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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 15, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. - Albert Einstein

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Paris-Roubaix team reports

We'll start with winner Philippe Gilbert's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

It was written in the stars: there couldn’t have been any better venue for Deceuninck – Quick-Step, a team who has become synonymous with the Classics, to celebrate our 700th victory than the iconic André-Pétrieux Velodrome, where after 257 kilometers which featured 6,076,000 cobblestones making up for a total of 29 pavé sectors, Philippe Gilbert raised his arms in the air and celebrated one of the finest wins of his career.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert celebrates a masterful victory.

For Deceuninck – Quick-Step, it was another masterclass, as our team placed three more riders in the top 10: Belgian Champion Yves Lampaert, who finished third, Florian Sénéchal (sixth and the best Frenchman at the end of the day) and Zdenek Stybar, who came home eighth and recorded his sixth top 10 finish in seven Paris-Roubaix participations.

“I am extremely happy! Our bike was perfect, absolutely flawless; we worked together with Specialized to develop this outstanding bike for Roubaix, and it all paid off in style today! I was disappointed after Flanders, but in the week leading to Roubaix I returned to training and focused on Roubaix. I came into the race with pressure, because I was very motivated to overcome what had happened last Sunday and go for the win, especially as I felt that I had good legs. It’s hard to believe what I’ve done today, it’s something really special and it will take a few days to realise what has happened and what I’ve achieved”, said the seventh oldest rider in history to win Paris-Roubaix.

The 117th edition of Paris-Roubaix started from Compiègne and was a fast and windy one, with a breakaway going clear more than 70 kilometers into the race. Tim Declercq and Yves Lampaert were extremely active and helped the move forge a 30-second gap which put pressure on the peloton, who had to work hard in order to nullify it ahead of the iconic Arenberg Forest, the symbol of the “Queen of the Classics” since 1968.

Before entering the first five-star rated sector of the day, Deceuninck – Quick-Step lost Iljo Keisse, a key player up until that point, after the experienced Belgian hit some traffic furniture and had to abandon. Later examinations revealed that Iljo had suffered a complex left elbow fracture, which requires surgery, that will take place at the Herentals hospital.

Arenberg reduced the bunch to less than 50 riders, including all the remaining Deceuninck – Quick-Step members, but the real action got ignited only on the Beuvry to Orchies segment, where Philippe Gilbert was among the three men to respond to a big attack of Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), inside 70 kilometers to go. On the run-in to the infamous Mons-en-Pévèle, everything came back together, but another brutal acceleration saw eight men extricate themselves from the bunch.

Gilbert was again there, as was Yves Lampaert, and the Deceuninck – Quick-Step duo cooperated with the other six riders in the move, carrying a one-minute lead onto the final cobblestone stretches. On the brutal Carrefour de l’Arbre, Philippe and Yves took turns to attack, wearing down the remaining riders, but it was on Gruson – the sector made famous by a crash of Bernard Hinault at the beginning of the ‘80s – that the group split, leaving only Philippe and Politt in the lead.

Just as Lampaert was accelerating and distancing his remaining companions, riding to a deserved podium finish, the front duo – who worked smoothly together – where entering the velodrome, where Gilbert blew past the German with 150 meters remaining, sprinting to his fifth victory in a Monument, after those at Ronde van Vlaanderen (2017), Liège–Bastogne–Liège (2011) and Il Lombardia (2009, 2010).

“I am the kind of rider who likes new challenges, this motivates me, and here I found plenty of these: from winning Ronde or Roubaix to winning Isbergues, which was a race that was missing from my palmares”, Philippe told the media after netting the team’s 19th Monument. “That’s why after today and the celebration we will have this evening, I will reset my mind and focus on the Ardennes Classics, where I hope that the squad’s formidable spring will continue.”

Second-place Nils Pollit's Katusha-Alpecin team posted this report:

Nils Politt showed pure determination and solid resolve in his race of the 117th Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, taking second place on the boards of the velodrome in Roubaix with a time of 5:58:02 to match that of winner Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick Step). In a straight up sprint to the finish line, Gilbert dove down to the inside of the track to take the win after almost six hours of racing in France. It was a spectacular result from Politt, 25, moving up from seventh place last year to stand on the 2019 podium in his second participation in the cycling monument.

