After finishing 13th at the Tour of Flanders, Sep Vanmarcke was eyeing at least a podium place at Paris-Roubaix to make up for a strong and aggressive, but ultimately disappointing spring Classics campaign. However the Belgian EF Education First-Drapac rider explained that, like at De Ronde, the 250km-plus distance of Paris-Roubaix proved too much and he was beset by cramps.
Sixth place on Sunday was an honest reflection of his form and ability.
"At the end of the race I was dead-empty," he said. "It was the same sensation I had like in the Ronde, just feeling empty in the final 20 kilometres, starting to cramp," said Vanmarcke, who was up was against Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) in the sprint for fourth place.
"I kind of believed that we might come back on them but I also felt that I was running out of gas. I think that my result at the finish was the place I deserved. I certainly wasn't the strongest rider in my group. That's just the way it is."
In praise of Phinney
Vanmarcke now has four top-10 results from seven starts at the French Monument. Taylor Phinney was a key teammate in Vanmarcke securing his sixth place on Sunday afternoon. Phinney finished eighth after being dropped from the first chase group after giving his all for his team leader. It wad a career-best result in the race he won twice at U23 level.
"He did more than was possible," Vanmarcke said of Phinney.
"Early on he was already trying to get into an early breakaway move. Before the Arenberg forest he was bringing me back to the front a couple of times, and then he said that he was not able to go any further. I encouraged him and he managed to outperform himself. It was really impressive to have him with me for so long."
EF Education-Drapac matched the juggernaut that is QuickStep-Floors by placing two riders in the top 10, but for Vanmarcke, the Quick-Step Floors 'wolfpack' was not as powerful in Paris-Roubaix as they had been throughout the spring.
"They weren't as dominant as in previous races, but Terpstra was still super strong," he said of the Dutchman who won Tour of Flanders and finished third at Paris-Roubaix.
"I saw him moving up before Mons-en-Pévèle with Gilbert. I knew I had to move to the front as well. I joined his move, and from there we worked together.
"Terpstra was probably the strongest in our group - he rode a few kilometres per hour faster than us - but the others seemed a match for each other. I might have gotten a better result if I would have gotten away, but I didn't have the energy. I knew the sprint would be difficult even though I held on longer than expected."