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Having been the strongest rider all day, Degenkolb bridged across to a front duo before emerging as the strongest in a 7-rider sprint to win Paris-Roubaix; Stybar and Van Avermaet completed the podium

Photo: ANSA - DAL ZENNARO / PERI

GREG VAN AVERMAET

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JOHN DEGENKOLB

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PARIS - ROUBAIX

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TEAM SUNWEB

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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12.04.2015 @ 18:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Three weeks after his big win in Milan-Sanremo, John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) added a second monument to his palmares when he conquered the 113th edition of Paris-Roubaix in impressive fashion. Attentive to all attacks throughout the entire race, he bridged the gap to Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Yves Lampaert (Etixx-QuickStep) with less than 10km to go before a 7-rider group formed and finally emerged as the strongest in the sprint, relegating Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) and Van Avermaet to the minor podium positions.

 

When he won Milan-Sanremo, John Degenkolb made it clear that the Italian win was a nice feat but his big dream was to conquer the Queen of the Classics, Paris-Roubaix. Last year he came close when he finished second but he came up short against the combined power of the Etixx-QuickStep team.

 

Today he achieved his big goal when he emerged as clearly the strongest rider in the 113th editon of the biggest classic, becoming the first rider for years to make the very difficult Sanremo-Roubaix double. At just 26 years of age, he has relegated Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) from the position as the rider of the spring by winning the second of the three monuments he has contested.

 

Being a fast rider, Degenkolb could allow himself to wait for sprint but he knew that it would be difficult to bring everything back together from a sprint from a bigger group. Instead, he had an aggressive mindset and applied a tactic that was similar to the one that had given Kristoff the win in the Tour of Flanders.

 

Throughout the entire race, the German left the impression that he was the strongest rider in the race. He was attentive to all the attacks and whenever one of the pre-race favourites made a move he responded immediately. He never missed a key move and appeared to be comfortable on the cobbles.

 

However, he found himself in a very difficult situation after the Carrefour de l’Arbre. At this point, the race has usually been split to pieces but this year it was a big 20-rider group that exited the cobbles. With everybody being at their limit and very little domestique resources left, it was clear that it would be very hard for anyone to control the race.

 

At this point, Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) was the lone leader while Borut Bozic (Astana) was in lone pursuit and as expected the attacking started immediately. Lars Boom (Astana) made the first move but Degenkolb was quick to bring the strong Dutchman and Bozic back.

 

Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE) made the next move and he briefly joined Roelandts but with 13km to go, it all came back together. Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) made an acceleration before Boom again took off.

 

Terpstra and Degenkolb reacted quickly to the Dutchman who quickly realized that he had not gone clear. Hence, a bigger group gathered and the pace went down.

 

This opened the door for outsider Yves Lampaer to take off and he was quickly joined by Greg Van Avermaet. No one started to chase and the pair quickly got a 20-second gap.

 

At this point, Degenkolb played his next card when he sent teammate Bert De Backer off in an attack. The Belgian got a solid gap as there was no organized chase.

 

This was the moment for Degenkolb to kick into action, making a big acceleration to join his teammate. De Backer took a huge turn before the captain took off on his own.

 

Behind the German, Zdenek Stybar, Boom, Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty), Martin Elmiger (IAM), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) formed a next chase group that quickly caught De Backer. A little later, Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEGE), Florian Senechal (Cofidis) and Luke Rowe (Sky) joined the group while Degenkolb bridged the gap to the leaders with 7km to go.

 

Boom and Stybar were the strongest in the chase group and they rode away from the rest before Elmiger and Keukeleire joined them. Meanwhile, Lampaert refused to work with Degenkolb and Van Avermaet who fought hard to maintain a 10-second advantage.

 

On the well-known small climb with 4km to go, Stybar managed to get across to the leaders. As soon as he made the junction, Lampaert attacked but Degenkolb quickly shut it down.

