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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, October 4, 2021

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Paris-Roubaix reports

We posted the report from the race organizer with the results.

Here's the report from winner Sonny Colbrelli's Bahrain Victorious team:

It’s a historical victory for Bahrain Victorious as Sonny Colbrelli took the Queen of the Classics. The most brutal race on the calendar and the most awaited after an absence of more than a year.

At his first appearance at the Paris-Roubaix the reigning European Champion put on an impressive performance across the 55Km of wet and muddy cobblestones, spread over the 257.7km legendary course from Compiègne to the velodrome of Roubaix, where he outsprinted his companions of a late attack Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin Fenix).

Sonny Colbrelli

Sonny Cobrelli pulls off an epic win.

Sonny Colbrelli: “It was my first Roubaix, and I can’t still believe I won it. This morning I couldn’t think about a win. I started without any pressure, I just wanted to have fun on a race I always dreamt about. I felt well and better km after km. So I wanted to try to take my opportunity, attacking maybe a bit early, but I learned watching past editions that it was a good moment to try. I worked well with Van der Poel, and I was also lucky not to have any bad luck, any puncture or mechanical. I almost crashed a few times, but I was very focused to stay up. Then I gave everything that I had left to take the win. I’m speechless. I can’t believe I won the Roubaix. I want to dedicate it to my family, the whole team and my fans. It has been a fantastic season for me so far”.

The 118th edition didn’t disappoint those looking for an epic day. After almost twenty years since the last time, it was pouring rain at the start and all along the first half of the course.

Bahrain Victorious team was among the most active, with two riders in the breakaway earlier in the race, Fred Wright and Marco Haller. The experienced Heinrich Haussler also showed how much this race is his favourite one, finishing his 15th Roubaix in tears for the happiness of this team’s success and finishing in the top ten.

Head of Performance, Roger Hammond: “No words we can say to describe this fantastic achievement for Sonny. The performance he did was outstanding. It was a combination of a lot of hard work of many people in the team. You have to be prepared to face a race like Roubaix taking care of every aspect and the unexpected. Everybody in the team, including the staff members, did everything perfectly and as planned. From the team car, Rolf Aldag and I gave suggestions to Sonny, particularly for the sprint as at Roubaix is not normal. But he was very confident and he took the victory of a lifetime”.

Here's the report from second-place Florian Vermeersch's Lotto Soudal team:

Lotto Soudal rider Florian Vermeersch finished on an impressive second place at Paris-Roubaix. After a true battle of attrition in the Hell of the North, Mathieu Van der Poel, Sonny Colbrelli and Florian Vermeersch sprinted for victory on the Roubaix velodrome. The 22-year-old Belgian was the first to launch a powerful sprint, only to be overtaken in the final metres by the Italian Sonny Colbrelli. That way, Vermeersch had to settle for second place on his debut at Paris-Roubaix.

Florain Vermeersch

The podium, from left: Florian Vermeersch (2nd), Sonny Colbrelli (1st) & Mathieu van der Poel (3rd). Sirotti photo

“At the moment, I am mainly disappointed after this second place, but I think this will soon turn to pride. This performance gives me a lot of confidence towards the future because actually, I never thought to be this close to the victory today. But a second place is also a bit sour as well”, reacts an emotional Florian Vermeersch.

An epic 118th edition of Paris-Roubaix will be one for the history books. While the rain came pouring down, a big breakaway of about thirty riders went clear at over 200 kilometres from the finish. This move included three Lotto Soudal riders: Harry Sweeny, Tosh Van der Sande and Florian Vermeersch. From the first cobbled sector, the field was thinned out and it was the duo Eekhoff-Vermeersch who were the first riders to enter the forest of Arenberg.

“It felt like war out there, but it gave me a huge kick to be the first rider to take on several cobbled sectors like the mythical Trouée d’Arenberg. Also the many Belgian fans along the course gave me wings. And my experience as a cyclocross rider came in handy today. Despite it’s been a long time I competed in a cyclocross race, sliding on the cobbles still felt familiar.”

Following a real battle of attrition after the famous five-star sector Trouée d’Arenberg, three riders eventually remained at the front: Gianni Moscon, Florian Vermeersch and Tom Van Asbroeck. When Moscon went solo just before Mons-en-Pévèle, Vermeersch and Van Asbroeck were forced to chase. The Italian built up a nice advantage but after a puncture and crash at around 30 kilometres from the line, a chasing group including Florian Vermeersch caught Moscon. Eventually, Sonny Colbrelli, Mathieu Van der Poel and Florian Vermeersch remained at the front after the infamous Carrefour de l’Arbre sector. These three riders would also sprint for victory on the Roubaix velodrome. Vermeersch tried to surprise and was the first to launch a powerful sprint, only to be passed in the final metres by Colbrelli. That way, the 22-year-old Belgian ended his debut at Paris-Roubaix in a fantastic second place.

