Luke Rowe (Team Sky) was once again left cursing his luck after a second mechanical in the space of two weeks scuppered his chances of a top-10 in a Monument.
In last week's Tour of Flanders, Rowe was forced to change bikes just before a key climb, and in Sunday's Paris-Roubaix the Welshman was left behind by a group competing for the top-10 when he encountered a problem with his chain just before the key sector of cobbles at Carrefour de l'Arbre.
Rowe would eventually cross the line in 32nd place, well down on winner Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
Rowe's performance epitomized Team Sky's lackluster spring on the cobbles, with moments of promise - such as when Rowe attacked with around 80km to go - but ultimate disappointment. Dylan Van Baarle was the team's best-placed finisher in Paris-Roubaix with 21st.
"Dylan and I were in the front most of the day and time after time we put ourselves in the right position entering each cobbled section. We rode well together but it's another shit and frustrating moment. Before Carrefour de l'Arbre I dropped my chain and had to fix it and then I was gone," Rowe told Cyclingnews outside the Team Sky bus on Sunday.
"It was another gutting day because I would have been there or thereabouts and racing behind the guys in front but I had to stop and see 30 guys ride away from me. It's just frustrating. Shit day."
Rowe suffered a puncture earlier in the race but came back quickly before mounting a brief attack. He was quickly brought back but his return came just before the key move of the race involving Nils Politt, Gilbert, Peter Sagan, and several other riders. From that point on, Team Sky were left chasing and when Rowe dropped his chain all hope of a top-10 was lost.
"I was in the main group. It was a bit of a blur. I think I attacked and then the very next move was the one they went in actually. I'm not here to make excuses but it's Roubaix and it's disappointing because another year goes and it's a moment like then when your chain comes off. It was caught in the front mech and then got caught in the back. I was fucking around with my chain while the others rode off. It would have been nice to at least race to the end and try and get a top-10. I think it was doable," he said.
"Last weekend [ed. In the Tour of Flanders] I had to change bikes before the Kruisberg. It was another shit moment and at both weekends, in two crucial moments, I've had a bike change or a mechanical. I'm not saying I'm the strongest guy here but I'm not a million miles off. But when those things happen it puts you out of the race. I'm quite gutted, to be honest."
In the moments after Roubaix, when emotions are at their most intense, Rowe was unable to find a positive from his cobbled campaign and his last in Team Sky colours before sponsorship switches to Ineos.
The 29-year-old was competitive in Paris-Nice earlier in the spring and looked set for a run in the Classics. However, he and Team Sky once again fell short. Gianni Moscon has never found his form, while Van Baarle had moments but failed to net a result. Rowe's sixth in Dwars Door Vlaanderen was his best result but, as he explained, his expectations were much higher.
"It's been quite disappointing. The highlight was sixth in Waregem but that's not what I've come to Belgium for," he said.
"It's what I said at the start, and I think it's what most guys say, they just want the opportunity to get their best result possible and have a smooth run. If someone rides away from you and they're stronger, then you accept it, but when it's a mechanical in crucial moments like that, it's just frustrating. You've got to pick yourself up and try and go again but it's tough at the moment."
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