 

With less than 2km to go, Boom, Keukeleire and Elmiger also made it across to the front group while a bigger group with Kristoff, Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Terpstra and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) had gathered further back. However, there was no organized chase going on and instead it was constant attacking, with Wiggins making a move before Rowe and Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) got clear.

 

In the front group, Lampaert sacrificed himself completely for Stybar and he set the pace all the way onto the velodrome and through the first of the 1.5 laps they had to do. Degenkolb was always well-placed in third position on Stybar’s wheel.

 

Stybar launched his sprint with a half lap to go but at the same time Degenkolb made his acceleration. Unsurprisingly, he was in a class of his own and had plenty of time to celebrate the win before Stybar narrowly edged Van Avermaet out in the fight for second. Rowe and Debusschere managed to stay clear to take 8th and 9th before Kristoff won the sprint of the bigger group to round out the top 10.

 

Paris-Roubaix signals the end of the first part of the classics season which now reaches hillier terrain. The next WorldTour race is next Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race but before then, Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl will serve as a warm-up. The next major race in France is Saturday’s Tour du Finistere which is part of the Coupe de France race series.

A classic course

The 113th Paris-Roubaix was held over 253.km that brought the riders from the traditional start in Compiegne to the legendary finish on the velodrome in Roubaix. As usual, it was an almost completely flat course who challenge was its 27 pave sectors for a total of 52.7km of rough surface. The first of the challenges was located at the 98.5km but the big battle was expected to start in the Arenberg Forest after 158km of racing. From there, the sectors came in quick succession, with the Mons-en-Pevele and Carrefour del’Arbre sectors being the most difficult. The latter came just 17km from the finish and from there only 3 easy paves remained before the riders ended the race by doing 1.5lap on the Roubaix velodrome.

 

200 riders took the start on a beautiful spring dag in Compiegne as they were greeted by a temperature of 17 degrees and a nice tailwind that would assist them almost all the way to Roubaix. As usual in the French classic, the race got off to a very fast start with lots of attacks and it took a very long time for the early break to be established.

 

The break takes off

The first promising move was made by Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r), Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Tom Devriendt (Wanty) and Adriano Malori (Movistar) who escaped at the 5.5km mark but they were quickly brought back. The attacking continued but no one managed to get clear.

 

A dangerous situation occurred after 25km of racing when a big 15-rider group got a gap but that move didn’t work either. 9km later the elastic finally snapped when Gregory Rast (Trek), Adam Blythe (Orica-GreenEDGE), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r), Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne), Tim Declercq (Topsport Vlaanderen), Frederik Backaert (Wanty), Ralf Matzka (Bota-Argon 18) and Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal) had a 20-second advantage.

 

Wiggins gets distanced

While they fought hard to extend the gap, the peloton hit a crosswind section which momentarily split the peloton. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) was one of the riders to get distanced but he managed to rejoin the group.

 

The peloton covered a massive 50.4km in the first hour and at that point the escapees had extended their advantage to 1.10. Finally, the peloton slowed down and after 65km of very fast racing, the gap was 5.10. The peloton had now taken its foot off the gas and at the 76km mark, the escapees were a massive 9.40 ahead.

 

Devolder abandons

Katusha, Astana and Sky took control of the peloton and had brought the gap down to 8 minutes by the time they reached the first pave. Here Sky took complete control with Salvatore Puccio while one of their captains Geraint Thomas fought his way back from a puncture.

 

Perichon suffered a mechanical but managed to rejoin the leaders while Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep) started to work with Puccio as they tackled the first series of cobbles. Here Stijn Devolder (Trek) crashed out of the race while the gradual elimination started, with several riders having to chase back after the crash.

 

More punctures

With 140km to go, the faster pace had brought the gap down to 7.10 while Keisse and Puccio continued to work hard on the front. Moments later Guillaume Van Keirsbulck took over for Etixx-QuickStep on a pave sector before Keisse and Puccio again took over.

