American team BMC Racing brought mostly newbies to Sunday's Paris-Roubaix race, and despite racing against several stacked outfits, did fairly well for a squad receiving a wildcard bid less than a month ago.
Three BMC riders -- Alexander Moos, Brent Bookwalter and Ian McKissick -- finished their laps around the Roubaix velodrome after the entire team worked cohesively like seasoned “Hell of the North” professionals.
Heavy Paris-Roubaix favourite Tom Boonen delivered the goods Sunday, soloing to his third victory in eight tries. His Belgian QuickStep team also had Stijn Devolder and Sylvain Chavanel among its ranks, stacking the deck considerably.
Team leader and Roubaix veteran Tony Cruz guided the young group, knowing the event was going to be a first-time learning experience for nearly the rest of the team and staff.
Really a crazy race
“Paris-Roubaix is always a difficult race, but I'm really, really proud of how our team did,” Directeur Sportif John Lelangue said. “It's such a challenging race not only for the racers but also for the staff that I'm enormously impressed with how well our entire team worked throughout the day!”
Though the first-timers on the team knew well the reputation of the race and had an idea of what to expect, the reality was still a bit shocking.
“First impression was that it was just such a crazy race,” first-time finisher Bookwalter said. “We all came in expecting it to be crazy, but the magnitude of the crowd and the nervous energy of the field really turn this into another animal.”
Inside the race itself, the BMC team members were working well together, keeping well-positioned and watching out for each other.
“We were very lucky early in the race with few mechanicals, and the guys were all able to keep themselves out of trouble for the most part,” Lelangue added. "I was car number 24 in the caravan, though, so when one of the guys did have a problem, their team mates or a member of staff strategically placed along the route was there to help whoever from the team was in trouble.”
Cutting their teeth on cobbles
Moos was BMC’s best finisher in 68th place. However, the end result could have been much better for the Swiss veteran. Entering the cobbled section Carrefour de l'Arbre, Moos was well-placed in the main peloton. Like several riders on Sunday who suffered bad luck, a spectator accidentally put a flag pole through his front wheel.
“Alex crashed very hard in the Carrefour de l'Arbre and was beat-up pretty badly,” Lelangue explained. “He must have lost eight or nine minutes there because he needed a new bike and it took a few minutes for him to gather himself together.”
With a cut on the head and a bloodied knee and elbow, Moos was forced to race the last 17 kilometres on his own.
“We had a bit of rough luck on the whole as a team which brought home to us just how much good fortune you need to do really well in this event,” Bookwalter added. “Even with the perfect weather conditions there were crashes everywhere.”
The annals of Roubaix finishers
“In our first attempt as a team at Paris-Roubaix, to have three finishers from such a young group is a real accomplishment,” Lelangue said. “Alex, Brent and Ian are a part of the history of finishing this event which is, along with the Tour of Flanders, the hardest one-day race anywhere in the world.”