Nil Politt

Nils Politt at the Carrefour de l'Arbre sector. Sirotti photo

Nils Politt: “So close, but even second in Roubaix at my age I still can’t believe it. I was feeling good from the first moment I woke up this morning. For the whole race the team did a great, great job and I think we’ve had such a good classics season. It’s unbelievable to me to get second in Roubaix.” Politt placed fifth in last week’s Tour of Flanders.

Team Director Dirk Demol, winner of 1988 Paris-Roubaix, expressed his excitement for Nils and Team KATUSHA ALPECIN after the race: “Second place in my favorite race! We were in the game the whole day. The team did a good race and a smart race. In the past weeks we’ve seen that Nils was growing toward his top form and this was the race for him we’ve been aiming for these past few months. He really didn’t make mistakes. He’s going to win some day. He has the capabilities. He is born for this type of race. The confidence he takes away from getting second in this race will have him coming back for more.”

It was a brilliant performance from Team KATUSHA ALPECIN with aggressive riding all day long. Alongside Deceuninck, KATUSHA ALPECIN were the strongest team during the race with Nils and teammate Marco Haller in the front group when the peloton splits happened after the first pavés. Haller pulled, as did Mads Würtz Schmidt while Politt took stock of his race surroundings and who was strongest in the field.

The 257k course from Compiègne to Roubaix featured 29 sectors and 54.5km of cobbles and was fast from the outset. Politt was attentive throughout, putting himself in an early breakaway group before the cobbles, and then later reading the intentions of the eventual winner with just over 60k still to go.

Politt: “I saw in the feed zone that Gilbert wanted to go, so I went with him. With Peter Sagan and his group coming back to us, I didn’t have to go so deep. At the end it was a little bit of bad luck for me that Gilbert’s teammate was coming back to us on the velodrome. Gilbert was willing to gamble a bit. But I still have some years and I hope I can one day win this race.” Rounding out the podium was Gilbert teammate Yves Lampaert at 13-seconds.

Teammate Marco Haller rode in service of Politt today and expressed his great pride at the success of Nils: “The team just finished on the podium in a monument. I am so happy and proud to have been part of it. It was six hours of stress and fighting. It feels like a win, absolutely. We told Nils last night at dinner that this might be the last time he could fly under the radar, so we told him he’d better go out and take it. I think he did that. He rode such a perfect race. He’s a brilliant bike racer.”

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

The Queen of the Classics – the legendary Paris-Roubaix race was finally here. Riders faced down a hellish 257km – the first half undulating, the second half flat, but all of it exceptionally difficult. To reach the velodrome in Roubaix, the riders would have to make it through twenty-nine cobblestone sectors ranging in difficulty from one to five stars – the most fearsome being the Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and the Carrefour de l'Arbre.

This race is as much about luck as it is about form, power or strategy – luck with the weather, luck with positioning, and luck to make it through each cobblestone sector unscathed. Before even reaching the first set of cobblestones, the pace had been relentless and draining – attack after attack strung out the peloton, but nobody managed to break away and make it stick.

In the end, it wasn’t a breakaway, but a split in the peloton that saw a group going out in front. As the roads became rougher, the crashes were more frequent, and while at first the BORA-hansgrohe riders were fortunate simply to be held up by crashes in front, with around 120km remaining, Daniel Oss was forced to retire from the race after going down – a big loss to his team given his strong efforts in the first half of the race. In spite of this, the team pushed on and fought hard to stay in contention on the front, with Juraj Sagan keeping his brother, Peter, safe from harm, while Maciej Bodnar and Marcus Burghardt kept the pace high. As the race neared 50km to go, Rüdi Selig jumped to shut down a potentially race-winning break, a powerful chase group forming behind, with none other than the Slovak National Champion, Peter Sagan, pushing the pace hard and making the catch. It was from this move that a group of six was formed – a selection of riders who looked like they would be able to last all the way to Roubaix.