 

While more riders got distanced, Yoann Offredo (FDJ) and Tyler Farrar (MTN) fought their way back from unfortunate punctures. Meanwhile, the peloton slowed down which allowed the gap to grow from 6.45 to 7.00.

 

A fight for position

With 120km to go, the fight for position got intense, with several crashes taking place before Marcus Brughardt hit the front for BMC. On sector 22, Van Keirsbulck took over and started to work with Puccio while Keisse drifted backwards.

 

Declercq punctured out of the break but he managed to rejoin the peloton which again slowed down after Jerome Pineau (IAM) had led them over a cobbled sector. At this time, Sagan had to stop for a natural break due to stomach problems and he had to work hard to rejoin the peloton which took a small breather before the big fight for position for the Haveluy sector started.

 

Thomas punctures

Sky hit the front with Bernhard Eisel but he quickly had to stop to give a wheel to Thomas who had another puncture. This allowed Giant-Alpecin to briefly take over while Lieuwe Westra (Astana) went down in a crash.

 

Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal) led the peloton onto the pave while the break had already reached the famous Arenberg forest. Here Declercq set the early pace before Saramotins distanced his companions. Disaster struck for De Bie who punctured out of the group. After the pave, the Saramotins waited for his 7 chasers bu De Bie never made it back.

 

Arenberg does some damage

As usual, it was a big sprint to get onto the pave and it was Sieberg who put Jurgen Roelandts in the position to be first onto the cobbles. The peloton started to splinter as Van Avermaet and later Daniel Oss (BMC) took over. Heinrich Haussler (IAM) was the first to get back onto the tarmac while Wiggins found himself in a group that had been distanced.

 

As usual, the group slowed down and this opened the door for attacks. Bozic and André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) both tried to get clear but had no luck. Wiggins managed to rejoin the peloton which was 5.15 behind with 87km to go.

 

Bad crash for Thomas

Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis) took off in lone pursuit while Sky took over the pace-setting with Christian Knees. At this point, half of the peloton was held back at a railroad crossing which prompted the commissaires to ask Sky to wait. As a consequence, the gap went out from 5.00 to 5.30.

 

With 80km to go, Thomas’s string of bad luck continued when he crashed hard and this time he never made it back. Meanwhile, Andrew Fenn had taken over the pace-setting for Sky and brought Vanbilsen back.

 

Etixx-QuickStep split the field

The attacking started again on the Hornaing sector where Greipel took off. However, it was Van Keirsbulck, Terpstra, Ian Stannard (Sky) and a Giant rider who briefly got a gap before it all came back together. Tom Leezer (LottoNL), Mathew Hayman (Oirca-GreenEDGE), Manuel Quinziato (BMC) and Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) tried next but it came back together.

 

Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana) tried a solo move but when Giant-Alpecin started to work with Roy Curvers, he was brought back. This was the signal for Etixx-QuickStep to play with the muscles when Lampaert strung the peloton out on the Tilloy pave where a strong crosswind split the group.

 

Kristoff on the back foot

As the dust had settled, Boom, Sagan, Oss, Vanmarcke, Degenkolb, Van Poppel, Quinziato, Stannard, Van Keirsbulck, Lampaert, Vandenbergh, Terpstra, De Kort, Bodnar, Stybar and Trentin had gone clear while Kristoff and Van Avermaet found themselves in a second group. Wiggins and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) were further back in a third group.

 

The second and third groups merged while Etixx-QuickStep continued to drive the pace in the first echelon. A few riders managed to bridge across, including Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), Roelandts, Greipel, Van Avermaet, Kristoff, Damien Gaudin, Sieberg and Luca Paolini.

 

Puncture for Pozzato

Perichon punctured out of the lead group before Saramotins launched an attack but he was quickly brought back. Meanwhie, FDJ brought the Wiggins-Demare group back to the main group.

 

Van Keirsbulck and Sieberg set the pace on the Orchies pave at a point when the gap was only 2.30. Here Pozzato had his second puncture and he never made it back.

