Another obstacle in Tom Boonen’s road to a fourth Paris-Roubaix title has withdrawn from the race on Friday. Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) will not start Sunday’s “Hell of the North” after suffering a knee injury in a late crash at the Tour of Flanders last weekend.
According to his team, Leukemans turned back from a training ride on Monday with irritation and the injury had not improved enough by Friday to take the start in Compiegne.
“Today it was obvious that it was a bit better but I still felt something and the knee needs more rest,” said Leukemans. “In Paris-Roubaix you have to be 100 percent and free of worries. That’s why I decided not to start and I am hopefully recovered in time for Flèche Brabançonne and to make something of my spring season. This decision hurts but is the right one.”
Leukemans was an outside favorite at Paris-Roubaix, having finishing sixth in 2010. In 2011, he finished 13th after a number of mishaps, and lodged top-10 finishes at Flanders, Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Vacansoleil director Hilaire Van Der Schueren said the team would miss one of its most consistent leaders.
“As a team you know you can count on Leukemans in these weeks of the season,” he said. “I am interested in how it develops and hopes that he still gets rewarded this spring for all the work he did.
“Luckily we have several other good riders. I have great confidence in those riders and can’t wait to see where they are at on Sunday.”
The squad previously lost Wouter Mol on Wednesday with a broken collarbone at Scheldeprijs and two-time Flanders champion Stijn Devolder is nursing a sore elbow from a crash at De Ronde.