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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 9, 2018

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Paris-Roubaix team reports

Sadly, we have to start with the death of Michael Goolaerts, who died after crashing on the second sector of cobbles.

Michael Goolaerts

Michael Goolaerts photo from his team's Twitter post.

Here's the AFP report:

Belgian cyclist Michael Goolaerts died in hospital on Sunday at the age of 23, hours after suffering heart failure during the gruelling Paris-Roubaix one-day classic race in France.

"It is with unimaginable sadness that we have to communicate the passing of our rider and friend Michael Goolaerts," the rider's Veranda's Willems team said in a statement on Twitter.

They revealed he died late Sunday in a hospital in the northern French city of Lille, surrounded by his family.

"He died of cardiac arrest, all medical assistance was to no avail," the team said.

The Belgian -- competing in the one-day classic for the first time -- had been airlifted to hospital after being found unconscious and not breathing by race doctors at the side of the road on one of the race's famed cobbled sectors, about 100 kilometres into the 257km course.

Television images showed Goolaerts on the ground, his arms crossed, with no other rider beside him.

"For now there will be no further communication as we want to give his close ones time to deal with this terrible loss," added Veranda's Willems in their statement.

The race is known as the "Hell of the North" because a large part of the course is made up of cobbles and the riders have to contend with muddy conditions.

Goolaerts became a professional rider in 2014 aged just 20, and had taken part in 20 days of racing in 2018, including starting the Tour of Flanders last week, although he did not finish that race.

David Lappartient, president of the sport's governing body the UCI, said on Twitter: "On behalf of the Union Cycliste Internationale and the cycling family as a whole, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the family, team and friends of Michael Goolaerts, who left us too early today. We share their immense sadness."

Michael Goolaerts

The notice Veranda's Willems-Crelan posted on their Twitter page.

You can read the entire AFP report here.

Here's winner Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team report:

Paris–Roubaix: The Inside Story

It was a race where the win had eluded the UCI World Champion so many times, but today Peter Sagan not only won Paris-Roubaix for the first time in his career, he also won it in style. After the BORA-hansgrohe riders executed their plan perfectly, riding hard from the start and sacrificing themselves for their team leader, the Slovak rider took over, going on an audacious breakaway move with 54km remaining that left his rivals unable to react. Teaming up with the remnants of the day’s escape, Peter extended the time gap, and as the final kilometres came into view and the Roubaix velodrome loomed large on the horizon, there was no doubting who was going to take the win. Quick to thank his teammates from the finish line for their part in his victory, Peter took away a cobblestone for his victory, his second Monument of his career and was crowned the first winner of Paris-Roubaix in the Rainbow Jersey in nearly forty years.

The Stage
Paris-Roubaix is the kind of race where to call the going ‘tough’ is not an exaggeration – it’s an understatement. This is one of the most famous races of cycling history because not only is the 257km parcours so difficult, with its 29 cobblestone sectors, but because the weather and a healthy dose of luck are just as important a part of a rider’s chances as good form and strength. It would be 93km before the race hit the first cobbled section, but with the potential for wind, rain and punctures, a rider’s chances could be ended long before here. With each cobblestone section rated in difficulty from one to five stars, the Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and the Carrefour de l’Arbre being amongst the most difficult, and tactically, the most important, before reaching the famous circuit of the Roubaix Velodrome for the finale.

The Team Tactics
The Hell of the North is a race that the UCI World Champion has yet to add to his palmarès, and so for Peter Sagan, the victory was the only goal for today. To tire out the other teams, the aim was to ride hard from the start, with Andreas Schillinger and Rüdi Selliger driving the pace from the outset, Juraj Sagan and Maciej Bodnar taking over for the mid-section and Marcus Burghardt and Daniel Oss protecting Peter when the race really came to life. The rest would be down to Peter, and the whole peloton knew that he would have the legs and the tactical brain to know when to make his winning move.

