Geraint Thomas has been reflecting on what for him turned out to be a particularly hellish version of the race nicknamed the Hell of the North, the Team Sky rider, who some had predicted to take a podium position or even win the race, hitting the deck three times to find himself out of contention.
To his credit, the Welshman completed the 258km race – our picture shows him battered and bruised as he rides the last few hundred metres around the Velodrome track in Roubaix – but he finished outside the time limit, meaning you won’t find his name in the official results.
However, as has been said before, just completing the Queen of the Classics is a personal victory, especially when you’ve had to cope with the worst that Lady Luck can throw at you.
The 24-year-old from Cardiff has been in some cracking form this season, with an impressive performance in Paris-Nice followed by second place in the Dwars door Vlaanderen and an excellent top-ten placing in the Tour of Flanders before coming a cropper on the cobbles of Northern France this weekend.
“I felt pretty good, everything was going fine, I had a little tumble, I just wasn’t on the wheel, went round the corner, hit a bit of gravel and smacked straight down,” reflected Geraint when we spoke to him earlier this week before he headed off to Portugal for a well-deserved break with his girlfriend.
“From that point on, it got worse, really,” he continued. “We got back on at the bottom of Arenberg and then there was a crash right in front of me. With the barriers, there was nowhere to go, so I went down again.”
As the saying goes, things come in threes, and Geraint unfortunately found that to be true with around 70km to go when another crash in front of him saw him take his heaviest tumble of the afternoon. This time he was riding with a pair of big names who were also looking to bridge back across to the main group.
“I managed to get back on again with Quickstep’s Sylvain Chavanel and Tom Boonen, who came down right in front of me. That’s just the way it goes and it wasn’t my day, really.”
Team Sky did have the consolation of getting two riders, Juan Antonio Flecha and Mathew Hayman, into the top ten, a result that Team Principal Dave Brailsford hailed a success despite the misfortunes that had befallen Geraint and other riders such as Bradley Wiggins.
“Everyone was 100 per cent committed,” said Geraint, “it’s just that a bit of bad luck ruined it for us. That’s just the way that Paris-Roubaix goes sometimes, you get unlucky, but that’s what can happen.”
Reflecting on Johan Van Summeren’s surprise win, with the riders tipped to present a challenge to Fabian Cancellara perhaps holding back a bit for fear that if they made a move, the Leopard Trek man would counter it and ride away, Geraint said: “I think everyone needs to be more aggressive, attacking from quite far out and obviously Fabian can’t follow everyone, for example Van Summeren’s break went just after Arenberg.”
Referring to the men in that group from which the eventual winner would come, he added, “They’re all strong riders and if you give them a few minutes it’s always going to be hard to bring them back. It’s down to the favourites in the end, if none of them want to pull too much, there’s not too many team mates left, so guys like that get a chance and it was a great ride by Van Summeren to hold them all off.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.