Sep Vanmarcke says he has “been through hell” in recent weeks after misfortune cost him a Paris-Roubaix podium.
The Belgian made it into the race-winning move but suffered a mechanical in the closing kilometres that ruined his opportunity to fight for victory.
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After a high-speed crash in the E3 Binckbank Classic last month, Vanmarcke battled back to fitness just in time for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
The EF Education rider was back in form for Roubaix on Sunday (April 14), finishing fourth after a mechanical left him unable to change gear.
Vanmarcke told Belgian cycling news site Wielerkrant : “I wasn’t empty in the final like I was in previous years and I did nothing wrong physically and tactically.
“But just before the most important sectors, my bike broke and that completely broke my legs.
“They never would have dropped me. After my bike change I was still driving for a podium place, but I had it in my legs to sprint for victory.
“It’s pretty painful after recent weeks.”
Vanmarcke was injured early in the Classics season after suffering a hit to his ankle, knee and ribs during E3.
He battled through Flanders and supported his team-mate Alberto Bettiol to victory there, before returning to form for Paris-Roubaix.
After race winner Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) launched a succession of bruising attacks, Vanmarcke was chasing behind when the mechanical struck.
His rear derailleur jammed and left him riding in the hardest gear which sapped his remaining energy.
After switching bikes Vanmarcke was strong enough to finish fourth, just 40 seconds down on Gilbert but was hugely disappointed with the placing.
This is Vanmarcke’s third finish in fourth place and his fifth in the top 10, while a major victory in a Classic still eludes him.
His best victory came in the 2012 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which he followed up with a second-place finish in Paris-Roubaix the following year behind Fabian Cancellara.
Vanmarcke added: “In the last few weeks I have really gone through hell on a physical and emotional level.
“Last week I surprised myself in the Tour of Flanders. My hope had grown and this week I worked really hard to be ready.
“I knew I had a chance if I did everything perfectly. Everything went perfectly and I felt great.”