Top-ten finish in 'L'Enfer du Nord'
Navarrese powerhouse from Movistar Team finishes 9th in Paris-Roubaix: back into the break like in Flanders last Sunday, becomes the first-ever Spaniard to claim consecutive top-ten placements in both 'De Ronde' and 'L'Enfer du Nord' in the very same spring
Were the Movistar Team to dream of having a ‘flandrien’ in their ranks, they couldn’t find one better than Imanol Erviti, the ever-dependable, humble domestique that the squad directed by Eusebio Unzué has enjoyed throughout the last twelve seasons. The 32-year-old from Pamplona astonished the world of cycling again by covering almost 200km into the break of Paris-Roubaix -27 cobbled sections, 258 kilometers, risk and stress in every single turn- and crossing the finish line in the Velodrome in 9th place, just over a minute behind surprise winner Mat Hayman (OGE), who beat four-time victor Tom Boonen (EQS).
Erviti’s escape forged after 75km into the race, a twenty-man attempt finally sticking after lots of attempts. The group crossed the mythical Trouée d’Arenberg with 1’30” over the main field, split into two due to a mass crash, and was chased down, very few remnants together with Erviti, just over 60km from the finish. Erviti, even more resolute than in Flanders, did not miss a turn at the front and masterfully floated through the secteurs pavé -sticking even when only seven riders were part of the lead group-. With less than 20km to go, an acceleration by Sky split his group, leaving Erviti with Saramotins, Haussler (IAM) and Sieberg (LTS) in pursuit of Boonen, Hayman, Stannard (SKY), Vanmarcke (TLJ) and Boasson Hagen (DDD).
Imanol, who at times even left his companions behind, ended up claiming his second top-ten finish on cobbled classics, which makes him become the first ever Spaniard to chain top-ten results in both Flanders and Roubaix in the same year, as well as the only man, together with Vanmarcke, to claim such results in the 2016 spring campaign. Quite a success for a man who always conceived satisfaction in cycling as a matter of giving all he had for others.
The day’s negative notes for the Movistar Team in Roubaix were marked by two incidents. 95km in, Nelson Oliveira suffered a crash against his left shoulder and arm; checkups on Monday will confirm or rule out any fractures. In turn, Fran Ventoso sustained a wound in his leg after roughly 140km; moved by ambulance to a hospital in Valenciennes, he’s likely to undergo surgery and have stitches put on the cut, possibly involving muscle tissue.
Imanol Erviti: “What a week! I’m super happy. Right after crossing the finish line, the taste was sort of bittersweet since I couldn’t follow the wheels of the group I was in and couldn’t improve that 9th – I was so much tired. But later on, you reflect on what you did and you leave the Velodrome with a big smile. It’s always difficult to get into the break on a Monument, like I did in Flanders, but entering two of them… it’s sort of a master trick. And I couldn’t have done it without a big helping hand from my team-mates. They kept the break close so I could try and bridge, which I did.
“It wasn’t a comfortable breakaway by any means. We had to ride fast all the time, the pace was high from very early into the race behind after the crash and Boonen’s attack – they were always close to us, we never had a moment to breathe, and once we got caught, every single cobbled section was a small torture.
“I took my turns into the breaks because I wanted to be honest with my group, and I was also interested on that move to stick and go smoothly, rather than running by one attack after another. Following wheels instead of cooperating would have made me suffer more and reach shorter than I could. I wasn’t probably the man who pushed the strongest, but I didn’t want to break the ‘rules’. You’ve got to ride with everything you’ve got. Plus, I was so excited, because things had gone well in Flanders – I thought it was worth to take the effort. I was over my limit at the finish, I couldn’t seek for a better place in the Velodrome, but I’m content with what I did because I think I acted correctly. This is how cycling works!
“I was keeping the wheel of my group into the section prior to the Carrefour de l’Arbre, but to be honest, I was starting to struggle – the ones in front of me were a bit stronger. I’m happy that Hayman won: Orica rode well, with two men into the early break, Mat into the escape so early… he’s a deserved winner of this race.
“Should I find these legs again, I think I can do well on the cobblestones. But it’s also true that it depends on following the right moves or rather entering the early breaks, which keep you more calm than into a big peloton. Weather conditions also played in my favor: allergies made me leave sad and without energy in previous years, because I couldn’t take the efforts I wanted, with all the dust, the difficulties inherent to such races… Fortunately, it rained before both Flanders and Roubaix, air was cleaner and I could be up there with the top guys. All in all, I’m really happy!”