Mathieu van der Poel wins Paris-Roubaix after devastating attack
Mathieu van der Poel claimed one of cycling's most glittering prizes on Sunday, breaking away solo on a dangerous cobbled section for a magnificent solo triumph at the Paris-Roubaix classic
The 28-year-old Dutch rider produced a string of aggressive attacks to shake off stubborn resistance before the decisive move on the epic 256.6km race was sparked by a spectacular fall.
The 2023 one-day season is turning out to be Van der Poel's with a recent triumph at Milan-SanRemo, a narrow miss at the Tour of Flanders a week ago and Sunday's convincing display of power handing him a fourth triumph in epic one-day races known as Monuments.
His teammate Jasper Philipsen finished 46sec behind to beat fellow Belgian rider Wout van Aert into second at the Roubaix velodrome finish-line.
An early fall featuring three Ineos riders was pounced upon mercilessly by an elite clique that broke away until only seven top riders were left, including prerace favourites Filippo Ganna, Mads Pedersen, Stefan Kung and 2015 winner John Degenkolb.
The action then exploded on the Carrefour de L'Arbre five-star cobbled section with 20km to go when Degenkolb fell sprawled on the ground, several riders swerving to avoid him in a move that caused Van Aert to puncture.
Van der Poel burst away and never looked back until he was close to the line, "It's impossible to do better than this," said the 28-year-old Alpecin-Deceuninck rider, "When I passed Van Aert his face looked low, I didn't know he had a puncture. But that's Roubaix, you need good legs and good luck," he said.
Heat and Dust
Philipsen later admitted he had knocked Degenkolb over.
"I told him I was sorry, you don't want this but it happens. Everything went our way, we had good luck," he said. "It all happened so fast."
The average speed in fact was around 46kph.
Third-placed Van Aert congratulated the winner.
"I rode defensively, he's so strong at the moment it would have been stupid to attack in," said the 28-year-old Belgian.
On a sunny Easter Sunday over 10 000 fans awaited the peloton at the short Trouee d'Arneberg section alone, another five-star cobbled section where wheels broke as well as dreams.
Defending champion Dylan van Baarle was one of the many crash victims there and his teammate Christophe Laporte took a puncture, leaving team leader Van Aert alone with his rivals, two of whom were on Van der Poel's team.
The weather was unseasonably warm but road conditions were treacherous with dried mud on the 54km of cobbles crumbling to dust making the surface slippery.
First raced 127 years ago the classic is something of a shared national experience in France with sports daily L'Equipe dedicating a full ten pages of its Sunday edition to the contest.
Local paper La Voix du Nord ran the headline "Easter is the Hell of the North" and published a 28-page full-colour supplement to go with it.
Roubaix is the third of five races known as Monuments after Milan-SanRemo and the Tour of Flanders, with Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of Lombardy still to come.
VIDEO: Paris-Roubaix Men's Race Highlights
Paris-Roubaix Men's Race Top 10
1 VAN DER POEL Mathieu Alpecin-Deceuninck 5:28:41
2 PHILIPSEN Jasper Alpecin-Deceuninck 0:46
3 VAN AERT Wout Jumbo-Visma 0:46
4 PEDERSEN Mads Trek - Segafredo 0:50
5 KÜNG Stefan Groupama - FDJ 0:50
6 GANNA Filippo INEOS Grenadiers 0:50
7 DEGENKOLB John Team DSM 2:35
8 WALSCHEID Max Cofidis 3:31
9 REX Laurenz Intermarché - Circus - Wanty 3:35
10 LAPORTE Christophe Jumbo-Visma 4:11