The Race
There was some distance from the start of the day to the first cobblestone section, and so riders would try to make an impact as early as possible, but in spite of some attempts to break away, it wasn’t until 35km had passed that an attempt stuck, with a small group of nine riders gaining a small advantage on the peloton. There were no contenders in this group, and so they posed little threat to the main group, and so were allowed on their way, leading by five minutes before the peloton was spurred on to reduce the gap. Entering the Trouée d’Arenberg, the UCI World Champion was kept safe by the German National Champion, with Peter Sagan and Marcus Burghardt showing their strength, and Daniel Oss riding to shut down the attacks that attempted to close the ever-decreasing gap to the breakaway, which was slowly shedding members as the harder cobblestone sectors came.

The whole of the BORA-hansgrohe team had shown superhuman strength to control the pace and respond to attacks, destroying themselves to keep Peter in contention. With less than thirty seconds between the chasers and the final three members of the break, at 54km Peter attacked on his own. The bunch didn’t know how to react, and the Slovak rider was left to disappear on up the road, first bridging to the breakaway before working with the escape to build the advantage back up, exceeding a minute and hitting 1’30” at its peak. One by one the breakaway riders dropped off until it was just two, and while the chasers managed to reduce the time gap, the number of kilometres remaining was dropping at a faster rate. Entering the famous Roubaix Velodrome, it was just Peter and the Swiss Champion, Silvan Dillier left. Riding away to take the win in a two-man sprint, the race was won by a rider in the Rainbow Stripes of UCI World Champion for the first time since Bernard Hinault in 1981.

Peter Sagan

The race is Sagan's. Sirotti photo.

From the Finish Line
“It’s amazing to win Paris-Roubaix! I’m so tired after this race but I have to say, this year I wasn’t involved in any crashes, I wasn’t feeling tired at the start and just tried to save energy. After I went in the attack I just kept going until the finish. I feel so much better than I have done in all the years I’ve ridden Paris-Roubaix – I was so much more tired then than I am today. Thank you to all my teammates, because they did such a great job – Daniel Oss, Marcus Burghardt and Maciej Bodnar, my brother Juraj and to Andreas Schillinger and Rüdi Selliger at the start, who kept the group all together. In the end, I made the winning move with around 50km to go and I’m very happy to have come in first. It’s an amazing feeling. I always try to do my best and to get the best results.” – Peter Sagan

"We had a clear plan at the Paris-Roubaix today and it was flawlessly executed.  I was in the car with Willi Bruckbauer, the owner of our principal naming sponsor BORA, and I can tell you the car was on fire!!! This is the first Monument our team wins!!! Our strategy was to launch an early attack by saving energy up to that point and play one card. I saw Peter's attack on TV and very quickly he opened a big gap. I had a good feeling about it and as we saw, it was impossible for the others to reach him. It's always nice to win such a big race from the break rather than a bunch sprint.  The Paris-Roubaix was missing from his palmares and it was a very important win for him and the team as a whole. We had a few mixed results at the Flemish Classics - we won Gent-Wevelgem but lost at Flanders and didn't do so well in the other races. I think that with today's great victory we have a very good spring season." – Ralph Denk, Team manager

Third-place Niki Terpstra's Quick-Step team posted this report:

Niki Terpstra took his third podium in eleven Paris-Roubaix participations, after riding away from a strong chasing group inside the closing kilometers of the race and arriving on the famed André-Pétrieux Velodrome less than a minute behind Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) and Silvan Dillier (AG2R), who led the race for the last 50 kilometers.

Quick-Step Floors was again prominent in the third Monument of the year, controlling the bunch from kilometer zero with Tim Declercq and Iljo Keisse, before a massive crash split the peloton on Troisvilles, the day's first cobbled sector. A few Quick-Step Floors riders got caught behind that pile-up, but everything was back together before for the infamous Arenberg Forest, where Philippe Gilbert opened a 20-second gap after covering an attack of Mike Teunissen (Team Sunweb), just as the nine-man breakaway began fragmenting.

The move was shut down some 75 kilometers from the finish, but soon after was followed by an acceleration of Czech Champion Zdenek Stybar, who for the next three cobbled sectors left everyone trailing before being reeled in on Orchies. Then, on Bersée, just as Quick-Step Floors nullified a dangerous move of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Peter Sagan went clear and took advantage of the lack of cooperation behind to put half a minute between him and the chasers, and bridge to the remnants of the early escape.

