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This time, it was Deceuninck-Quick-Step receiving a drubbing on the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix.
In a typical edition, it’s the Belgian super-team delivering the pain.
In what was the first wet and muddy edition in a generation, nothing was typical about Sunday. The “Wolfpack” was on the back foot following a string of ill-timed punctures and misfires in the brutal six-hour battle across the pavé.
Yves Lampaert dashed to face-saving fifth, but lamented what could have been more.
“I had three punctures, all in crucial moments,” Lampaert said. “It’s disappointing, because I had very good legs and could feel that I was able to keep going, even in these hard conditions.”
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Reminder of the hard lessons of Roubaix
Deceuninck-Quick-Step usually rules the rocks.
Not this time. In the first wet and muddy edition since 2001 and 2002, brutal racing conditions turned the “Hell of the North” into a race of attrition.
Nearly everyone in the bunch suffered some sort of setback. No Roubaix is seamless. With mud caking the cobbles, and big puddles creating treacherous conditions, the Belgian outfit was still expecting to pluck something out of the mess.
Things started off well enough. Davide Ballerini and Tim Declercq snuck into a group of 30 riders that pulled clear about 50km into the race, a move that included eventual podium finisher Florian Vermeersch and fourth-place finisher Gianni Moscon.
Things were still looking good heading toward the feared Arenberg sector. With 100km to go, the wheels started to rattle off the cart.
Florian Sénéchal punctured, leaving Kasper Asgreen, Lampaert and Zdenek Stybar in the main group. Asgreen and Lampaert led the way into the Arenberg, but were taken out of contention by a pair of punctures midway through the forest.
Lampaert fought back to rejoin the other favorites, and even responded when Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) accelerated with 70 kilometers to go to bridge out to what was the winning move.
— Deceuninck-QuickStep (@deceuninck_qst) October 3, 2021
Lampaert tried to follow van der Poel’s surge, only to puncture again, forcing him to do another wheel change, and chase back again.
“I just rode on the crown of the cobbles, but had three punctures.” Lampaert said. “Despite coming after two punctures the moment Van der Poel went, I still felt great. Coming off the Wallers, I was second in the group, but then had that third puncture.”
A string of punctures deflated the team’s hopes
The 30-year-old punctured a total of three times, but never stopped fighting.
Like any good Belgian knows, the key at Paris-Roubaix is to keep fighting and keep pedaling, no matter what the odds.
The leading trio ended up sprinting for the victory, with Lampaert winning the bunch sprint out of the chase group at about one minute back.
“At the end of the day, it was a phenomenal race and I’m happy with my result and that I got to experience a wet Roubaix, but next time I hope to have more luck,” Lampaert said, third in 2019.