Belgian pavé specialist Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First) was inconsolable after crossing the finish line at the Roubaix velodrome in fourth place, 40 seconds behind Paris-Roubaix winner Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) on Sunday.
It was Vanmarcke’s third fourth-place finish at the race, and his fifth top-10 result at ‘The Hell of the North‘. A troubled build-up to the race didn’t keep him from battling for the victory right up until the final major cobbled sector in Gruson, where a jammed rear derailleur effectively ended his Roubaix challenge.
With the pain of his injured knee – sustained in a crash at the E3 BinckBank Classic – in the back of his mind, along with those numerous past, close calls at Roubaix, Vanmarcke found it extremely hard to accept that a mechanical problem had kept him from sprinting for victory.
“It’s just not meant to be for me. I would have been better off staying at home on my sofa. Then I wouldn’t have been as disappointed as I am now,” said Vanmarcke, shortly after crossing the finish line.
He burst into tears and kept crying for several minutes while leaning over a fence, before recovering and turning to the waiting media. Being heralded for a strong race was no consolation for him.
“It’s true – I rode super well,” said Vanmarcke. “But if you turn onto the Carrefour de l’Arbre and your gears are no longer working, forcing you to ride everything on the 11 [11-tooth sprocket], then it’s painful when the others ride away. They would never have dropped me today.”
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