The 35-year-old Swiss hoped to win a fourth title in northern France to end his last Classics campaign with a bang, instead he fell three times during the 255.5-kilometre race and closed well behind winner Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge).
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“Somehow yes and somehow no,” Cancellara said when asked if it was difficult to leave the velodrome where he claimed the 2006, 2010 and 2013 titles.
“Last week was harder [in the Tour of Flanders]. Today, I’m just happy that it’s over. I’m just happy. I’m not happy about the race, but I’m happy in general. I don’t have that much pain in my legs, not from the crashes either, but that’s Paris-Roubaix.”
Cancellara will ride out the remainder of the 2016 season, targeting the Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey and the Tour de France, but this was his last cobbled classic. Besides Roubaix’s three titles, he counts three in the Tour of Flanders. Last week, he chased, but could not close to solo winner Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and placed second.
Team Sky’s Servais Knaven talks about Ian Stannard’s podium finish at Paris-Roubaix
He and Sagan were caught behind a split that happened on the Quérénaing sector today when Alexander Porsev (Katusha) crashed with 115 kilometres to race. At that point, he sent his team-mates to work, but could not close the gap to the group in front which had Sky’s Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe. The final blow came when he slipped on some mud and fell again on the Mons-en-Pévèle sector.
“There was a crash, I jumped into the field and came back, the second one was a bit unlucky, and the third one was just ice-skating. There it was over and I couldn’t do anything. Roubaix was gone. The damage was too big and Roubaix was over,” he added.
He also fell after the race when he went to greet his fans on the velodrome. It was not the perfect ending to his classics campaigns.
“I didn’t have the luck that was needed,” he added. “Roubaix started in 2003 bad in a way, if it’s going to finish bad too, I don’t know. I know that it’s a particular race.
“That crash on the mud was when I was ahead at the front, too, but Roubaix is like that, the roads are like that and it happens. I have to look ahead. It’s not that my legs that are hurting, I had the legs, but if the race is hard like that, you can’t do anything.”