We are posting a variety of old posts you may have missed due to the recent difficulties with our website. No 1. our Paris Roubaix report from Joe Bishop. Relive the excitement by reading it here.
Continental Race Report: Paris – Roubaix
There aren’t many races in which just crossing the finishing line is an achievement worthy of incredible praise. In fact, there are hardly any races in which making it to the finish can be the highlight of a rider’s career, but Paris – Roubaix is different. Year on year, almost half the field don’t make it to the iconic velodrome in Roubaix, such is the intensity and brutality of the so-called ‘hell of the north’. What it lacks in climbs, it more than makes up for with passion and history. It doesn’t have the grandeur of the Tour de France, or the beauty of the Giro D’Itaia, but many would argue that’s what makes it so magnificent – it’s pure bike racing. No mythical mountains or stunning backdrops, just 200 men on their bikes, fighting to survive.
Only a small number of riders can ever hope of winning Paris-Roubaix, mainly due to the 27 narrow cobbled lanes that the participants have to overcome if they wish to finish. These cobbles are where many riders have staked their name into cycling’s great history, but none more so than Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Tom Boonen (Etixx). This season marks the end of an era for these two greats, as their long careers draw to a close. If Cancellara were to win, it would be his fourth victory in the race, whilst a Tom Boonen win would result in an all time record: 5 wins. First though, they would have to overcome the threat of the new generation of classic specialists, a task that would be anything but easy. Among these challengers was one of Tom Boonen’s own teammates: Niki Terpstra, who won in 2014. Alexander Kristoff lined up for Katusha, hoping to bounce back from a disappointing Flanders result, whilst Sagan took to the line hoping to retain the form that had helped him to his first monument win in the Tour of Flanders only last week. A dark horse for victory was Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Dimension Data) who, for the first time, had the opportunity to be team leader in one of his favourite races. Leading the British hopes were Luke Rowe, and Ian Stannard, both of Team Sky. Sep Vanmarke (Lotto Jumbo) also lined up on the back of an impressive third in Flanders.
The race began in pleasant conditions, and the usual flurry of attacks began. Eventually, a large group went clear of the bunch and quickly built a lead of over two minutes. In the group were two veterans of the sport, Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) and Matt Hayman (Orica), who was riding his sixteenth Paris – Roubaix. Soon after the break had gone clear, a crash occurred in the peloton, bringing a number of riders down – though none of the main favourites were involved. Etixx used the temporary confusion from within the group to surge forward, and such was their pace, the ended up causing a split in the bunch, catching out both Sagan and Cancellara, who were left chasing in the wind. The front group included both Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard, as well as Vanmarke, Boasson-Hagen, and Tom Boonen.
As the riders hit sector 19, Tony Martin (Etixx), known for his huge engine, came to the front to try and maintain the gap between the front group and the peloton behind, which included Cancellara. When Martin pulled off, there were only a select few left in the group, and they had just over 50 seconds on the main group, who hadn’t given up just yet. Coming onto sector 13, the group of favourites caught the day’s early break, and as a result of Sky’s hard pace on the front, only a few were able to hold on to the back. Approaching the Mons-en-Pevele segment of cobbles (3km in length), Vanmarke attacked, knowing that he didn’t stand a chance in a sprint. His violent acceleration wasn’t enough to shake-off the favourites, but it was enough to whittle the field down a bit more. Meanwhile, back in the bunch, a touching of wheels, lead to Cancellara being brought down onto the cobbles, and although he climbed back on, it was clear that his final classics campaign was all but over.
Coming into the final 30km, there were only ten riders left at the front of the race. This group included Boonen, Boasson-Hagen, Vanmarke, Rowe Stannard and – left from the early break – Matt Hayman. As they hit the infamous Carrefour de l’Arbe sector (2.1km long), Vanmarke attacked once more, but he was brought back – albeit only by four other riders: Hayman, Boonen, Stannard and Boasson-Hagen. From this group of five, there were numerous attacks over the last ten kilometres, but no one could break the elastic.
Consequently, all five came into the Roubaix velodrome together for one final lap. The Australian Matt Hayman was forced to lead it out, and with Boonen neatly tuck in behind him, it seemed as though it might be a fairy-tale ending for the Belgian. Surprisingly however, he didn’t have the legs to come around Hayman in the final straight, and the rider from Orica Greenedge held on to take the win. After Boonen came Stannard in third, with Vanmarke fourth and Boasson-Hagen fifth. Cancellara came in a distant fortieth. Hayman was clearly in disbelief at the finish; having started the race as an outsider, he raced superbly in order to raise his arms in victory. This was clearly a win that will define the Australian’s career.
Lots of the attention however, was on Boonen and Cancellara, who for so many years have dominated events such as these. Cycling fans will never forget their incredible battles, and it is with a heavy heart, that we must say goodbye to two of the most animating riders of the 21st century.