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ROUBAIX, France (VN) – The Hell of the North lived up to its name for Quick Step as things went from bad to worse for the heavily favored Belgian team.
Three-time winner Tom Boonen crashed out and Tour of Flanders runner-up Sylvain Chavanel could only muster 38th in a disastrous day for the Belgian powerhouse.
“I want to forget this Paris-Roubaix as soon as I can,” Quick Step sport director Wilfried Peters told VeloNews. “This Roubaix was a disaster. I have never seen anything so bad in my career.”
Crashes and punctures all but dashed the hopes of Boonen to win a record-tying fourth cobble crown. Boonen had a chain problem on the early going through the Arenberg. No teammates were available to give him a bike and he had to wait for the team car to pull through.
Two teammates eventually came back to help pace him to the lead group, but then Boonen crashed hard just as they pulled within a minute of the group of race favorites.
“After that crash, we knew it would be impossible for Tom,” Peters said. “He was very disappointed. He said he was feeling very good before that crash and was motivated to ride for the victory today.”
The team’s second ace in the hole was Chavanel, hot off a top Flanders ride. Chavanel’s hopes unraveled with a string of punctures, with one that came after the Arenberg that saw him lose contact with the front riders.
The Frenchman later crashed sweeping through a roundabout, but later clawed his way back to the front group just as Fabian Cancellara dropped the hammer with 50km to go. Chavanel later crossed the line with his brother, Sebastian, in a group at 4:46 back.
Chavanel ended up being Quick Step’s top rider in a race they have grown accustomed to dominating.
“This was our worst Roubaix ever,” Peters said. “The sooner we can turn the page, the better.”