Roubaix, France – Justin Oien made the most of a day in the breakaway Sunday at Paris-Roubaix Espoirs by notching a sixth-place finish for the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team.
The 21-year-old from San Diego, California, was one of three Axeon Hagens Berman riders in the lead group with 15 kilometers to go in the rain-soaked, muddy race across 21 cobblestone sectors. But teammates Krists Neilands and Phil O'Donnell – who was also part of the original 15-man breakaway with Oien – both went down in crashes.
"We lost Phil to a crash on the cobblestones and he ended up in a ditch," Axeon Hagens Berman General Manager Axel Merckx said. "Then Krists was in the front being active and trying to escape and make a breakaway until he got crashed out. That was it for him.
"We went from three guys in the perfect scenario with 10 to 15 kilometers to go to one guy in that situation in the final. So I am bummed for them. But I am really happy with Justin because he did a really strong performance and rode really well."
Filippo Ganna (Team Colpack) soloed to win the 182.6-km race, 49 seconds ahead of Oien's group of seven. Merckx said Oien might have had a better result had he not been pushed off the track as his group entered the Roubaix velodrome. Jenthe Biermans (Team SEG Racing Academy) was runner-up and Hamish Schreurs (Klein Constania) placed third.
Tyler Williams was Axeon Hagens Berman's next best finisher in 35th while Adrien Costa and Tao Geoghegan Hart placed 39th and 40th, respectively. Neilands finished 62nd and O'Donnell was 85th.
A day after Greg Daniel soloed to win the USA Cycling Volkswagen Professional Road National Championships in North Carolina, Merckx said the team came close to another major result.
"We were active; it was just bad luck," he said. "To still finish sixth is a very strong performance and shows the depth of this team on all fronts. We were active, we were there and we always come to races to try to win them."
(Photo above of Phil O'Donnell (second from left) courtesy of Vélo Club de Roubaix.)