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."
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
Aerosensor: the most accurate (and cheapest) handlebar-mounted wind tunnel so far?
Former F1 engineer is crowdfunding a complete system for real-world aero testing that's due to launch next year
By Tom Epton • Published
Pfeiffer Georgi takes silver after crash marred Elimination race
Team GB guaranteed a medal in Sunday's men's Sprints after Jack Carlin and Hamish Turnbull qualify for the semi finals
By Owen Rogers • Published
'I just come out at every race swinging': Simon Clarke achieves childhood dream with Tour de France stage win after winter of contract fears
Australian was without a team coming into the season
By Tom Thewlis • Published
‘Those climber guys can ride over the cobbles these days’ - Fabian Cancellara predicts a fast paced opening week at the Tour de France
Cancellara has won the opening stage of the Tour de France five times and knows the importance of a strong opening week
By Tom Thewlis • Published
Creating an icon - Behind the scenes at Paris-Roubaix Femmes
Only in its second year, the Paris-Roubaix Femmes is not just a gruelling day for the riders, but a logistical and organisational challenge for those behind the scenes - Amy Sedghi speaks to the people helping to create an icon
By Amy Sedghi • Published
From the cobbles to the race track: Tom Boonen is living his best life
Classic legend Tom Boonen on race car driving, Mathieu van der Poel and modern cycling
By Anne-Marije Rook • Published
Yves Lampaert said he used a judo move to avoid serious injury at Paris-Roubaix
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider crashed after striking a fan last Sunday
By Adam Becket • Published
'It is something that I will definitely never forget, it was the hardest race I've ever done' — The first dry Paris-Roubaix Femmes
In the race's second edition, everyone was having a 'completely different' experience, whether they were a veteran or a neo-pro
By Adam Becket • Published