Schlagwort-Archive: Johan Vansummeren


2011: Johan Vansummeren (III/V)

In the end, it’s not always the strongest who wins. Certainly not in cycling, and most definitely not in Paris-Roubaix. On the roads of the Hell of the North, the „strongest“ can just as easily win in the legendary velodrome as get bogged down in the Trouée d’Arenberg. Year after year, the cobblestone crushers crash in the Mons-en-Pévèle sector or collapse in the Carrefour de l’Arbre – and one cannot underestimate the traps of the asphalt either. On these unique roads, an aspirant for glory needs to be strong, but also brave and lucky. Paris-Roubaix smiles on the bold, even those who have been out there the longest. In a race where chaos is always the order of the day, early attackers create unsuspected openings. Conquerors of the Hell of the North, they tell us about their heavenly day on the cobbles.

Johan Vansummeren : „At Roubaix, I knew I had a chance“
4 + 3 + 2 = 9. From 2005 to 2013, nine editions of Paris-Roubaix were dominated by three major forces. There was Tom Boonen, Flanders hero, winner of the Hell of the North on four occasions, like Roger De Vlaeminck in the 1970s. Swiss icon Fabian Cancellara also made his way into the Roubaix legend with three triumphs. The other two editions contested during their reign crowned long-distance attackers specialising in the cobbles, who eventually found an opening to upset the pre-established (but rarely respected) scenarios of Paris-Roubaix.
In 2007, Stuart O’Grady achieved his conquest by taking part in the early breakaway before he surged in the final. In 2011, Johan Vansummeren was “at the back of the pack“ when the breakaway set off. The Trouée d’Arenberg was his winning launchpad, almost 100 kilometres away from the André-Pétrieux velodrome. At the same time, Boonen was lamenting a puncture. As for Fabian Cancellara, he remained behind, alongside the other main favourites, led by world champion Thor Hushovd, Vansummeren’s teammate in the ranks of Garmin-Cervélo.
Winner in Roubaix a year earlier (ahead of Hushovd, 2nd), Cancellara eventually unleashed his power. The gap to the front of the race had shrunk to around twenty seconds with 30 kilometres to go. But Vansummeren didn’t wait for anyone en route to the greatest success of his career. The Belgian suffered right to the end, with a puncture just outside of the Vélodrome. Still, he fulfilled the prophecy of his boss Jonathan Vaughters, who was convinced that Vansummeren, even more than Hushovd, held the key to breaking the Boonen-Cancellara lock.

KM 0. TOO EARLY TO MOVE : „I wasn’t going to jostle and lose energy“
„At the start, I was free – I didn’t have to do anything for the team leaders. Thor Hushovd had two riders working for him, [Roger] Hammond and [Andreas] Klier, and I could do my own thing. Up until the first sector in Troisvilles, I stayed at the back of the pack. You have to make a choice: either you try to get into the breakaway, or you try to preserve your legs as much as possible. That’s also a risk. If there’s a lot of wind, you can’t afford to lag behind. But that day, I told myself that I wasn’t going to jostle and lose energy. My idea was not to worry about the race for the first 100 kilometres. It was only in the last ten kilometres before Troisvilles that I started to work my way up to the front of the peloton.”

KM 98. SURVIVING THE FIRST COBBLES : „There are crashes, the peloton splits“
„The first cobbles in Paris-Roubaix are always dangerous. I was talking about it again last week with a friend: ‘We never talk about the first sectors, it’s not five stars… But there’s always tension.’ You have two hundred riders and everyone wants to be in the top ten. There are crashes, the peloton splits… OK, it comes back, but it takes energy. You have to fight beforehand and if you enter the cobbles in fifth or sixth position, you can even allow yourself to drop back a little. It’s all about being in the safety zone and staying well placed to avoid any splits.”

KM 172. ARENBERG, THE LAUNCH PAD : „Lotto pulled and pulled and pulled“
„At Arenberg, there isn’t really a safe zone any more. Even in second place, if the guy in front of you crashes, there’s no room. And if you have a mechanical… I was able to go through without having to push too hard. And as soon as we came out of the cobbles, [Jurgen] Roelandts attacked. I was on his wheel and off we went. We quickly caught up with the breakaway and then Lotto had three riders [Roelandts, André Greipel and David Boucher]. It was magnificent. They didn’t ask for anything, they just pulled and pulled and pulled… And I was around tenth place [he whistles]. They carried me for nearly 70 kilometres, until we battled it out in the finale with [Lars] Bak, [Maarten] Tjallingi… At no point did I think about the gap or the chasing riders. Anyway, the situation changes a lot. And as soon as there are only three or four of us in front, it’s a mano a mano.”

KM 242. THE RIGHT TURN ON THE CARREFOUR : „Tjallingi was five metres away“
„I felt really good. And I know the Carrefour de l’Arbre quite well, the corners, the first left-right… And after about a kilometre, there’s a left-hand bend… And that’s where I went really fast. Tjallingi was five metres from my wheel. He never came back. I had good legs, a clear head and my experience of Paris-Roubaix, the recons… Even today, you leave me in Troisvilles and I’ll take you to Roubaix, with my eyes closed! But there, I wasn’t at ease. In the last sector before Roubaix, my wheel hit a cobblestone. I thought to myself: ‘ouch…‘ And in the last three kilometres, my rim was touching the road. It was a bit of a panic, I was really stressed. On the videos, you can see that I entered the velodrome with a soft tubular. But it worked out.”

KM 256.5. ELATION IN ROUBAIX AND LOMMEL : „I bought a few tons of beer“
„It was total madness. I was so proud, so happy. When I signed my contract with Garmin, I told Vaughters: ‘I know I can’t win many races… But Roubaix, I can do it.’ Then, just because you can doesn’t mean you’re going to win! But at Roubaix, I knew I had a chance. The team organised dinner that evening, then we left around midnight. And when I arrived in my town [Lommel], there must have been 2,000 people in the streets. The police were there, the roads were blocked, there was the mayor, the TV cameras… I bought a few tons of beer, stayed for an hour, an hour and a half, and then went home. I was dead.“

Johan Vansummeren :
Born on 4th February 1981 in Lommel (Belgium)
9 participations in the Tour de France
9 participations in Paris-Roubaix :
• Winner in 2011 / 5th in 2009 / 8th in 2008 / 9th in 2012
• Winner of Tour de Pologne 2007 (stage 7 and general classification)
• Winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Espoirs in 2003