While all eyes were focused on the Saxo Bank and Quick Step teams heading in to Paris-Roubaix, it was Cervélo TestTeam that had the strongest team finish, with Thor Hushovd finishing second and Brit Roger Hammond beating out three-time winner Tom Boonen for fourth.
Though it wasn’t a win, it was a victory of sorts for the Pro Continental team, which came to the cobbled classics missing last year’s Tour of Flanders runner-up, Heinrich Haussler, as well as pavé specialist Andreas Kiler. And though he was in contention for the win at last year’s Roubaix until a crash in the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector of pavé with just 17km remaining, because he has been ailing from back-to-back illnesses this spring, Hushovd wasn’t on many pre-race favorite lists in the week leading up to Sunday.
“I’m really happy,” Hushovd said. “I had no chance today against (Fabian) Cancellara. When he attacked I think we all got surprised, and couldn’t believe what had happened. When he got 50 meters, I think all of the group understood that it wasn’t possible to get him back. We all knew it was going to be a race for second place, so I am happy with second.”
After the race Hammond said the team plan had been to get a rider in the breakaway.
“In the team meeting we agreed we needed someone in the break,” Hammond said. “There were four of our guys jumping around and they did a great job and then Jeremy Hunt got in the break. He’s a clever rider. And we were nice and relaxed — except in the back of my mind this means we’re with the big guys and we have to go when they go. Fortunately with the help of all the other guys we were protected and that meant Thor and I were able to follow when they really went.”
With Hammond making the initial selections, Hushovd was able to relax and watch the big favorites.
“Then I was hoping to open up the race early and make Boonen and Cancellara commit,” Hammond said. “But Cancellara was isolated, he was basically on his own in the front, so I started attacking early. But Cancellara was unbelievable, he was on a different planet, and quickly he put one minute into the best in the world. After 10 minutes we knew we were racing for second. I mean, to get second and fourth is not bad, really — if you take Cancellara out of the equation we got first and third.”
Hammond, who finished third at Roubaix in 2004, said he was pleased with his fourth-place finish, but equally as happy to have sacrificed for Hushovd’s podium placing.
“I’m really happy for Thor,” Hammond said. “He’s a super guy, a really good captain, he’s a pleasure to ride with. Just down to the smallest details. He took all the guys out to dinner once during the classics, and I don’t think I’ve ever been on a training ride with him where he hasn’t paid for all the coffees. He’s very respectful. We knew he hadn’t been at his best, but when we saw him training on Wednesday, we saw how good he was.”
One Cervélo rider who got the call up in Haussler and Klier’s absence was Canadian Dominique Rollin, the former Toyota-United rider. At Roubaix Rollin finished 33rd, in the second chase group. Last weekend, he crossed the finish line 42nd at the Tour of Flanders — his first cobbled classic — while riding in support of a still-ailing Hushovd, who finished 57th.