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.
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.
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.
01 P. Sagan 5:54:06
02 S.Dillier + 0:00
03 N.Terpstra + 0:57
04 G.Van Avermaet + 1:34
05 J.Stuyven + 1:34
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