Belgian Jens Keukeleire has recorded ORICA-GreenEDGE’s best result at a cobbled classic, finishing sixth at Paris-Roubaix, the ‘Queen of the Classics’, today.
In a strong day on the road for the outfit, Briton Adam Blythe was also part of the day’s major break, animating the race in support of the team’s objectives.
Keukeleire entered the famous velodrome in Roubaix in the lead group, the 26-year-old battling for sixth behind winner John Degenkolb (Giant – Alpecin).
“They always told me it’s a really amazing feeling riding into the velodrome,” Keukeleire said. “I have done it many times but not with the front group.”
“No matter how bad I felt in the final, you always have to keep believing and I tried my best but I just didn’t have any legs.
“It’s a pretty amazing feeling riding for the win.”
The day was not without drama for the Belgian, who suffered a puncture in the middle of the famous Arenberg Forest sector. Quickly serviced by teammate Sam Bewleywith a wheel, the Belgian fought back to the front chase group.
“I am definitely happy with the result,” Keukeleire said.
“Especially if you look at the race I did, I had a lot of bad luck and to be honest a couple of times I thought my race was over but I know from previous editions that you can never give up.
“You always keep fighting because you never know where you’ll end up and I’m still top ten.”
The ‘Hell of the North’ set off in conditions anything but.
Sun and a tail wind made for fast opening to racing as the peloton covered over 50km in the first hour.
After numerous attempts, most covered by an ORICA-GreenEDGE rider, the day’s main break with Blythe established and extended towards a ten-minute lead before the peloton reacted ahead of the first cobbled sector.
Despite the pressure, the peloton remained in tact for a large portion of proceedings before wind and crashes caused it to break apart.
“There was a lot more wind than I expected and I think that is what kept it together for such a long time,” Keukeleire said.
“But cobblestones are cobblestones, you have to get over them and they always hurt.”
Sport director Matt Wilson reflected on a great day for the team and an even more promising sign for the future.
“All the guys were really good at the start covering the moves,” Wilson said. “We were in a couple of other ones that went away and then Blythe was in the one that stuck.”
“So at the start it was all going perfectly and even in the first 30-40km of the pave sections it was all going pretty well and then we started to get the punctures, crashes and bad luck but that's Paris-Roubaix.
“But it was the best result for us at a cobbled classic, that’s huge for us, and Jens rode incredibly.
“He made all the right decisions, move all the right moves and gave himself every chance to win the race.”