John Degenkolb crashes at the decisive moment, Mathieu van der Poel celebrates after his arch-rival Wout van Aert broke down in the legendary Roubaix velodrome.
In a dramatic finale, the Dutchman celebrated his first victory in the hell of the north and won the classic Paris-Roubaix on Easter Sunday. After 257 kilometers – 54.5 of them over brutal cobblestones – the cross world champion asserted himself as a soloist and triumphed three weeks after Milan-Sanremo in his second monument of cycling this year.
The Belgian Jasper Philipsen secured second place ahead of his compatriot van Aert. The brilliantly fighting Degenkolb took seventh place after a fall in the decisive phase and thus missed his second triumph in Roubaix after 2015. Despite the accident, the 34-year-old showed a strong performance that was hardly thought possible. Max Walscheid rounded off the strong performance of the German cycling pros in eighth place.
“It doesn’t get any better”
“It’s incredible how we rode as a team. Jasper is second. It doesn’t get any better. I had one of the best days on the bike. I kept attacking but I couldn’t outperform the others. When Wout broke down, I drove as fast as I could. Of course it’s bad luck, but that’s part of the race,” said van der Poel.
The decision was once again made in the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector with about 18 kilometers to go. First, Degenkolb fell after a collision with van der Poel, whereupon van Aert attacked. The Belgian pulled away with van der Poel, but shortly before the end of the 2.3-kilometre section he suffered a defective rear wheel. Van der Poel capitalized on his archrival’s bad luck and drove to his first Roubaix victory.
The peloton had solid pressure on the pedals right from the start, the average speed was over 50 kilometers per hour in the first two hours of racing alone. Memories of the high-speed race from the previous year were awakened when, at the end, the fastest Roubaix in history at 45.792 km/h was in the statistics. At the time, veteran Degenkolb complained that he didn’t even have time for a pee break.
Two Germans in the first top group
Only after 85 kilometers was there a four-man lead group, including Jonas Koch and Juri Hollmann. However, the lead was not too big and 100 kilometers from the finish, top favorite Van Aert triggered the first panic attack in the competition. The Belgian competed with his teammate Christophe Laporte, only van der Poel and Degenkolb initially followed.
The small group crossed the dreaded forest of Arenberg without the usual rush. After the 2.3-kilometre sector, which forced defending champion Dylan van Baarle to retire after a fall, the group expanded to include the escapees that had been caught. In addition, time trial world champions Filippo Ganna and Maximilian Walscheid caught up from behind.
A good 50 kilometers from the finish, van der Poel emphatically announced that he was present. Only Degenkolb followed a first attempt before van Aert caught up again. In the five-star Mons-en-Pévèle sector, the Dutchman pushed again, but it was too much for Walscheid.
Van der Poel competed again in the catering after the section, for the first time only the favorite duo with him and van Aert were at the top. However, since van Aert refused to take the lead, they were unable to break away from the other five drivers. The favorites worked together until the breathtaking finale in the Carrefour de l’Arbre.