Niki Terpstra was the one doing most of the work in the chasing group, attacking on the five-star sector of Mons-en-Pévèle and forcing an important selection. Only a handful of riders could follow the Ronde van Vlaanderen champion, who put in two more searing accelerations, on Carrefour de l'Arbre and then with 1500 meters left, dispatching all his companions and entering alone on the Roubaix velodrome, where he notched up his sixth podium finish in a Monument.

Niki Terpstra

Niki Terpstra being unafraid to do some work.

The 33-year-old, whose result meant a Quick-Step Floors rider concluded Paris-Roubaix in the top-3 for a seventh consecutive season, didn't have any regrets at the end of the 257km-long "Queen of the Classics".

"I am happy, but not as happy as last week. Still, a podium in Roubaix is always special and today it came after a race in which I felt really good. We attacked, did an aggressive race, but weren't in the first row when Sagan attacked, so we couldn't close that gap. Anyway, he was the strongest rider today, so congrats to him", said Niki, before looking back on the squad's memorable campaign. "Our spring has been truly amazing, we've won nine-day races and currently have a total of 25 victories, so I think we can be proud of this remarkable string of achievements."

On Sunday, Zdenek Stybar proved he is one of the most consistent Paris-Roubaix riders in recent years, by claiming another top ten finish, while teammate Philippe Gilbert – who made his first outing in 11 years here – arrived home in a strong 15th place. Their results, combined with the one of Terpstra (who is second in the World Tour individual classification), helped Quick-Step Floors further extend its advantage at the top of the World Tour team standings, our outfit being almost 2000 points clear of the next squad.

Greg van Avermaet was fourth. Here's what his BMC team had to say about the race:

Greg Van Avermaet showed his strength and consistency in the cobbled classics with a strong ride to finish in fourth place at Paris-Roubaix in another tough edition of the Queen of the Classics.

A fast start to the race saw multiple breakaway attempts neutralized before a three-rider move eventually swelled to nine riders that formed the day’s breakaway after almost 50km.

The peloton sat up and allowed the group to gain an advantage of 8’30” before the first of 29 cobbled sectors which started after 93.5km, of the 257km course.

On the approach to the first sector at Troisvilles à Inchy, Stefan Küng crashed and was forced to abandon the race and the bad luck continued for Jürgen Roelandts who was caught up and later had a flat tire before abandoning.

BMC Racing Team’s riders fortunately avoided a big crash in the bunch but were caught behind which saw Van Avermaet stuck in the second group of the peloton when a split formed, while Jempy Drucker managed to make the front selection. Michael Schär, Nathan Van Hooydonck, and Francisco Ventoso rallied around Van Avermaet to bring him back and their solid teamwork saw the groups come back together with 142km to go.

With muddy and slippery cobbles wrecking havoc, Van Avermaet moved up to the front to avoid trouble and managed to avoid many crashes that played out. Multiple attacks came from the bunch, starting with Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) on the Troupe d’Arenberg, and Drucker attacked to bridge to the group forcing the bunch to chase behind and bring the groups back together.

Van Avermaet tested his legs with an acceleration with 55km to go and from there, Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) attacked to bridge to the remaining three breakaway riders inside the final 60km. Behind, Van Avermaet formed part of a select chase group sitting 40” behind the leaders with 40km to go as they prepared to tackle the final 10 sectors.

Up ahead, Sagan and Silvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale) forged on at the front of the race and continued to hold their advantage between 40 seconds and 1’20”.

Despite a strong chase from Van Avermaet and the other chasers, Sagan and Dillier entered the velodrome together and battled in a sprint finish to the line which saw Sagan victorious.

Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) broke clear of Van Avermaet’s group before entering the velodrome, leaving Van Avermaet to battle and secure fourth place.

Küng has been taken to hospital for an X-ray of his chin and jaw and an update will be provided as soon as possible.

