Sebastian Langeveld Closes Cobbled Classics with Seventh Place at Paris-Roubaix

Mon 8 Apr 2013

The pre-race favourite hoisted a cobble over his head in Roubaix. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) bested Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) in a two-up sprint before an enraptured crowd in the velodrome. As Cancellara raised hands over head to celebrate his victory, Sebastian Langeveld crossed the line with the second chase group. Part of a group of three, Langeveld had one more lap to race before he would ultimately finish in seventh place. It is the third top-ten finish at the cobbled classics this season for the ORICA-GreenEDGE team captain.

“There’s no secret formula,” said Sport Director Laurenzo Lapage. “A lot of work goes behind being competitive at this level. The riders who want to be good in these races know they have to do the work, and Sebastian did the work. I’m pretty satisfied with his race and result. We started the race with a podium place in our heads, and we have to admit that we didn’t reach our goal, but with the improvements we’ve seen from last year to this year, we can hope for even more next year.”

The race pace was high from the start in Compiègne and would remain high during the entire race – so high, in fact, that this Paris-Roubaix was the second-fastest in race history. Thirteen riders broke away from the field approximately 20 minutes into the day. The make-up of the group wasn’t pleasing to the patrons of the peloton, and the group was caught. Additional break attempts were brought back just as quickly, and when the first peloton hit the first pavé sector, it was gruppo compatto.

“One of the most important things today was not to miss the early break, and we did,” said Lapage. “The early move did not stay, but we missed it. I wasn’t happy with that and because we used three riders too early, we didn’t have the numbers where we needed them later on in the race.”

While the team may have lacked the numbers they had hoped to have in the second half of the race, Lapage was full of praise for the staff and other ‘helpers’ who provided critical assistance on the side of the road.

“The staff we have is really professional, and we can count on them to do the best work for all different kinds of races,” said Lapage. “These races are different because we require help from more people than those employed full-time by the team. There are two groups of people that are always there for our riders at different points during the race. They have bottles and wheels, and their help makes our work a lot easier.”

A crash reduced the peloton on the second cobbled section. Shortly after four men managed to break away from the bunch. Stuart O’Grady was joined by Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), Clément Koretzky (Bretagne-Seche Environnement)  and Matthew Hayman (Team Sky). The quartet gained an advantage of slightly more 2’ over the peloton as the race sped towards the Arenberg forest where O’Grady led the break into what is traditionally one of the most decisive sections of the race. By the time the peloton made it out of the forest, the break’s advantage was down to 40”.

“I must say that Stuey’s move saved the team,” said Lapage. “It allowed Jens and Sebastian to relax a bit in the peloton. It shows that Stuey is so important for our team in this kind of race.”

Steegmans and Hayman left O’Grady and Koretzky on sector 16. While the duo pushed along, Michael Schär (BMC) attacked and made a solo bid to bridge across. He finally joined the two leaders 70 kilometres from the finish. By this point, the peloton had swallowed up O’Grady. The three leaders would be

Cancellara came to the head of the peloton on sector 11. When he pushed the pace on the Auchy-lez-Orchies – Bersée, he forced the first selection. A 30-strong group formed off the front and overtook the three race leaders. By the next sector, only 13 riders remained in contention. Langeveld once again found himself in good company at the front with Cancellara, Niki Terpstra, Zdenek Styabr and Stijn Vandenbergh (all Omega Pharma – Quick-Step), Damien Gaudin and Sébastien Turgot (both Europcar), Vanmarcke and Lars Boom (Blanco), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Bernhard Eisel (Team Sky), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil) and Luca Paolini (Katusha). Langeveld and Vanmarcke showed their cards as they attacked on the next stretch of pavé. Vandenbergh and Gaudin responded, and the four riders leaders rode away from the nine.

“It was great to see an aggressive Langeveld,” said Lapage. “He did good moves at the right moment. He looked strong today.”

Three sectors later, eight leaders had a small gap on Cancellara, Boom, Terpstra and Eisel. Cancellara had dropped back to his team car for a chat. The other three, marking the Swiss champion heavily, dropped back with him. Cancellara used this as an opportunity to isolate three major opponents and attacked them as he bridged from the chase group up to the leaders.

Terpstra would not be left behind, and he joined Cancellara in jumping across to the front group. While Cancellara and Terpstra bridged, Vandenbergh and Vanmarcke attacked. By the time Cancellara and Terpstra had joined Langeveld, Gaudin, Stybar, Van Avermaet, Flecha and Paolini, the two Belgian leaders had put 30” into Langeveld’s group. Over the cobbles of Bourghelles a Wannehain, Cancellara attacked once again. Only Stybar was able to follow, and Cancellara dragged the Czech cyclocross champion up to the two leaders.

As the drama unfolded in the front group, Langeveld gave chase. Langeveld entered the velodrome with Stybar and Flecha after Terpstra, Van Avermaet and Gaudin had gained a slim advantage. Stybar, like Vandenbergh, had hit a spectator standing too close to the edge of the pavé and fell away from the leaders. The second chase group had one lap remaining as Cancellara bested Vanmarcke. Thirty-one seconds later, Terpstra took the sprint for third as Langeveld slotted into seventh place, 39" behind Cancellara.

“In many ways, we are happy with the results we have had in the cobbled races,” said Lapage. “Overall, the results over the past few weeks with the same riders are much better than last year. We know there is still much room for improvement. The talent is there, and with hard work, better results will follow.”