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Paris-Roubaix: Katusha-Alpecin beset by punctures

Katusha-Alpecin went into Paris-Roubaix full of confidence in its leaders Alexander Kristoff and Tony Martin. However, Kristoff failed to finish after suffering a puncture and late crash, and Martin was 76th with a puncture also affecting his race.

A puncture for Kristoff on the approach to Arenberg Forest was the first of his troubles from which he never recovered. Although he managed to rejoin the front group which contained winner Greg Van Avermaet, the 29-year-old was on the back foot that point as he recorded his fourth DNF from eight starts.

"First I had a puncture before Arenberg, which wasn't ideal. I used a lot of energy to come back. After that I never felt good again and up to that point I had been feeling good. But once that happened I felt like I was always on the limit. Before the race I knew I needed to have a race clear of any trouble but here I was before we even got to Arenberg with a flat tyre," said Kristoff, who had stated he'd never felt better before Roubaix on the eve of the race.

"I did manage to come back, I even made it back with Van Avermaet who ended up winning the race. At one point there was a break going away near the end and I received the information on the radio to try to bridge up. Politt pulled me to the cobbles and I was going nicely through a left turn and then it turned to a right turn at 90-degrees and suddenly my brakes weren't working like I needed them to and I went straight. I crashed badly on my hands and then could not hold my handlebars so I had to quit. It was a pity."

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With Kristoff out the hunt, Katusha-Alpecin still had its Martin card to play only for a puncture near the Mons-en-Pévèle sector to end his aspirations. Martin rolled into the Roubaix velodrome in 76th, matching his 2016 debut result.

"I was feeling really good and the team was doing such a great job. We really controlled the beginning of the race and I was always in a safe position. After my sickness in Flanders I was feeling very good and very motivated," said Martin. "I was in the front and got a puncture in a bad moment. After getting a new wheel I had a problem with my chain and I lost the race. I am very disappointed but the race gave me a lot of hope for next year because the team did great and we will come back."

In the end, 23-year-old Nils Polit and first-year neo pro Mads Würtz Schmidt, himself a Paris–Roubaix Junior winner, were the two best finishers for Katusha-Alpecin. A promising sign for the future as sports director Torsten Schmidt explained.

"The team was just fantastic. We said in the car we were so proud – they stuck by our plan 100% and were able to do this on the road," Schmidt said. "Racing here is like going to a casino, but their work here today will give them motivation to come back. The young guys like Mads Würtz Schmidt, Jenthe Biermans and Nils Politt did so much for our leaders Alexander Kristoff and Tony Martin. It's nice to work with them. They are part of our future and we will continue to see them grow. And the result from Nils is very nice; I am super happy for him. I think in the next years everyone can count on us."

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