Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis doesn't often show his emotions but even he couldn't stop smiling as he watched Fabian Cancellara climb on the podium in the centre of the Roubaix velodrome and lift the winner's cobblestone prize.
Riis carefully directed Cancellara during the race from the passenger seat of the Saxo Bank team car. He revealed that he told Cancellara to attack when he did, after noticing that Tom Boonen was too far down the line of riders.
Cancellara trusted his boss, didn't look back and opened up the after-burners, even though there was still 50 kilometres left to race. Before Boonen even realised what had happened and moved out of the line to look up the road, Cancellara had already opened a gap that would have been impossible for him to close.
"I told him to attack on the radio. As soon as I saw that Boonen was not on his wheel, I said: 'Now you go' ," Riis explained.
"A rider like him, when he goes, it's because he goes to win, not for fun. I knew it was the right moment and that he was riding to win the race. Otherwise I'd have stopped him immediately."
Pressed by several Belgian journalists, Riis could not resist having a dig at Tom Boonen.
"Boonen is strong but Cancellara is better. He's great," he said with total admiration.
"Boonen made mistakes during the race. How many? Two can be too many. I think if you want to win this race you have to stay calm, relaxed and not stressed. Then go when you have to go.
"The problem for the others is that Fabian goes fast, even on his own. We know that and it's a bonus to have. We know he can go from far away, too, so we use this as part of our strategy. Not many riders can do that."
Hoping for a call from a sponsor
Saxo Bank will end their sponsorship of Riis' team at the end of the season. There are rumours that BMC would like to sign Cancellara and the Schleck brothers. The Schlecks are also reported to be working on creating their own team with a Luxembourg sponsor and former Astana manager Marc Biver.
Riis knows that Cancellara's success at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, plus the solid performance by the whole team this spring, could help him find a new sponsor and fight off the vultures that are beginning to circle above his team.
His smile widened even more when asked if he was hoping for a phone call this week.
"Well, it's a good period for us at the moment," he said. "If we're not able to find a sponsor now, it's going to difficult. Who doesn't want to be a part of this?"
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