On Easter Sunday Fréderic Guesdon (FDJ-Big Mat) rode his final Paris-Roubaix and he'll remain the last French winner of Paris-Roubaix (1997) for at least another year. Despite France's extended interim without a winner at the Hell of the North there was hope for the future as a promising rider stepped forward to follow his footsteps: Sébastien Turgot (Europcar).
Turgot won the sprint for second place at Paris-Roubaix – by a millimeter – ahead of Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and three other pavé specialists. "I did some track and that certainly helped me in the sprint," Turgot said.
In 2008 he was a French champion on the track in the team pursuit and the Madison. In 2010 he always had a go in the bunch sprints at the Tour de France and he placed sixth on three occasions. In the same year he beat Belgian star Philippe Gilbert in the sprint after a rainy second stage in the Three Days of De Panne - Koksijde. "Last year was a terrible season but this year I trained well with my trainer who gives me a lot of confidence. I arrived at these races without any problems and with great sensations."
Nevertheless, prior to Paris-Roubaix Turgot wasn't mentioned amongst the likes of Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma - Quick Step), Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) and Guesdon as the French riders with a chance for victory. "That's true but you always start with some ambition," said Turgot. "There's the dream of winning but you realize that it would be hard with men like Boonen, Ballan, Flecha.
"It's my third Roubaix. Last year wasn't good. I was in the third group. I didn't have great experiences. Since then I learned a lot. This year I started without pressure. Once the kilometres were passing I felt that I was good so the hope was there."
This year his hope of victory was crushed when Tom Boonen attacked with more than 50km to race. Just before that Turgot featured in two breakaway attempts in which he was one of the driving riders. "Just before he (Boonen) attacked I did an attack myself. I talked with Sylvain [Chavanel] and he told me to try it as many guys were on their limit. The BMC guys had already worked all day long. I tried several times but it didn't work out. When Boonen took off there wasn't much to do. Mine didn't get far but he took 20 seconds in no time. Afterwards everybody was looking at each other. You could see it on the TV screens: Boonen was too strong. It was almost a miracle what he did, it was super nice," Turgot said.
In the finale Turgot was riding together with Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) behind the first chase group of Lars Boom (Rabobank), Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC). "Once we felt we were coming back on them we both went flat out."
When arriving on the track the trio were still enjoying a good lead but the duo behind them were riding at a higher pace and caught up with them on the final lap. Boom started the sprint but Turgot managed to come around him. Turgot barely held off Ballan, with the photo finish showing a gap of one millimeter between them.
"I don't realize yet how huge the performance is that I achieved," said Turgot. "I'll realize it when I'm back at the bus or with my family."
The 27-year-old Frenchman from Limoges – who turns 28 on Wednesday – found out that in the coming years he will return to the pavé Classics with a realistic chance for victory. "Today I realized that the Flemish races are something for me. Now I have to keep working to win one of these races, not only Paris-Roubaix."