Dylan van Baarle wins as Ineos rip up Paris-Roubaix; Wout van Aert second, Mathieu van der Poel disappoints
After the autumnal mud-soaked edition of Hell of the North last year, the race returned to its traditional spring slot and served up a classic as Dylan van Baarle survived the cobbles to deliver a historic win for Ineos Grenadiers. Wout van Aert recovered brilliantly from an early setback – and multiple mechanicals – to finish second, while Mathieu van der Poel faded into ninth.
'It's all yours!' - Van Baarle delivers victory for Ineos at Paris-Roubaix
Dylan Van Baarle finished off a fascinating edition of Paris-Roubaix with an immaculate victory set up by his Ineos Grenadiers team-mates, the first moves of which were made as far away as 200km south of the fabled Andre-Petrieux velodrome.
Van Baarle rode solo onto the track and was able to enjoy a relaxed final lap of the fastest edition in the race's history.
A group of four arrived almost two minutes later, with Wout van Aert (Jumbo Visma) and Stefan Kung (Groupama FDJ) claiming the minor podium places.
They were able to because theirs was the only team to have every rider in that front group. They drilled discipline into it, working themselves and obliging everyone to take their turn at the front, and indirectly wearing out the riders in the group behind - which included the teams of pre-race favourites Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Van Aert.
‘Look at the state of this!’ – Favourites caught out by huge split in peloton
“You have to have a certain amount of luck” to win Paris-Roubaix, said former winner Magnus Backstedt on Eurosport commentary duties. “Everything has to go right on the day.”
Though perhaps not completely true, Van Baarle arguably had a bit more than others. He suffered just one puncture, at one of the least dangerous points in the race.
Almost every other rider took their mechanical hit at more injurious moments. Van Aert’s came in the Forest of Arenberg, while the wheel of Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) went flat as he was leading with 39km left of the race.
Van Baarle, at that point chasing behind in the company of several of the elite stars and team-mate Ben Turner, was the rider best placed to take advantage.
Having shredded them all day long, no other rider had enough in their legs to make a concerted chase, as Van Baarle headed for Roubaix. Yves Lampaert (QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl) and Mohoric were on their way to the podium when, on the final proper cobbled secteur, a spectator failed to withdraw his applauding hands and clipped Lampaert's right brake leaving, sending him to the deck in dramatic and tragic fashion.
'You’re too close!' – Lampaert collides with spectator in scary crash at Paris-Roubaix
With the race spit into two large groups for almost 130km, it was a most unconventional edition of the most unpredictable race on the calendar. Only by the Trouee d’Arenberg could it be said that a breakaway was formed, with Mohoric the biggest name of five riders who had slipped away from the Ineos-led peloton.
The Slovenian, later named The Breakaway’s rider of the day, was the strongest and most experienced of them. He did enough work for long enough, and organised his colleagues sufficiently successfully to make it seem, at points, that he might be able to pull it off, even from so far out.
None were as close to strong as he was, however, and one by one they fell away. Behind the elite favourites drew ever closer. At Mons en Pevele, the penultimate five-star cobbled sector, with the gap to Mohoric and his only remaining companion, Tom Devriendt (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux), down to 18 seconds, Van Baarle went hunting.
Van Baarle admits split in peloton ‘was not planned’
As the sectors counted down he was able to form a new alliance of four strong riders, including the indefatigable Mohoric again, before dispensing with them all at Camphin-en-Pevele.
Into the final 10km and the blackboard in front of Van Baarle showed his lead to be 40 seconds, having doubled from what it was just a few kilometres earlier.
Mohoric and Lampaert looked to be heading to the podium before the onlooking fan, apparently lacking in the most basic hand-eye coordination, failed to get out of the way and violently removed him from his bike.
Van Baarle had time to take it all in as he completed two laps of the track. It was his first Monument victory, just two weeks after he finished second at the Tour of Flanders.
Mohoric rode in with Kung, Van Aert and Devriendt. The Jumbo-Visma rider sprinted to an expected second, while the Groupama FDJ man pipped the Belgian to third.
“It’s unbelievable,” said a dust-covered Van Baarle immediately afterwards. “I couldn’t believe it when I came into the velodrome. I looked at the other side but I was completely alone and I could start believing.”
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