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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 11, 2016

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. - H. L. Mencken

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Today's news page is solely Paris-Roubaix team reports

We'll start with Orica-GreenEdge, of course:

Veteran classics specialist Mathew Hayman has produced a masterful performance for ORICA-GreenEDGE today, sprinting to victory on the iconic velodrome of Paris-Roubaix, one of cycling’s five monuments.

The 37-year-old returned for his 15th attempt at the ‘Hell of the North’, a race he has always declared unfinished business with, just five weeks after fracturing his right radius.

After spending the majority of the race in the front group, Hayman used all of his experience to take the victory ahead of four-time previous winner Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quickstep).

“I still can’t believe it,” said Hayman. “I’ve had enough bad luck in Paris-Roubaix in the last fifteen years. Everything went right today, I was in a good place mentally, I was relaxed and I was trying not to put pressure on myself. With one kilometre to go I was thinking that I would be happy just to be on the podium. I had a feeling that my legs were pretty good and I was happy to ride with Tom (Boonen) until the finish line but then it all came back together for the last lap.

Matthew Hayman

Mathew Hayman wins Paris-Roubaix

“I’ve been riding some track recently after breaking my arm five weeks ago. My legs were feeling pretty good going into the finishing straight when I started my sprint, I could see Tom’s tyre underneath my arm but I managed to keep going.”

Hayman raced with intelligence throughout the day, part of the early group of over twenty riders that formed the day’s breakaway alongside teammate Magnus Cort. He then positioned himself expertly as the attacks began to spring in the finale.

Using his experience and power, the 2006 Commonwealth Games champion attacked with 200metres to go and stayed clear of the four chasers to become just the second Australian to win the ‘Queen of the Classics’.

Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was over the moon with the result and performance of Hayman, a tireless leader and worker for the ORICA-GreenEDGE team. “What an amazing ride,” said Lapage. “If there is one guy that you want to win this race it would be Mathew (Hayman). He has been waiting for a long, long time to get the right opportunity and he put in an outstanding performance to get the win.”

“The whole team rode very well throughout the race, we knew that if Mathew could stay up there at the front until the final then he had a good chance but we didn’t expect it to go so perfectly. We can enjoy this moment now, it’s a special victory in a special race. Everyone in this team works so hard it’s great when it pays off in a race like Paris-Roubaix”

How it happened: The sun was shining in Compiegne for the start of the 114th Paris-Roubaix. There had been some rain overnight but it was shaping up to be a dry and dusty day on the cobbles.

The first 40kilometres of racing were extremely fast with numerous breakaways trying to form but the peloton were not letting anything go. Eventually a group of twenty or more riders managed to pull away and gain over 30seconds on the peloton.

The group included representatives from Trek-Segafredo, Cannondale, Tinkoff, FDJ and Mark Cavendish (Dimension-Data). The Cavendish group pushed on ahead and the increased speed of the chase split the peloton into two groups.

Forty riders formed the first chasing group behind the escapees. Ten kilometres later and the Cavendish group had been swallowed by the first peloton and only three riders remained up the road with a slender advantage of 20 seconds.

Cort and Hayman of ORICA-GreenEDGE bridged across to the three leaders and were followed by another fifteen riders to form the second breakaway.

After 120 kilometres had been covered the Hayman group had a lead of one-minute 28 seconds over the chasers. The race was now upon the first cobbled sectors of the day yet the average speed remained high at over 45 kph.

After the halfway point of the race the leader’s advantage had grown to three minutes and 40 seconds. Tony Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) and three teammates including Tom Boonen, broke clear of the peloton in an attempt to connect with the leaders. Other riders followed Martin, creating three groups on the road.

Entering the iconic Forest of Arenberg sector of cobbles and the gap between the leaders and the Martin group had fallen to a minute and 30 seconds. Luke Durbridge had made the split and was in the first chasing group with Martin and Boonen.