 

Lotto Soudal with numerous attacks

Lotto Soudal were keen to ride aggressively and Greipel made another move. Debusschere was the next to try but Etixx-QuickStep brought him back.

 

The next Lotto Soudal card was Stig Broeckx who managed to get clear with Bozic, Quinziato and Maarten Wynants (LottoNL). Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep) and Sebastien Minard (Ag2r) joined them and this forced Tinkoff-Saxo to chase. With 52km to go, they brought the group back but the attacking continued.

 

Kristoff tests his legs

Kristoff briefly hit the gas to test his legs while Oss hit the deck on a pave. Kristoff’s acceleration split the group which opened the door for Sagan to attack. He created a 20-rider group before Ian Stannard started to set the pace. At this point, Johan Vansummeren (Ag2r) and Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) were involved in a bad crash.

 

Wiggins and Demare had again missed the split and were chasing hard while Stannard neutralized an attack from Trentin, Bozic, Roy Curvers (Giant), Wynants, Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha) and Van Avermaet. Nect Danny Van Poppel (Trek), Van Avermaet, Elmiger, Roelandts, Curvers, Stybar and Leukemans tried but by the time they hit the Mons-en-Pevele pave, a 40-rider group had gathered.

 

Vandenbergh takes off

A strong headwind allowed Sieberg to set the pace for most of the section while Matzka and Blythe got distanced from the break. Vandenbergh broke the standstill when he attacked and he managed to get a nice gap while Rowe started to chase. At this point, the escapees were only 1.15 ahead.

 

Offredo started to work for FDJ before Lotto Soudal took over with Lars Bak. However, he crashed while riding on the front and so Greipel took over from his teammate. At this point, Demare had a puncture and he would never see the front again.

 

Wiggins makes his move

Vandenbergh got an advantage of 25 seconds while Quinziato, Debusschere, Sinkeldam and Wynants attacked. Katusha and Sky started to chase and brought it back with 32km to go.

 

Here Wiggins made his big move when he launched a strong attack to quickly bridge across to Vandenbergh. Debusschere and Stybar joined the move but Katusha were quickly to react. Kuznetsov and Marco Haller brought the group back with 27km to go.

 

Vanmarcke makes his attack

Declercq now got distanced from the break while Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Roelandts and Van Avermaet attacked. They were quickly brought back but the peloton was now splitting to pieces.

 

Van Avermaet and Sagan both made small moves from a group that was now down to Terpstra, Stybar, Degenkolb, Kristoff, Sagan, Vanmarcke, Wiggins, Van Avermaet, Boom, De Vreese, Roelandts, Marcato, Leukemans, Bozic, Sinkeldam. Next Vanmarcke took off and was joined by Terpstra, Degenkolb and Boom while Sagan managed to bridge the gap after a hard chase.

 

Roelandts and Bozic get clear

They caught the front group but as they exited the pave, they slowed down. That allowed Gouegard to take off while Katusha brought the rest of the group back.

 

Vanmarcke punctured out of the small group that brought Gougeard back and so he suddenly found himself in a second group where his teammates Wynants and Tom Van Asbroeck had to work hard to allow their captain to bridge the gap just before the Carrefour de l’Arbre. The pace in the main group was now going down as Wanty was riding on the front with Backaert and this allowed Roelandts and Bozic to get clear.

 

Carrefour de l’Arbre splits the group

Marco Marcato (Wanty) took off in pursuit while Roelandts distanced Bozic. Terpstra made a big surge in the peloton and nearly brought Marcato back before they the Carrefour de l’Arbre.

 

Rowe took over the pace-setting in the group which was 20 seconds behind Roelandts. Only Degenkolb could stay with him and the pair made it back to Marcato before Terpstra brought them back. Moments later, the defending champion made a big acceleration but it was a 15-rider group that exited the pave to start the exciting finale.

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