Roubaix, France - Three punctures in the last 25 kilometers did not stop the Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team from placing 2 riders in the top 10 at Paris - Roubaix Espoirs on Sunday. Jasper Philipsen finished in 4th place and Jonny Brown finished in 7th.
“I am ecstatic about my ride today,” said Brown. “It is my first top ten as a U23 in Europe, so today was a special moment for me. The puncture was definitely a bit of a disappointment, but that’s part of Roubaix.”
Brown spent over 160 km of the total 188.3 km in the main breakaway of the race. When the group split, Philipsen was able to bridge up to the lead group. Teammate Maikel Zijlaard was in a group of riders immediately behind the pair. Riding into the last 20 km, Philipsen and Brown were positioned well to cover any moves and compete for a place on the podium.
“But then at Carrefour de l’Arbre I got my first puncture,” said Philipsen. “I was able to rejoin the leaders, but on the second to last pavé section I got another puncture. I was giving it my all to make it back one more time, but they [leaders] were just a little bit too far away to close the gap again. I was really disappointed that I couldn’t fight for the victory. Though in the end, I am satisfied with 4th place. It was a really hard race.”
Philipsen wasn’t the only one with bad luck on Carrefour de l’Arbre. Brown was gapped slightly by Philipsen and the two other lead riders.
“Once I realized I had a flat I just told myself keep riding it until you can get a wheel,” said Brown. “The team car was a little behind because they were stuck behind a dropped rider from the break. Once I got the wheel change I knew my chances of making it back to Jasper’s group were over, but I just kept telling myself ‘you are within the final 15 kilometers, just keep going, keep pushing.’ Once I crossed the finish line I just laid down for a bit and couldn’t believe it. I just got 7th in one of the hardest one-days in the world.”
Eighteen-year-old Zijlaard went on to finish the famed race, laden with 26 sections of cobbles, in 21st place. Rui Oliveira was 42nd.
“The team rode a good race,” said sport director Koos Moerenhout. “They were constantly up there. The breakaway with Brown went away before the first pavé section, putting us into a comfortable position. It’s too bad about the numerous punctures, but a strong race by the guys. Mechanicals are just a part of Paris - Roubaix.”
Photo: Joyce Jason Ghijs