The third group on the road contained Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo), but ahead and with 80kilometres to go Hayman attacked from the leader’s group and led the race alone for the next ten kilometres.

Another ten kilometres later the Boonen group made contact with breakaway and around fifteen riders forged ahead forming a new group of leaders still including Hayman for ORICA-GreenEDGE.

Behind the leaders the chase group was splitting apart as Cancellara hit a stretch of muddy cobbles and crashed with three or four other riders also in difficulty.

Thirty kilometres remained and the group of Hayman, Boonen and Ian Stannard (Team-Sky) had over a minute on the group of Sagan and Durbridge with the Cancellara group a further minute behind.

Attacks were beginning to form at the head of the race with first Boonen and then Stannard as the group approached the famous Carrefour de l’Arbe section of cobbles. This stretch of pave is where many editions of the race have been decided.

It was Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNl-Jumbo) who finally broke free and gained over fifty metres on the leaders which he held for the following few kilometres before the group came back together with ten kilometres to go.

It was a game of cat and mouse in the final kilometres until Hayman attacked with under three kilometres left taking only Boonen with him. The duo entered the historic Roubaix velodrome with Vanmarcke, Stannard and Edvald Boassen Hagen (Dimension- Data) hot on their heels.

The ringing of the one lap to go bell brought the group together and the tension increased. Hayman attacked in the final 200 metres, giving everything that he had left and the Australian held on until the line for a memorable victory.

The next race for ORICA-GreenEDGE is Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday 13th of April.

Here's the report from second-place Tom Boonen's Etixx-Quick Step team:

After one of the best editions in the history of the "Hell of the North", the four-time champion added another strong result to his impressive palmares.

October 9th 2015: Tom Boonen crashes in stage 2 of the Abu Dhabi Tour and suffers a skull fracture, his worst injury during a pro career which spans over a decade and a half. The doctors' prognostic is harsh: six month of break and a long recovery ahead, which automatically means that the Belgian has to miss his beloved Classics.

April 10th 2016: after 257 hard kilometers – out of which 52.8 were on the rough cobbles of Northern France – ridden at full gas, Tom Boonen is close of writing history and becoming the first five-time winner of Paris-Roubaix, a race which is almost unanimously considered as the toughest one there is in the cycling. Did something change in the meantime? Absolutely nothing! Then what made the difference between what the doctors said last Autumn and what happened on the road? The answer couldn't be easier: the DNA of a champion.

On Sunday, Tom Boonen was one of the 199 riders to line up in Compiègne's Place du Général-de-Gaullefor at the start of Paris-Roubaix, a race which will forever bear his mark thanks to the four victories that he scored in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2012, as well as for the unique emotions and memorable moments he has generated in an event as special as the cobblestones that shape its outcome. Supported by a very strong outfit, which included also Tony Martin and Niki Terpstra, the 35-year-old showed his intentions right from the beginning, when the team rode hard, at first to send a man in the break, and then, once an escape was formed without an Etixx – Quick-Step rider, by controlling the group at the front and not giving it too much of a space.

Tom Bonen

Tom Boonen races over the stones

Eventually, 16 riders broke away and got a 4-minute gap before the first cobbled sector of the day, Troisvilles. It was the start of a fascinating chess game, which unfolded like few editions of Paris-Roubaix have done in recent history, and Etixx – Quick-Step moved immediately, sending one of its strongest and most valuable pieces at the head of the peloton. Riding his maiden Paris-Roubaix, Tony Martin showed that sometimes it's not only the experience that counts, but also your skills and the strong legs that you have, as he began to chew into the breakaway's advantage.

Kilometer after kilometer, cobbled sector after cobbled sector, the three-time ITT World Champion brought pain into the legs of other riders, and played his part into what turned out to be one of the most important moments of the day: on Monchaux-sur-Ecaillon, a crash occurred and split the peloton, and Tony did a huge pull that splintered the groups even more, as he dropped a big number of riders who did their best in order to limit the loses, but couldn't match the German's fantastic pace. As a result, only a handful of men stayed in that group, among whom was also Tom Boonen, who led the way in the Arenberg Forest, the race's most iconic sector. Unfortunately, Etixx – Quick-Step lost Nikolas Maes there, due to a crash which required a couple of stitches on his right knee at the Valenciennes hospital.

