Saturday, June 24, 2017

Etixx - Quick-Step rider Zdenek Stybar finished 2nd in a seven-rider velodrome sprint at 253km Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, as he was led into the velodrome by teammate Yves Lampaert, but John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) was able to come around Stybar on the front for the victory. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) was 3rd.

Lampaert, after attacking with 12.1km to go and taking Van Avermaet with him, finished 7th. Van Avermaet and Lampaert were joined by Degenkolb with 5.7km to go in the race out of a small group behind at about 10 seconds. Then it was Stybar's turn to bridge and he did so before the group reached the velodrome. Lars Boom (Astana), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE), and Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) were all able to close the gap by the time the sprint was launched.

Etixx - Quick-Step also had Niki Terpstra in a group behind. The 2014 winner was present in a group of strong contenders including Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), and others. The group was attacking non-stop, but could not get any true separation before Lampaert accelerated.

Etixx - Quick-Step rider Stijn Vandenbergh even attempted a solo attack with 44.7km to go, and he was eventually joined by Wiggins, Stybar, and Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) before that group was reabsorbed with a little more than 25km remaining. 

Six riders of the team helped push the pace and split up the peloton when echelons formed earlier in the race, including Guillaume Van Keirsbulck — who did an outstanding job on the front for much of the day — and Matteo Trentin. Iljo Keisse and Nikolas Maes also worked hard on the front in the earlier kilometers.

Stybar's 2nd place follows up 6th and 5th place finishes in previous editions. Lampaert joined Etixx - Quick-Step for the 2015 season.

"Yves Lampaert jumped perfectly and he took Van Avermaet with him," Stybar said. "It was a good situation for us. But when I saw John Degenkolb was going away, I thought then we had to do something. Then we had riders like Lars Boom and the others with me. So, for me, it was a good situation. I tried not to collaborate too much as my teammate was ahead, but I knew I had to make a move soon. I knew there was a little climb coming with about 2 kilometers to go, so I tried to go full gas and bridge the gap to the first group. I had already use some energy earlier in the race closing gaps, including to the Wiggins group and then these guys. Maybe I could have saved some energy if I went after the group at the same time John did, but it is what it is. I had to recover a bit when I joined the leaders because I was really giving everything. I couldn't attack in that moment, even if it was maybe the ideal tactic to beat John. Then Yves tried to jump, and he was very strong. But Degenkolb closed it down and we went into the velodrome together. Lampaert led perfectly in the velodrome. I took 2nd position going into the sprint. It was a difficult decision because I knew Degenkolb was for sure one of the fastest guys in the bunch. So it'd be hard to beat him in a sprint. But in such a hard race, including with him having to use energy bridging gaps, you never know. So I was hoping he might be tired, but everyone was really at their knees along with him. It was really down to who had anything left. He launched a very good sprint and I couldn't beat him. He was very strong and deserved the win. I think we have been very competitive in every race. When you look back at all the races where we were 2nd or top 3 or 4, we simply did our best every time. Of course this team is used to winning, but looking back and see how consistently strong we were with our best effort, I don't think we can complain too much. As for me, I am 2nd at Paris-Roubaix after being 6th and 5th. Of course in cycling I want to win. I hope to come back next year and fight for this victory, because that is what counts. Also I cannot forget about thanking my other teammates. They did such a great job today They weren't afraid to try an echelons or pull on the front. They sacrificed for us, without fear of blowing up from a full gas effort. For me, Stijn, Niki. So I have to thank them. They were perfect." 

"In just my 2nd Paris-Roubaix participation I am in the top 10 of the race," Lampaert said. "That is really encouraging for me. As for the team, We were really strong today as a collective. We rode really full gas and we made the race hard starting from 90 kilometers to go in the feed zone. Then I was able to recover a bit. The race split up again and I wasn't in the first group until the Carrefour de l’arbre. A little bit after that we came into a small village and I attacked. The attack was instinctive, not planned. I got the feeling in the right moment and I went. I quickly got a gap, and then Van Avermaet followed me, so I was quite sure we would stay in front. But when I heard Degenkolb was coming, and he came really fast, I knew it would be difficult to win. But I didn't ride in front because Styby was coming. Then he arrived, and at 1.5km to go I tried an attack. But Degenkolb was strong and he closed the gap immediately. Then I led the sprint out for Styby, and he was 2nd. I don't know if it is disappointing. I'd consider it maybe bittersweet. I worked hard for a lot of kilometers today. I chased the original breakaway, and then I pulled before the feed zone to form an echelon, and then of course I chased back to the first group and attacked before the finale. I'd consider this my best Classics race ever. It was a strange feeling to arrive in the velodrome. To arrive at the front in a race like this isn't easy and it is such a prestigious finish in the stadium like that. I have to be happy considering where I finished, and how hard I worked to get into the top 10 today, as a Belgian rider in Paris-Roubaix."

"At the feed zone we were there in front and there was a crosswind," Terpstra. "We accelerated already the section ago, actually Yves did it all alone. Then we went away with a small group, but the collaboration wasn't there with the other teams, so the group behind us came back. Every section was like that. We'd get away, but riders would come back. I tried to accelerate in the important cobbled sectors, but I couldn't get away. Yves did a good attack, and then Styby jumped from behind. That was a good situation with the team.  My teammates attacked at the right time. Yves was really incredible today after doing so much work all day. I told him yesterday to just keep riding, and it's never over, and for sure it came true for him. I like his character. He really likes to race and he showed it today. As for my performance, I tried to do what I could today and am not 100 percent satisfied, but collectively it was a great race and we race as a team, not individuals. This closes out the first part of my season. I was 2nd in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 2nd in Gent-Wevelgem, and 2nd at Ronde van Vlaanderen. Of course this is good, but I have mixed feelings about not winning in the Classics. After winning Paris-Roubaix last year I knew it would be hard to follow-up with the same kind of success. I think I managed to follow up well, but the small bit of luck to make the difference between 1st or 2nd just wasn't there. I was good, and I even won Tour of Qatar. So while I am not completely satisfied I have shown I can always be there in the actions and can go for the win."

"Today I felt good at the start and for the first part of the race," Vandenbergh said. "But in the last 30 kilometers I wasn't so good anymore. I had pain on my left hip, I think the second crash at Tour of Flanders last week caused me a bit of energy. My left hip hit the ground in that crash. Today that same area was really painful, so today I couldn't push 100 percent. But the moment I was in the breakaway I was riding in support of the team strategy. I think I did a good move for the team. The guys could sit on the wheels. As a team we did a great race. There was a lot of wind in the final. We tried to make the race hard, but people were always coming back, so it wasn't so easy with the weather conditions to make a gap or make a great action that really split up the race."

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