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Phinney’s Roubaix dreams go flat in the Carrefour de l’Arbre

American suffers first-ever Roubaix puncture and misses a shot at the finale in the cobbled closer

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ROUBAIX, France (VN) — A puncture took the air out of Taylor Phinney’s dreams of Paris-Roubaix glory during a bumpy ride Sunday in “The Hell of the North.”

Phinney, 23, was hovering near the front group until the decisive Carrefour de l’Arbre, the last of three five-star rated cobbled sectors, with 15km to to go to the Roubaix velodrome. With an untimely puncture, he lost contact with his chase group just as the race was coming apart at the seams, and had to settle for 30th, at 2:55 back.

“I had a flat there in the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector, and that’s the first time I’ve had a flat ever in Roubaix. That was not a great moment to have a puncture,” Phinney told VeloNews. “I am not quite sure how the race played out, but I know I would have been there with Greg [Van Avermaet], Thor [Hushovd], and Marcus [Burghardt].”

BMC brought a multi-pronged attack to Roubaix, with Phinney enjoying new freedom to try his luck late in the race. The flat tire, however, spoiled his chances on a day when he was hoping to do a lot more. Since winning the under-23 Paris-Roubaix in 2009 and 2010, Phinney has had a growing passion for the pavé, and he was certainly swinging for the fences Sunday.

A strong showing in the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), where he rode into the day’s main breakaway after missing out on Milano-Sanremo and E3 Harelbeke with fever, raised hopes for a big ride Sunday. Covered in dust from the hard effort, Phinney could only shake his head in frustration.

“When you flat on the cobbles like that, you lose all your momentum,” Phinney said. “You cannot push the same power. I had to change a wheel, and lost a good 30 seconds. I got into a little group, and we powered to the line as best we could.”

BMC was looking good heading toward the final crescendo of the race. Hushovd enjoyed his best ride on the pavé since he was second in 2010. After suffering through a few sub-par seasons, and an equally frustrating Flanders the week before, the Norwegian national champion was back on the sharp end of the action, bridging out to the decisive, late-race breakaway featuring Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

The American team’s hopes quickly unraveled, however. Phinney’s puncture was matched by an earlier spill involving Flanders runner-up Van Avermaet, who spun out on a dusty right-hand corner over the cobbles with under 25km to go.

Despite solid riding throughout the meat of the race, no BMC jerseys made it into the 10-rider breakaway that fought for the victory in the final 10km.

Van Avermaet led BMC Racing with 17th, in the second chase group at 47 seconds back, with Hushovd and Burghardt riding into the third chase group, for 19th and 22nd, respectively, at 1:05 back. Phinney sprinted to third out of his group for 30th.

“As a team, I think we deserved more than what the results sheet showed,” Phinney said. “As a team, we were super strong and always together. Sometimes things just don’t go your way.”

Though clearly disappointed to suffer a puncture in the key moment of the race that he loves, Phinney tried to look for the positive in his third Roubaix since turning professional in 2011.

“It’s too bad,” he said. “Personally, I made a step forward from last year and the year before, so that’s all I can ask from myself.”

Experience counts in Roubaix, both good and bad, and Phinney continues to build up his account for a future withdrawal.

After a busy spring, which included a time trial stage win at the Dubai Tour and seventh in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Phinney returns Monday to the United States, where he will race at the Amgen Tour of California for the first time since 2011. Then he’ll try to fight his way onto BMC’s roster for a Tour de France debut and a chance to help his friend, Tejay van Garderen, in a run for the yellow jersey.