Van Baarle tames the Hell of the North at record speed

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Even in fair weather, the Paris-Roubaix tests pro riders with its brutal cobblestone sections. (Photo: A.S.O./Pauline Ballet)
Even in fair weather, the Paris-Roubaix tests pro riders with its brutal cobblestone sections. (Photo: A.S.O./Pauline Ballet)
  • The Hell of the North lived up to its reputation, punishing pro riders with brutal cobblestone sections.
  • Much better weather than last year, but Paris-Roubaix is never an easy race.
  • Flat tyres and crashes made it a race of survival, more than outright speed.

None of cycling’s one-day classics is respected or revered more than Paris-Roubaix.

The race from Compiègne to Roubaix routes for 257.2km. And what earns it the fearsome reputation are 54.8km of cobblestones.

At the 119th Paris-Roubaix, 170 riders formed 25 teams for the main event. After rain and mud made last year’s race one of the most memorable, riders earned some weather reprieve.

Mild temperatures and sunshine did nothing to reduce the dust, which featured on all those cobblestone parts of the course.

women's cycling
World Champion stripes did not bring good luck for Elisa Balsamo, although her teammate Elisa Longo Borghini (right) made amends. (Photo: Trek-Segafredo)

Bottle incident in the women's race 

The Paris-Roubaix women’s race saw a controversial sequence of events on Saturday. World Champion, Elisa Balsamo, was disqualified after being judged to have received an illegal tow from the Trek-Segafredo team car.

Balsamo punctured 48km from the finish. Flat tyres are typical for riders on any Paris-Roubaix. After fixing the issue, race organisers reviewed footage and decided that Balsamo held onto a bottle passed from her team car for too long – receiving unfair vehicle assistance.

The 125km women’s race was won by Balsamo’s teammate, Elisa Longo Borghini, after a daring solo breakaway.  

Team strategy is crucial at any Paris-Roubaix, but riders are often forced to adapt to the unforeseen. Once a lead group is established, one of the race’s cobblestone sections will humble them.

one-day classic
The chaos of Paris-Roubaix cobblestones, with spare wheels close at hand – in case of those inevitable punctures. (Photo: A.S.O./Pauline Ballet)

Ineos Grenadiers made the early move 

Clement Davy became the first cobblestone victim a mere 16.2km into the 257.2km race. The French Groupama-FDJ rider crashed heavily but continued.

One of pro cycling’s wealthiest teams, Ineos Grenadiers, set an early pace at the race, trying to get some of their more powerful riders into a strong position for the inevitable breakaways.

Crashes, flat tyres and damaged wheels are a theme of any Paris-Roubaix. Riders who managed their risk best, formed part of a lead element into the Arenberg section, featuring Paris-Roubaix’s worst cobblestones.

It is shaping to be a great season for Dylan van Baarle, winning Paris-Roubaix after a second place at the Tour of Flanders. (Photo: A.S.O./Pauline Ballet)

Great day for the Dutch 

Despite suffering a spate of off-season injuries, Mathieu van der Poel was desperate to do justice to his prodigious riding ability at Paris-Roubaix. The Dutch road, gravel and mountain biking superstar is a favourite to win at any event, but one of his countrymen appeared more adept at taming the cobbles.

Ineos Grenadiers lead the peleton into the Arenberg. Team strategy saw its form rider of the day, Dylan van Baarle, take the lead with 18.6km to go.

Van der Poel chased hard with the finish 13km away, but there was no denying Ineos Grenadiers the win. Van Baarle earned the British team’s first Paris-Roubaix win in great style, entering the Roubaix velodrome alone.

Completing the podium was Wout van Aert and Stefan Küng. Van Baarle’s win was the fastest average speed yet, for a Paris-Roubaix, at 45.7km/h.


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