Behind, Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segrafredo), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) tried to come back, but despite their combined efforts, the gap didn't drop below 30 seconds. With 82 kilometers remaining, what was left of the escape and Boonen's group merged, and their chances of going all the way increased considerably. The race witnessed another important moment later, on the five-star Mons-en-Pévèle sector, where Cancellara crashed, an incident that saw Niki Terpstra hit the deck and abandon. The Dutch champion was also taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a left knee hematoma and on Monday is set to undergo further examinations. Another noteworthy event on Mons-en-Pévèle was the acceleration of Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), who forced a selection in the leader's group, narrowing it down to just seven riders.

The final 20 kilometers had plenty of excitement, drama, emotion, and especially attacks. Carrefour de l'Arbre, an old Roman road which in Paris-Roubaix has been the road to glory in more than one occasion, had Vanmarcke in the spotlight, as he attacked again and opened a 10-second gap. The first to respond to this move was Tom Boonen, who dug deep and made contact with his fellow countryman, the two of them being joined by Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge) and Ian Stannard (Team Sky). Knowing that his chances in a sprint were slim, the Brit then countered on a tarmac section and got five seconds in hand, but the same Boonen chased him down.

Then, inside the last 2500 meters, the Etixx – Quick-Step rider made his move after waiting patiently for the right moment, and only Hayman was capable to get in his wheel. It looked like the victory will see a two-man sprint, but the tension ramped up in the next few seconds, because Vanmarcke and Stannard managed to return at the front and spice up the finale. The Australian opened his sprint first, and although Boonen put in the big watts, he couldn't surpass him on the line and had to be satisfied with second place, which marked the 13th time that he has finished in the top 3 of a Monument.

"Trying to win my fifth Roubaix never turned out to be an easy task, and coming here today I had a couple of obstacles. I am proud of myself for making it so far, but looking behind I can see how difficult it was. On the last lap, my plan was to take the lead in the final corner, but I had to wait for 30 meters, because Sep was on my side and there wasn't any space, so those 30 meters cost me the victory.

"Of course, I am upset for missing out on the win, but being second here after those tough months in the winter is a win in itself for me and I am proud of this.

"Just this morning I got the message from my doctor who treated me in Abu Dhabi, saying that today was the day in which I should have looked at my bike again, so that means that I'm ahead of the schedule", Tom Boonen said at the press conference after returning on the Paris-Roubaix podium for the first time in four years.

The Belgian also made an analysis of the way the race went since the start and of the finale which saw five men play for the win in the "Queen of the Classics": "Our team had a well-defined plan, and that was to make the race as hard as possible. We tried to go in the breakaway, but everyone was chasing us, so then, after the 16 riders got clear, we began to work. Tony Martin did an incredible job today, he kept on going and gave it his all. It was a standard Paris-Roubaix, a crazy race, chaotic, with crashes and flat tires. All five which were in the front had our share of work, and we were all tired. I tried to attack a couple of times, but it was very hard to get away, because everybody knew that I was aiming for my fifth victory. Mathew turned out to be the strongest and deserves to get such a victory after a career of helping people out and not scoring the big wins, so congrats to him for today."

Many were curious to find out what was Tom Boonen's top emotion at the end of the day, and he made some light on this, while also offering some hints related to his future: "I'm not sure how I will feel on Monday, but at the moment I am happy with my performance, because it was hard to come back at this level after that injury. Maybe coming second it's not so bad in the end and will give me that extra motivation for another year. At this moment I don't really see a reason why I shouldn't come back next season."

