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Paris-Roubaix: Dylan van Baarle soloes to victory at record speed

Ineos Grenadiers wins its first Paris-Roubaix after Dutchman attacks late to distance elite group.

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Second in the Tour of Flanders a fortnight ago, Dylan van Baarle went one better at Paris-Roubaix, breaking clear 18km from home and soloing to a clear victory on Roubaix’s famous velodrome to give his British Team Ineos Grenadiers its first win in the “Hell of the North”, achieving that feat at a new record average speed for the race of 45.792kph.

Almost two minutes after van Baarle had crossed the line, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) took the sprint for second place ahead of Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), with long breakaway riders Tom Devriendt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) just behind in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

“It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t believe when I came into the velodrome. I was completely alone. When the DS car came next to me, and then I started to believe in it. It’s been crazy,” van Baarle said in his post-race interview. “It’s a monument, and of course I want to win a monument. To be second in Flanders and winning Roubaix, I am at a loss for words.”

The 29-year-old Dutchman’s success was the culmination a very aggressive performance from the seven Ineos Grenadiers riders. In a wholly unexpected move in the very first hour of the race, they all gathered at the front of the peloton, where Bahrain, TotalEnergies and EF Education-Easy Post were also prominent. As a crosswind gusted, they split the bunch apart.

Ineos Grenadiers splits the race early

Wout van Aert was on the back foot all day, yet still managed second. (Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

For more than 100km, Ineos were able to keep most of their key men at the front, while the other favorites had use teammates and their own resources to chase the down. There were casualties in that second group too, Trek-Segafredo leader Mads Pedersen among the most notable of them, his chances of success ended by a heavy crash soon followed by a mechanical setback.

As the two main groups were coming back together, five riders went off the front: Davide Ballerini (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Casper Pedersen (Team DSM), Laurent Pichon (Arkéa-Samsic), plus Devriendt and Mohorič. The latter trio were the three constants, opening up a two-minutes advantage of their pursuers, Bahrain’s Milan-Sanremo winner Mohorič clearly the strongest of them.

As the chasers eventually began to close, the breakaway’s chances of staying clear were scuppered when the Slovenian punctured and had to change bikes coming out of cobbled sector nine, with 32km remaining. That left the visibly fading Devriendt alone at the front, with a group 10 riders not far off his heels that included Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), van Aert, Küng, van Baarle and his once again astonishing young teammate Ben Turner, Lampaert and Mohorič.

After a number of thwarted attacks, Lampaert and Mohoric bridged up to Devriendt, van Baarle battling up on his own to join them soon after. The Dutchman then made the most of the energy he’d saved during the first half of the race with an attack on the Camphin-en-Pévèle sector of cobbles with 18km remaining. Impressively smooth on the pavé throughout, he surged clear of Mohorič, Devriendt and Lampaert.

Although his former companions were reeled in, Lampaert after he’d been knocked spectacularly from his bike by a clapping fan who appeared to clip his bars, van Baarle was already out of range and
heading to victory.

The Ineos rider said that his team’s early move in the wind hadn’t been planned but was just a case of opportunism.

“We were from the gun super focused, and that’s what we wanted,” van Baarle said. “We didn’t want to chase. We wanted to be on the front foot. From that moment, I knew that we would have a good chance, because we spent less energy than anyone else. We were a bit unlucky with punctures, but we just kept calm.”

He explained that the team’s plan then had been to make the race hard before the second feed zone, which came with 68km remaining, and last week’s Amstel Gold Race winner Michał Kwiatkowski was particularly prominent at this point.

“Kwiato said he would ride for me. It gave me so much confidence. It’s been a great spring classic season so far. We can enjoy this,” said van Baarle. “We’ve worked so hard for it. The last couple of years we had some bad luck. Everything is going in the right direction and the whole team is lifting on the back of that.”

Mathieu van der Poel didn’t have the legs to follow

Mathieu van der Poel couldn’t follow the late accelerations to finish ninth. (Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

For runner-up van Aert, whose participation at Roubaix was in doubt almost to the last moment after a recent Covid infection, the result offered confirmation that he had been right to start the race

“It’s an amazing feeling, but coming after sickness like this it’s a huge achievement and I’m proud. I’m glad I kept the faith and kept racing,” he said. “It was a classic Paris-Roubaix. From the first cobbles, the chaos started, and everyone has their bit of bad luck. Everyone has to stay calm and that’s the beauty of the race. I stayed calm and I got support from some guys who dropped back from my team and this was how I was able to reach the podium in the end,” the Belgian champion explained.

“I knew van Baarle was one of the most dangerous guys. When he goes, he’s not going to slow down. I felt I missed out on the right move there. Once and me and Stefan Küng distanced the others, the real race started, but there was no chance anymore. I think the strongest man won today.”

An elite group separated itself coming off some key sectors, and made the definitive selection with about 50km to go. Joining Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious and van Aert were Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Adrien Petit (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Laurent Pichon (Arkéa-Samsic), and van Baarle and Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers).

With about 30km to go, Lampaert jumped, and drew out Mohorič and van Baarle. They linked up with Devriendt to lead the chasers by 35 seconds with 25km to go going into sector 6.

Stuyven jumped with 23km to go to draw out van Aert and Küng, gapping van der Poel at a key point of the race. Unfortunately for Stuyven, he punctured with 20km to go just ahead of Camphin-en-Pevele.

Van Baarle surged out of the front group, gapping out Devriendt, with Lampaert and Mohorič chasing hard. Behind them, Küng and van Aert chased 28 seconds in arrears.

Van Baarle hit the Carrefour de l’Arbre nursing a widening lead to Lampaert and Mohorič. From there, it was a drag race to the line.

After a frenetic first half, and elite group pulled clear with 50km to go. (Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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