Greg van avermaet

Greg van Avermaet checking out the course a couple of days befor the race.

Greg Van Avermaet:
"It was a hard race again. I tried to open up the race I think with some good efforts. It was hard to get away and then Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) went and then, it was not on us to really make the race hard. From there, I tried to follow and do a good result. I was hoping to catch Peter back but I think he also had a lot of help from Silvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale) to really keep his lead. Then, it was more about racing for third place. I am a little bit sad that I am not on the podium because I really wanted to react to everything but when I reacted to Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) then went and my legs were full so it was not possible."

"It is always so hard. You know you are going to lose two or three guys anyway. I was behind the crash on the first sector so it was good that Francisco Ventoso and Michael Schär could bring me back there. That was the most important thing. It was nice to then have one guy next to me with Jempy Drucker there. He covered some attacks and tried to control the race. I had a good feeling and I was really happy with my form and actually with my performance. Of course, I wanted to win but I know how hard it is to win here. It is a good race for me and I am pretty happy with my result."

"In the beginning, it was really slippery and crazy. For me, the hardest part is always the first sectors when you are trying to get into position. Afterward, I always have a good position and it goes much easier. It was a tough edition of the race but I think I made the best of it. Tactics are always hard. You have to choose the right moment but I think I made a pretty good race in the end."

Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
"It was not the best start on the opening cobbled sections with Stefan Küng crashing but then Francisco Ventoso, Nathan Van Hooydonck, and Michael Schär really pulled hard to bring Greg Van Avermaet back. At the moment of the crash they were in an okay position, not at the front but not at the back either and were maybe around 40th position. The crash was just in front of them so there was no way to avoid it. It was good that we were able to make it back but we had lost two important riders, Stefan and Jürgen Roelandts. They were our power for the final. Jempy Drucker was amazing today, he really filled that gap. He was the guy that stepped up and did an amazing race next to Greg and had the confidence to take it on. Greg then had the opportunity to do the race and to be with the other leaders at the end."

"Of course, you never know what can happen and Quick-Step Floors still had the numbers but maybe today they were not really the team to watch. Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) went and found a strong Silvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale) at the front who was able to help him all the way to the finish. It was possible to bring back the leaders but like always, nobody was ready to go 100% behind as they wanted to keep some energy for the sprint. That's what we saw happen as at one moment they were 40 seconds behind and if they had really gone full gas it would have been possible to come back. But, in that situation with three fast guys including Greg there, and Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) trying to go in the final, I thought it would unfold like it did."

Matteo Trentin injury update from Mitchelton-Scott:

Scans following Matteo Trentin’s crash at Paris-Roubaix have revealed the 28-year-old has sustained a stable compression fracture of his thoracic spine.

The Italian crashed heavily on the d’Haveluy a Wallers sector with 100km remaining, was immediately placed in a neck brace and transported to hospital. He will spend another few days in hospital in a thoracic brace before returning home.

Mitchelton-SCOTT head doctor Robbart van Linschoten had a positive outlook for Trentin. “Matteo has a fracture in the thoracic region but thankfully the fracture is stable,” Dr van Linschoten said. “We will further consult with a neurosurgeon tomorrow before determining the best course of action from here.”

“Whilst he will need some recovery time, I think we need to thankful that he doesn’t have anything more serious.”

In good spirits and in contact with him teammates, Trentin praised the medical team who were on the scene. “Obviously it’s a setback, but it’s just an injury and something that will heal. For that we have to be thankful,” Trentin said. “I want to thank the ambulance team that treated me on the scene. They were incredible, and kind. I couldn’t have asked for better treatment and support.”

Jens Debusschere's Lotto-Soudal squad sent me this update:

The Lotto Soudal riders had a free role at Paris-Roubaix and they seized this opportunity with both hands. Jelle Wallays chose to join the early breakaway and he remained at the front till the deep finale. Eventually he got fourteenth. Jens Debusschere sprinted to the tenth place on the velodrome of Roubaix.