“After putting in a first attack in the final, I immediately felt that I would not be given any room to play with. I waited a bit and attacked again at two kilometres from the finish. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get away. Colbrelli and Van der Poel are able to win bunch sprints so I had to go for a surprise move. That also succeeded, as I was the first to come out of the last corner. Unfortunately, I was cramping up and Colbrelli could pass me in the final metres.”

Here's the report from fourth-place Gianni Moscon's INEOS Grenadiers

Gianni Moscon put in an amazing ride to come tantalisingly close to victory at Paris-Roubaix.

The Italian finished in fourth place in the famous Roubaix Velodrome following an epic edition that saw wet weather throw everything at the riders.

Gianni Moscon

This was not Moscon's first Paris-Roubaix ride. Here he is in 2017 edition at the Carrefour de l'Arbre sector. Sirotti photo

Part of the race’s early break, Moscon had powered himself into an increasingly strong position, with an advantage of over a minute heading into the final 30 kilometres. Yet a bike change for a puncture, followed by a crash on treacherous muddy cobblestones, saw the Italian reeled in by a trio of chasers behind.

It was a tale of what could have been for Moscon after a brave ride that eventually saw him finish 44 seconds back on compatriot Sonny Colbrelli.

Riders were quickly caked in mud, with conditions pushing man and bike to the limits in a race that will long stay in the memory. Luke Rowe and Owain Doull had joined Moscon in the early move, but a combination of crashes and punctures took the Welsh pair out of contention.

A slice of luck was needed to make it through, and despite Michal Kwiatkowski riding strongly at the front of the chasing peloton, the Pole would drop back following a puncture in the infamous Arenberg sector.

The day was also a notable one as it marked the 1000th and final race in the career of Michal Golas. What an unforgettable race to end a career! Congratulations, Michal.

Gianni Moscon:
“This is one of the most beautiful races. I tried to attack from far. I gave everything. I had a little bit of back luck with that puncture, then I was a bit on the limit. When you’re on the limit you will make mistakes and I crashed. I didn’t lose too much, but when they came from behind I didn’t have the legs. I tried, it’s fourth place, and we will try again next time.

“Who knows [if I could have won]. We cannot say and the race went like this. I tried to play my cards, attacking from far. Now I just look forward to a little bit of rest and the next goal. We have Lombardia next Saturday so who knows.”

Servais Knaven:
“It was frustrating. We were in the race all day and it looked like Gianni had a really good chance to win. First we had the flat tyre, but you think it’s alright, he lost about 30 seconds altogether. It would have been okay until the crash, which cost more time. I also has an impact on your body, and we saw he went from around 45 seconds to 10 seconds.

“We didn’t have one main card. In these circumstances you need to get numbers at the front, as we all know some will have a flat and some will have a crash. If you have only one guy up there then you have nobody left. So we had cards, we had Kwiato, we had Luke and we had Gianni. When you come on the first cobbles in these circumstances you don’t need a leader – it’s all about the legs.

“I think Gianni was probably the strongest guy in the race maybe. It’s hard to say and he would have deserved the win. It’s bike racing and anything can happen. Everyone has their own story. It’s a big shame – he was so close.”

Fifth-place Yves Lampaert's Deceuninck-Quick Step team posted this:

A Paris-Roubaix for the ages took place Sunday afternoon – torrential rain, treacherous cobbles, and wet roads making for one of the toughest editions in history. For the first time in almost two decades, it rained at the “Hell of the North”, drenching the peloton and throwing a myriad of hurdles in the way of those vying for glory.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step were among the teams to move 50 kilometers after the start, sending Davide Ballerini and Tim Declercq in a large breakaway that enjoyed a three-minute gap over the peloton. Behind, the rest of our riders remained attentive and well-placed, at all times close to the front of a bunch that was shedding riders out the back, but soon they were hit by bad luck, with 100 kilometers to go.

Sixth at the previous editions, Florian Sénéchal had a puncture as soon as he came out of a three-star rated sector, leaving only Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert and Zdenek Stybar in the main group. Asgreen and Lampaert led the way into the Arenberg, but were taken out of contention by ruthless punctures midway through the forest. Somehow, Yves managed to join the other favourites and even responded to an attack launched by Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) with 70 kilometers remaining.

