Four days after riding to second place behind team-mate Marcus Burghardt in Ghent-Wevelgem, T-Mobile classics specialist Roger Hammond went gunning for more glory at Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. Despite suffering a puncture and getting an over-inflated replacement tyre he finished an impressive seventh after a barnstorming finish that saw him almost close the gap to the group battling for second place.
The veteran Briton tells t-mobile-team.com editor Gerard Lyne what was going through his mind during the Hell of the North's thrilling finale.
Roger, what are your overriding emotions looking back on your seventh place in Paris-Roubaix?
Roger Hammond: With it coming on the back of the team’s one-two in Gent-Wevelgem, I don’t have to get too disappointed. I didn’t crash, which was fortunate, but it really was such a nearly thing - the chance was there to best my third place at Paris-Roubaix in 2004. Most frustrating was that I punctured in the break and had to take a neutral service wheel. And the tyre was pumped up really hard on it, so I struggled on the cobbled sectors.
How big an impact did this tyre change have on your performance?
Massive. I think it cost me dearly towards the end. I was bouncing on the cobbles instead of floating over them. It was on the third last sector that the Flecha group went. On another day I would have been fine, but with the really hard front tyre it was impossible to follow. And it wasn’t because I was finished energy-wise, because we nearly came back to them at the finish, it was just because I couldn’t go over the cobbles as fast as them with the tyre pressure in the front tyre.
Hammond sprints on the Roubaix velodromeHad you put extra effort into getting your bike set-up right for Paris-Roubaix?
Yes, we spent a lot of time on Thursday checking tyre pressures, pumping them up, letting them down, riding sections of cobbles, re-riding them, then to lose my front wheel on the third sector of 28 was pretty depressing really.
At both Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix you got away in early breaks and spent the whole day at the front of the race. Was that your tactical brief?
It just panned out that way. A bit like Gent-Wevelgem, Boogie was the protected rider and the rest were given the idea to just go out and race. I wasn’t transfixed on getting into an early break. I was just at the front, went with a couple of moves, turned around and we were gone. And when you are in that situation you don’t turn it down, especially with so many riders, it wasn’t too difficult at the front!
In the final 20 kms of Paris-Roubaix did you think that with Tom Boonen and Enrico Franzoi (Lampre) you could get back to the Flecha group to contest for second spot, or did you feel the game was up?
No, I was pretty confident that we could have done actually. That’s why I worked with Boonen. I rode with him to the finish. Boonen didn’t help us, as far as I was concerned he made tactical errors there, which was a really a pity because if he hadn’t then I think we would have caught them.
What kind of tactical errors?
Well, as soon as he caught us he attacked us. And rather that ride with us, he tried to drop us straight away. So then I thought ‘Ok, I am not going to give you 100% immediately, because I want to see how strong you are first before you attack me again’. And Franzoi didn’t work at all then. Franzoi and I were working happily together until Boonen came across and attacked us. So then Franzoi was just afraid of dropping back to the next group behind and losing out on a top ten place. That’s what he was thinking, so with that we lost 30% of our workforce.
Were you aware that Boonen had a team mate up the road in the shape of Kevin van Impe?
Yeah, sure. We could see van Impe riding 300 metres in front of us for four or five kilometres. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t dropping back to Boonen, because they had radio communication, at least Boonen was on the radio while he was in our group. Anyway, whether he was riding blind or not, eventually van Impe does drop back and we are riding together, but then Boonen attacks again with three and half kilometres to go. All it serves to do is drop van Impe, his team mate, so again we are back down to two again. It was a fatal error to drop can Impe. And not only did Boonen smash himself from attacking, he smashed me, I had to recover from the attack. And in that two minute period, neither me nor Boonen were working and Franzoi was still just trying to grasp any bit of air he can. In the end, it was just one second, that’s nothing, so had he not done all these negative things we would have got back.
Winning was no longer on your mind then…
No, I heard on the race radio that O’Grady was one minute ahead, so he had it in the bag, but we could see the group ahead of us that was racing for second place.
It was a great day for O’Grady…
Yes, and I was happy for him, he was going really well. I could see it in the break straight away, that he was going head and shoulders above the rest. And it was true in the end, he was very strong on Sunday.
Dry and dusty, or wet and mucky. Which Paris-Roubaix do you prefer?
They both have their advantages. When its wet and slippery, then its better for me skills-wise, Cyclo-cross skills come more into play. Then when its dry, there’s always more people out, and a better atmosphere. Plus, you are going over the cobbles that much faster because you don’t have too worry too much about slipping. On the last sectors we were going so fast, and the crowds are so close too you that it feels like you are going at 100 miles an hour. You could only just about see them through the clouds of dust, but you could certainly hear them!
Your results and performances have been a lot more consistent this year than in the past two season. Is there any particular reason why?
Just confidence from the management, especially Brian and Allan, who have been looking after me and ‘Hoffy’ (Tristan Hoffman) who has been getting to know me, but didn’t know me before I came to the team. We met on the podium in Paris-Roubaix a few years ago, but that was it. Otherwise, our paths didn’t really cross in races. Brian and Allan have known me for a numbers of years. They have believed in me and I am a rider that kind of grows with that sort of belief in me. I feel very happy with the whole structure of team. I feel at home, it’s nothing individual that I can put a finger on. It’s the sum of all that the parts. And there’s really a great bunch of guys in the team. We’ve had great fun during the classics.
What does the rest of your spring programme look like?
On Thursday I am at the GP de Denain. After that I take some free time, then I come back for the Tour of Rheinland-Pfalz. I will leave the Ardennes classics for the climbers!
Roger congratulations on a fantastic spring campaign, and enjoy your rest time!
I thought his ride was wondrous. Thanks for posting the write-up.
I took a look at his personal website after the race to get a better idea of his results over the past couple of years, unfortunately the site really doesn't do him justice and looks like a relative might have knocked it out. The team site is much better, thankfully.
Awesome. I've been reading up about Hammond recently. Only went to school with the geezer eh. He was a stocky, tough, slightly mad fucker then. In a good way. Nobody could understand why he cycled to school everyday. Guess he had a plan way back then.
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