GENT, Belgium (VN) — There is nothing that’s going to stop Stijn Vandenbergh from racing Paris-Roubaix. Not even a face-first collision with a tree in Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).
Vandenbergh, a key piece of the Etixx-Quick-Step arsenal, will race Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix despite smashing his nose into a tree during a fall on the cobbles along Paddestraat. At 6-foot-6, the tall Belgian crashed again near the finale, yet he still managed to finish in the third chase group in 51st at 3:23 back.
Team officials confirmed to VeloNews that the veteran Belgian classics specialist did not break or dislocate his nose, and is breathing normally. Despite some cuts and scrapes, the 30-year-old Belgian is expected to race Sunday.
“He’d rather die than miss Roubaix,” a team official told VeloNews. “His nose is not broken or dislocated, and he’s breathing normally, so unless something happens, he’s feeling good, and he will start Roubaix.”
One of the peloton’s most consistent workhorses, Vandenbergh has once again proven reliable for Etixx throughout the classics this season. He rode into the winning breakaways at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Gent-Wevelgem, each time sacrificing his chances for his captains.
Crashes took him out of the picture for Flanders, but he’s hoping to return to center stage at Paris-Roubaix. Etixx will be banking on its designated leaders, Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra, to deliver the big win, but with Tom Boonen missing the classics with injury, Vandenbergh could be the team’s wildcard.
His career-best Roubaix result was 16th last year, but in 2013, he was riding in the leading, four-man group when he collided with a spectator on the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector, knocking him off his bike and out of contention. Moments later, Stybar also collided with a spectator, leaving Fabian Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke to ride alone into the velodrome to contest the victory.
In an interview with VeloNews last year, Vandenbergh said he believes he can win Roubaix some day.
“Roubaix is the race that’s best suited for me. I cannot sprint against the fastest, and sometimes I struggle on the bergs at Flanders, but Roubaix is perfect for me,” he said. “The harder the race, the better. I like to suffer, and make others suffer, too.”
Officials said Vandenbergh will join other Etixx riders for a final preview of the cobblestones Friday.