, as the 29-year-old, who was determined to get to the finish line, defies all of the pleas from the driver of the sweeper van to give up.
The unbreakable Siskevicius still had over 30km to ride when he was told that Sagan had won. The driver of the broom wagon clearly wanted to get to the finish faster than the speed of Siskevicius, but he was obliged to continue to follow.
"I was very focused on my race and at 30 kilometers from the finish I understood that the driver of the sweeper car wanted me to stop as soon as possible, but I had already cycled 230 kilometers, leaving only 30," Siskevicius said to Sporza. He kept riding.
Then, on the Carrefour de l'Arbre secteur of pavé with 17km remaining, he had a puncture.
Rather than give in, he headed to the vehicle behind the broom wagon - a flat-bed tow truck which just so happened to be carrying his team car, which had broken down. He replaced his wheel and, much to the delight of the fans still lining the course, he kept riding.
The driver says, "He's crazy, he says he wants to keep going", then later, "I had the race directeur [Thierry] Gouvenou on the line, he told me to leave him - that he's keeping the roads closed and he's already outside the time limit." The driver confirms to the Lithuanian that he is going to be left behind, is this OK - do you know the route? "Yes, I am going to finish," the rider says, and keeps going even after the broom wagon has left.
Siskevicius finally arrived at the velodrome only to find that he was so late that security was already locking up the gates heading onto the track. But they took pity on the blue-clad rider, who showed up as the sun went down.
"I do not like to give up, either on the bike or in other things in life, nor did I want to give up out of respect for the organization," he said. "Paris-Roubaix is a monument that you must honor. I came to the vélodrome, the organization had already started to close the gate, but they were so sympathetic to let me in. That way I could still ride my lap and a half on the track."
Still, most of the attention in Paris-Roubaix was given to Sagan, but fans hoping for a positive story in the wake of the tragic death of Goolaerts, got just that in Siskevicius' experience in the Hell of the North, and the story went viral on social media on Tuesdsay. Chapeau.
The full video and more from the broom wagon can be found on Sporza.
L’incroyable histoire de Siskevicius à Roubaix. Respect...
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