Jelle Wallays set up the break after 35 kilometres when he rode away from the bunch together with Ludovic Robeet. Seven riders, including Swiss champion Silvan Dillier, joined them. Two minutes advantage, of a maximum lead of eight minutes, were left after the passage through the Forest of Arenberg, where Jelle Wallays had set the pace. With less than seventy kilometres to go only Wallays and Dillier were still riding at the front. World champion Peter Sagan closed the gap on them just before the cobbles of Mons-en-Pévèle. Four sectors later Wallays got distanced. Dillier and Sagan rode to the velodrome together, where the world champion beat the Swiss champion.

Jelle Wallays: “I have an attacking style of racing. It’s the fourth time that I was part of a breakaway at Paris-Roubaix and this is my best final result ever. It was no easy job to get in today’s break. Because there was a tailwind the riders knew there was a possibility that the break would stay ahead very long. Dillier and I survived the longest, but when Sagan joined us I immediately felt that the pace was raised. Sagan said that the riders behind us were having a hard time as well and that he thought we would make it to the finish. Unfortunately I got into difficulty each time he raised the pace after a corner. At a certain moment I had to let them go.”

“I am disappointed because in the end they did make it to the velodrome. If I had been able to hang on, I would have finished on the podium. But I gave all I got along the way and I had nothing left. I rode a good race and I felt strong on the cobbles. I might have been too eager, but that’s easily said afterwards.”

With about forty kilometres to go Jens Debusschere bridged to the chasing group that consisted of Phinney, Stuyven, Terpstra, Van Aert, Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke. This group fell apart and eventually Debusschere crossed the finish line two and a half minutes after Sagan in a group that sprinted for the seventh place. Debusschere got tenth.

Jel;le Wallys

Jelle Wallys racing in the 2017 Paris-Roubaix.

Jens Debusschere: “Before the race I would have signed for a place on top ten, but when you see how the race developed you always hope for more. My biggest effort of today was when I bridged from the second chasing group to the first chasing group that included among other Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke. In the finale it was suddenly going so fast that I needed to let some of the others go. I then got in a group that sprinted for the seventh place. I was not so fast anymore at the end of the day and became tenth.”

“The race went well for me, I only got distanced because of a crash on the first cobblestone sector. But the teammates of Yves Lampaert, Oliver Naesen and Greg Van Avermaet, who were also in that group, closed the gap rather quickly. From then on I always tried to ride on the first rows of the peloton. My form was good and finishing tenth in a monument as Paris-Roubaix is definitely a nice result.”

And finally, here's the Paris-Roubaix news Alexander Kristoff's UAE-Team Emirates sent me:

Bystrøm's fight, Marcato's experience and Kristoff's misfortune.

UAE Team Emirate’s Paris-Roubaix was characterised by these three points, which saw Marcato lead home in 18th place at 3’07” minutes behind winner peter Sagan. Sven Erik Bystrøm finished 27th, 4’23” behind in a ride that saw him in the escape for 150 kilometres in his debut on Paris-Roubaix’s cobbles.

“I like this race and I had enthusiasm, and the right strength to confront the race from the start to the end,” Marcato said. “I was able to stay with the front riders even when the best riders were attacking on the Mons en Pévèle sector. Maybe I paid a little bit from the effort I made catching the group after I had punctured.”

“To be in the main escape in my first ride in Paris-Roubaix was a fantastic experience, also considering to make that move we spent a lot of energy in the first hour of the race,” Bystrøm said. “On the pavé, I had good feelings. I don’t know at this point, based on this ride, if I can come back and build a future in this big and important race.”

Alexander Kristoff had to say good-bye to his chances of a great result at 40 kilometres remaining when he was in a crash. “My Paris-Roubaix unfortunately ended when Tony Martin crashed in the middle of the group and I finished on the ground as well,” said Kristoff. “Going at 60km an hour, I hit my back hard on the ground and I waited a few minutes for the pain to pass. I was able get going, though, and make it to the finish, but the top riders were already far off. It’s too bad because I felt well and I was back in the group after the first sector of pave when the peloton broke into pieces due to some crash and after I returned from a puncture.”

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