Hitting the Carrefour de l’Arbre, the road was more like a tunnel, the route thick with screaming fans as this front group – now five – made their way through the toughest remaining sector. It was here that two pushed off the front in what proved to be the decisive move, and the reigning Paris-Roubaix champion wasn’t in this group. This duo fought it out for the win to deafening cheers from the velodrome crowds, with Peter taking fifth, having fought so hard from start to finish.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan at the Carrefour de l'Arbre sector. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"It was a very tough Paris Roubaix, with the headwind making it even more challenging. The team did once again a great job, we had some crashes but they all put in a tremendous effort. We followed all the moves until the Carrefour de l'Arbre but in the last 15km I didn't have the legs to respond to the attacks and try to take a podium spot." – Peter Sagan

"I think we had a good race from the whole team today. Unfortunately, we weren't lucky as Daniel Oss crashed and he was certainly missing in the finale but the rest of the squad was there and helped Peter as much as possible. We had to react a bit earlier than we would have liked but the group was right for us, the riders worked together and Peter was there until the last sectors. In the end, he was completely empty, so it wasn't possible for him to follow the first riders. Overall, I could say it was a good race for us and a good result." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

Medical update on Tiesj Benoot from Lotto-Soudal:

117th edition of Paris-Roubaix, won by Philippe Gilbert, became one of bad luck for Lotto Soudal. In an effort to return to the head of the race after an earlier crash and puncture, Tiesj Benoot collided with a team car. Examination in the hospital has shown that both the right hip and right shoulder are heavily bruised. There is also a crack in the right collarbone. Besides, Benoot incurred various cuts and bruises. Tomorrow, further examinations will follow to make a definitive diagnosis. The Lotto Soudal rider will not start in the Amstel Gold Race next Sunday.

Tisj Benoot

Tiesj Benoot earlier this year at the Strade Bianche. Sirotti photo

And here's Team Jumbo-Visma's Paris-Roubaix news:

A strong performance by Wout van Aert in Paris-Roubaix didn’t get rewarded with a top result. The leader of Team Jumbo-Visma managed to be in the winning breakaway, but had to pay the price in the final twenty kilometres of the race for the bad luck earlier in the race. Due to a mechanical problem and a crash around Trouee d’Arenberg in Wallers, the Belgian had to chase for a long time. These efforts took so much energy that he was not able to play a significant role in the final. Mike Teunissen also rode a great race. He sprinted to seventh place behind the favourites.

Wout van Aert

Wout van Aert at the Carrefour de l'Arbre sector. Sirotti photo

It was a fast race from the start. Apart from several attacks, including one with Danny van Poppel, the race remained together until Wallers. In Trouee d’Arenberg, fate struck for Van Aert. He had to change bikes due to a mechanical problem. Not much later, after having swapped back to his own bike, he crashed really hard. As a result, he couldn’t use his gears properly anymore. After a long chase, Van Aert managed to return to the front of the race. There, he attacked with Sagan, Lampaert, Politt, Vanmarcke and the later winner Gilbert. Just before the Carrefour de l’Arbre Van Aert had to pay the price for his previous efforts and had to let them go.

“I am completely empty. The last twenty kilometres were a hell. I had to dig very deep”, Van Aert said. “I wanted to go for sixth place, but I quickly lost all the energy in my legs and I knew the race was over. Due to my bad luck in Wallers and my subsequent crash, I wasted a lot of energy during my attempt to return to the front. And due to the crash, I had problems with using my gears. It’s a pity, but that’s cycling. I had very good legs and I really wanted to go for it. But I am feeling much better than last year after this race. I would have liked to have honoured Michael (Goolaerts) with a top result. But I will definitely come back to try and win this race.”

Mike Teunissen was happy with his top ten place. “It was a difficult race. It was very tough all day. I felt really good and I was able to follow in the wheel of others as Wout was in front. I tried to slow them down as much as possible for Wout. That went pretty well. I am happy to finish in the top ten here and my sprint was more than okay.”

Sports director Nico Verhoeven was proud of the fighting spirit of his team. “We gave it our all, but we realise that we could have achieved a lot more without the bad luck. It’s part of cycling and it is what it is. Due to the bad luck, Wout used up a lot of energy in the chase so that he could no longer play a significant role in the final. But it is commendable that he was still in the decisive breakaway after all.”

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