Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) suffered into the famous velodrome to close what had been a Paris-Roubaix marred by a crash and mechanicals.
The three-time cyclocross world champion finished 22nd and collapsed in the infield, exhausted with the day and the Classics campaign that had gone so well up through Roubaix.
"I had a lot of bad luck, and I felt great actually, so it was really a pity I had to face all these mechanicals and a crash," Van Aert said.
"I still can't think how the crash happened, but it was quite hard. After a comeback, I still had good legs and made a gap with the best guys in the race I think, but the last 30K, I ran out of energy and it was a lot of suffering and a huge hunger flat coming into the velodrome."
He collapsed on the green grass, photographers focused on his yellow jersey and dust covered face. He had first come derailed with Peter Sagan in the Arenberg Forest and later crashed.
"I had a front puncture [on the Arenberg sector] and it wasn't too bad, and we arranged it so that I should switch wheels with a team-mate but by the time I stopped my chain was stopped between the inner and big ring so it was completely stuck, so it wouldn't make sense to change wheels."
He jumped on Pascal Eenkhoorn's bike and continued his fight, but fell and hit a curb at 85km to race.
"I needed a new bike. It took quite a while and I had a bike of a team-mate, came back and when I switched to my second bike on a car, I immediately had this crash. Just [on] a whole, stupid things."
Van Aert trailed at over a minute, but rejoined again at 71km to race. He went free with eventual winner Philippe Gilbert and stars including Peter Sagan, Yves Lampaert, Nils Politt and Sep Vanmarcke. The effort, however, showed when he faded eventually at 21km to race.
The Belgian debuted in the big Classics races for the first time in 2018 where he shines with third in Strade Bianche, ninth in the Tour of Flanders and 13th in Paris-Roubaix. He continued in 2019: third in Strade Bianche, sixth in Milan-San Remo and second in the E3 BinckBank Classic. It looked like with the energy lost, he could have done much better than 22nd in Roubaix.
"Yeah, definitely, I had really good legs, maybe for one hour I was chasing for full gas after this mechanical on the Arenberg and it was an hour of racing without thinking of energy intake and I definitely paid this in cash in the final."
Viewers questioned why Jumbo-Visma did not drop back his team-mates Maarten Wynants and Mike Teunissen to help him chase, which was at most times almost on his own. At one point, he nearly ran into the back of a team car trying to navigate is way back.
"I think that we were only with Maarten and Mike in the front, who are normally strong riders for this kind of race and I was still between the cars, so it was not the plan to wait for me because if we wouldn't make it back then we were dropped with three guys," Van Aert explained.
"Yeah, no fault of the team in my opinion. Then we had a lot of other bad luck with other guys crashing, a typical Roubaix, but yeah, hopefully in the future, I can come back with more luck."
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