Kasper Asgreen

Here's Kasper Asgreen before things got really muddy. Sirotti photo

Another frustrating puncture, his third of the race, dealt a big blow to the Belgian’s hopes, who then found himself in the third chasing group. Showing a fantastic attitude, gritting his teeth and determined to prove that he never gives up, the 30-year-old powered through the pain and adversities and managed to bridge across, as he kept believing despite the time gap not being in his favour. In the end, a trio that escaped from the leading group battled for victory on the Roubaix velodrome, where Yves arrived one minute later and sprinted to fifth – an incredible result considering everything he had been through.

“I had three punctures, all in crucial moments. I just rode on the crown of the cobbles, but had three punctures. Despite coming after two punctures the moment Van der Poel went, I still felt great. Coming off the Wallers, I was second in the group, but then had that third puncture. It’s disappointing, because I had very good legs and could feel that I was able to keep going, even in these hard conditions. At the end of the day, it was a phenomenal race and I’m happy with my result and that I got to experience a wet Roubaix, but next time I hope to have more luck”, Yves said after his third top 10 finish at the “Queen of the Classics”.

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

After a year’s break, the most famous one-day cycling race in the world returned. Paris-Roubaix – the Queen of the Classics – would see riders suffer over each of its 258km. While the parcours was fairly flat from start to finish, it was the thirty sectors of pavé, with their potential for creating crashes and splits on even the driest days that would weigh heavy in the riders’ minds – and the late-season slot meant that rain had soaked the course to make the first wet edition of the race in nearly twenty years.

Timing and luck is everything at this race, and multiple attempts to attack to create an early advantage came to little at first, before a large group went out ahead after more than 40km of the day had been ridden. Daniel Oss was flying the flag for BORA-hansgrohe in this move, with the rest of the team heading up the peloton to try to stay in contact with the escape, the gap a little more than a minute at this point. Nils Politt was aiming for a strong finish after some good performances in previous editions of the race, but the German rider had to change his bike no fewer than three times during the early stages of the day, the harsh conditions putting him out of contention.

The cobblestones started having an effect early on, with the peloton splitting into three and Daniel being shed from the break, who returned to support his teammates in the main bunch, while the head of the break started to split into smaller groups as the roads narrowed and more and more crashes on the wet pavé created splits.

Caked in mud and soaked to the skin, few riders were able to avoid crashing or being caught up in crashes, with both Peter Sagan and Maximilian Schachmann coming down, the Slovak national champion’s fall with 135km remaining making it even tougher for him to make his way to the lead group, while in a cruel stroke of bad luck, Maximilian hit the deck with 105km to go just as he had joined a group of favourites. A lone rider went out ahead with 50km remaining, but even this leader wasn’t immune to the slippery cobblestones, losing his position to the trio that would ultimately go on to contest the win.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan riding his last race for Bora-hansgrohe. Sirotti photo

The race living up to its name of the ‘Hell of the North’, Peter Sagan was the first BORA-hansgrohe rider to cross the line in the famous Roubaix velodrome, barely recognisable for the centimetre-thick mud on his face and jersey, the Slovak rider taking fifty-third place.

From the Finish Line:
"Actually, I had good legs today, but the conditions were extremely difficult and, on top of that, I think you also needed a bit of luck. I had to change bikes three times quite early in the race which meant that my chances in coming back to the front were practically nil. That's a pity but I will be back hungry next year and maybe luck is on my side then." – Nils Politt

"Paris-Roubaix is hard by itself but today's treacherous conditions made it truly extreme. It was a race of attrition where the key was to survive to the finish line. We knew that positioning would be fundamental and that being as close to the front as possible would be extremely important. We all worked hard to achieve it but, unfortunately, we got caught up in various crashes. I was also involved in one of them and hit the ground quite hard, on the right part of my body. I kept on racing afterward and gave it my all to get to the finish line. This was my last race in the BORA-hansgrohe colours and I truly wanted to finish the five years we spent together with the best result possible but today wasn't the day." – Peter Sagan

"It was a very difficult day for us with lots of bad luck. We had so many crashes and problems with punctures. We were involved in crashes early, so even before the race started in full earnest, one could say the team was already out of contention. The guys gave their best to continue racing, especially Peter, Max, and Juraj. Overall, I think the team did a good job but was really unlucky." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

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