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Sep Vanmarcke has described the painful injuries to both of his hands that mean he has been forced to miss Paris-Roubaix on Sunday (April 9).
Cannondale-Drapac's Classics leader broke a finger and 'lost a lot of skin' in the Tour of Flanders, and is not able to hold his handlebars and brake effectively.
“The broken pinky on my right hand makes it impossible to put my hands on top of the bars," said Vanmarcke. "I can put them on the brakes, and I can brake with two fingers. But each time I hit a bump or anything, it’s painful.
“The larger problem is my left hand, because the skin is off every finger. I cannot brake with that hand — it’s just too painful to put the pressure on it. Also, my right knee is still a problem. It would make no sense to be at the start line. I lost a lot of skin off it.”
Vanmarcke will come away from the 2017 season – his first for Cannondale-Drapac – without the chance for a Cobbled Classics win, having been ruled out of contention in the Tour of Flanders, and now being withdrawn from the start list for Paris-Roubaix.
The 28-year-old Belgian must be wondering what he has to do to win another Classic, having been a regular feature on the podium and top 10s of the biggest spring races for at least the past seven seasons.
His sole Cobbled Classic victory came in 2012, when he won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Since then, he has placed second in Paris Roubaix (2013), third in the Tour Flanders (2014 and 2016) and second in Ghent-Wevelgem (2016).
A third place in this year's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad looked like a sign of his rising form, but a crash on the Paterberg during the Tour of Flanders has again left him wondering what could have been.
“I’m really, really disappointed. I start training for these races on the first of November. My focus is always on these races," said Vanmarcke.
"Omloop went well, but from Strade Bianche I started to go wrong. A crash, the ribs, then I had the stomach problems, then this crash. So I’ve been fighting a lot, and always coming back.
"It’s a disappointment. I was never on my top level, and I could never show what level I was at.”
Cannondale-Drapac's injury woes have not stopped there, as there is still some doubt that American Taylor Phinney will be fit to take part in Paris-Roubaix. Phinney was forced to withdraw from Flanders after crashing and suffering from concussion.
A decision will be made on Phinney's participation later this week.
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