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this report:

Sep Vanmarcke finished fourth in the 114th edition of Paris-Roubaix today in France. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s Belgian front man fought in the first group already early in the race, attacked at Carrefour de l’Arbre, but got caught and was beaten by three riders in the velodrome. Mathew Hayman (Orica - GreenEDGE) won the race.

“It was a special race today,” Sep Vanmarcke said. “It was a big fight from the beginning. We were in front with a small group of riders already early in the race. That was a perfect scenario for me. The team did a great job, as well. We were in front with six men at one point. I had a puncture one time and Tom Van Asbroeck brought me back. Not everyone was working in the first group, though, but we had to keep riding so the group with Sagan (Tinkoff) wasn’t able to come back.

"I chose Carrefour de l’Arbre to try afterwards. I had a gap, but maybe I’m experienced enough to give something extra and hold it. I have the feeling that I was the best on the cobbles, but it wasn’t good enough. Our team took the initiative and we deserved a top three result.”

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke in the Arenberg sector

Vanmarcke’s team-mate Maarten Tjallingii had a special Paris-Roubaix, as well. He rode the race for the last time. “It was a hell today and I like that,” the team’s captain said. “I will remember this race for the rest of my life. It was a classic Paris-Roubaix with a surprising winner and an unexpected race story. The situation changed all the time. I have been busy with the race, but now, I realise that it was my last. My kids were there to support me. That was great. I’m finished now for the spring classics.”

Sports Director Nico Verhoeven had mixed feelings about the Hell of the North. “We had a big chance at victory, but what should have happened, didn’t happen,” he said. “The best scenario would have been if Sep broke away with someone else. The four riders he left on the Carrefour de l’Arbre weren’t strong enough to follow him, but were good enough to keep the gap small. The fourth place isn't a satisfying one in the end. It’s a poor reward for the team’s performance in the cobble stone classics.”

Here's Lotto-Soudal's Paris-Roubaix release:

After a very strong race Marcel Sieberg finished seventh in Paris-Roubaix today. The Lotto Soudal rider arrived at the finish one minute after the winner. It was Mathew Hayman who could take home the cobblestone trophy.

Traditionally, the race started in Compiègne. Jelle Wallays was very active in the beginning of the race. After a large breakaway with the Lotto Soudal rider had been caught Wallays set up a new one. It took a while before these sixteen riders got half a minute advantage. Unfortunately there was bad luck for Jelle Wallays, who had a puncture on the fifth cobblestone sector of the day. He would never get back to the head of the race.

Later down the race the peloton split due to a crash. Marcel Sieberg was part of the first group with among other Boasson Hagen, Boonen and Vanmarcke. They could bridge to the front. As the race continued, the front group got smaller. On the cobbles of Camphin-en-Pévèle Boasson Hagen, Boonen, Hayman, Stannard and Vanmarcke got a gap. There were several attempts, but eventually they all started the last lap on the velodrome together. Mathew Hayman beat Tom Boonen in the sprint for the victory. One minute later Sieberg arrived at the finish with Haussler and Saramotins. After all his efforts Marcel Sieberg finished on the seventh place.

Marcel Sieberg: “At the start I didn’t have a good feeling, but it got better once we hit the first cobbles. In the beginning of the race it was a hard battle to set up a breakaway. For us it was good that Jelle Wallays rode in front, but unfortunately he got dropped because of a puncture. Eventually I could move up to the head of the race. On the slippery cobbles I managed to avoid crashes. On the sector of Camphin-en-Pévèle Sky took the initiative and partly because of the wind our group split, although I admit the strongest in the race battled for the win. Together with Erviti, Haussler and Saramotins I chased them. We got close, up to about twenty seconds, but closing the gap wasn’t possible anymore. We just kept working together to secure our place in top ten. I am really happy with this result in my tenth consecutive Paris-Roubaix.”

