Paris-Roubaix: Crashes, close calls for North Americans

Crashes and close calls mark Paris-Roubaix for nine North American riders competing in Sunday’s “Hell of the North.”

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Crashes and close calls marked Paris-Roubaix for nine North American riders competing in Sunday’s “Hell of the North.”

Two Canadians – Cervélo’s Dominique Rollin and Team Sky’s Michael Barry – rode in excellent support to help carry their respective team captains to podium finishes, with Thor Hushovd second and Juan Antonio Flecha third.

Bjorn Selander was among the many riders to hit the deck.

Both were positioned well throughout the meat of the race, with Roubaix rookie Rollin and experienced hand Barry each helping guide their respective captains well into the decisive moments of the race. The pair finished in the second chase group at 7:05 back, with Barry 26th and Rollin 33rd.

George Hincapie (BMC) was the U.S. top hope among seven American riders on three teams, but the veteran admitted he just didn’t have the legs today to challenge for victory.

Racing in his 14th Roubaix, Hincapie couldn’t follow the late-race accelerations after making it safely through the Arenberg. He led BMC with 29th in the second chase group at 7:05 back.

“It just wasn’t my day today,” Hincapie told VeloNews. “I could tell 20km into the race today that I didn’t have the legs to win. It was pretty unfortunate.”

Riders at the Garmin-Transitions team were wondering if they’ve been cursed. Six of the Roubaix eight crashed and only two finished the race.

“Me and Danny (Pate) are the only ones who didn’t crash,” said Steven Cozza, who did not finish. “My Roubaix this year was very different than last year (when Cozza rode into the day’s main breakaway). It was a different way of experiencing Roubaix. There was a crash in every cobblestone section. I’m just coming back from my broken collarbone, so I just don’t have the legs that I did last year.”

Only two Garmin riders finished. Martin Maaskant, fourth in 2008, crashed in the Monchau-sur-Écaillon cobblestones, but was able to regain contact before the Arenberg and led the team with 22nd at 7:05 back.

Tyler Farrar crashed, along with teammate Johan Van Summeren, in the Haveluy a Wallers cobbles just ahead of the decisive Arenberg. He managed to finish, but he won’t get an official result because he was among the 34 riders who finished beyond the time limit.

“There are two races all year that everyone wants to finish – Roubaix and the Tour,” Farrar told VeloNews. “Someone crashed in front of me and I couldn’t do a thing about it. I plowed right into them and went down.”

Garmin-Transitions was expecting more for Roubaix, but the team’s recent Belgian successes helped ease the disappointment of Sunday’s bad luck.

“We might be a little more upset if the past week or so haven’t been going so well,” said Garmin sport director Johnny Weltz. “Farrar was great all week, with the big win at Schledeprijs. And Millar, with his wins at De Panne and Criterium International. You need luck to win Roubaix and we didn’t have that this year.”

The brutal pacing of Roubaix took its toll on the peloton, with 85 riders abandoning. Among those were three younger riders getting a taste of the punishment dished out on the cobblestones. Bjorn Selander, the lone North American at RadioShack, was racing his first Roubaix. John Murphy, getting his first sampling of the cobbles as well, along with BMC teammate Jackson Stewart, in his second Roubaix, did not finish.

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