Jürgen Roelandts: “I got caught up behind a crash at the Trouée d’Arenberg and never got back in the race. Only few riders managed to do that. The last weeks I had some health issues. I did get a podium place in Milan-Sanremo and was seventh in Ghent-Wevelgem, but I would have loved to set a top result in other races as well. Next Sunday I will ride the Amstel Gold Race, but I will start with a different plan. In the team we have several riders who specifically prepared for the climb classics, I will try to support them as much as I can.”

And Here's Tinkoff's Paris-Roubaix update:

After success at Flanders last weekend, all eyes were on Peter Sagan at today’s Paris-Roubaix, but by the finish line in the famous Roubaix velodrome it was not to be for the UCI World Champion as he finished in 11th position. Despite not being the result he was after, it was a hugely gutsy ride that saw him chasing for over 100km after getting caught behind a split, never giving up until the end.

After missing a select group that slipped clear with just over 100km to go, ahead of the Trouée d'Arenberg, after a crash in front of him, Peter was on the back foot after a very fast and frenetic race all day. His chase group managed to get to within 30 seconds off the front group but they never managed to claw their way back.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan never gained contact with the lead group

“After all there was nothing wrong with Peter’s legs today, the race unfolded against his favour and that’s racing,” explained Lars Michaelsen when analysing the race at the finish. “When the other teams see how he won in Gent – Wevelgem and Flanders then they will attack earlier than expected. It had already been a hard race when the move came today and it worked against us.

“We lost Oscar Gatto to a crash with about 120km to go, damaging his hand and he will have some examinations now to see if any damage has been done, but he was to be a key rider for Peter in the final parts of the race.”

The racing was on from the start in Compiègne as attack after attack failed. With nothing getting clear for over 70km finally a group of 16 formed at the front, at the same time as the peloton splintered into three main groups in an exposed section of crosswinds – a warning of the hard day of racing still to come.

As the race settled into a rhythm and the cobblestone sectors started in earnest, the breakaway continued to pull out their advantage towards the three-minute mark. It was approaching the 100km to go point when the turning point came in the race for Tinkoff as one of the many crashes in the main group caught Peter out, and away from the action as a select group of favourites formed at the front of the race.

Michaelsen continued: “We hoped to try and get a rider in the early move to then be able to help Peter later but this didn’t work out. The guys did a good job in looking after him in the first half of the race but after the split when he was chasing he was isolated. Juraj Sagan did a strong ride but he was also disappointed himself not to have the power to bring the gap down more. Other teams had the numbers in front and behind we were caught out.”

With other teams well represented at the front, Peter was isolated in his chase behind and the gap was stretching out. The two front groups merged as more and more riders fell away all over to crashes and tired legs, but Peter kept pushing on with Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) to try and close the gap.

Looking back over the race, Peter admitted that luck was against him today. “Everybody before was asking me if I was going to win or not but this is Paris-Roubaix and you never know what is going to happen. It’s a great race, and really historic, but one that is very hard to win. All of the teams come here and make their own strategies for the race, and today the two favourites were caught behind a crash while other teams had numbers at the front to control things. I was involved in two crashes already before the Arenberg sector and I was already in the second group there and without any cooperation at the front it was hard to get back.

 "Oscar had a heavy crash and some of the others also came down - it was a crazy day."

It’s a well known fact that you need both luck and great bike handling skills in this race to stay upright and Peter showed just how good his skills are when he had to hop over a falling Cancellara, just staying upright, but it was a big dent in the chase as the gap extended further. “We were cooperating with Fabian but after he crashed we lost momentum – when he came down I jumped and managed to just get over – I was very lucky to not crash. From that point I think the race was over for me.” As the kilometres ticked by the gap remained and any chances of fighting for victory faded.

In the lead group attacks in the latter cobblestone sectors whittled the selection down to just five riders. These five continued to attack each other to the end, but as the entered the velodrome and took the bell lap they were all back together and the win was still anyones. But it was eventually the experienced Mathew Hayman of Orica-GreenEDGE who took the honours in the final sprint for the line.

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