Bradley Wiggins remodeled himself as a classics rider in the latter stages of his Team Sky career, and part of him must have looked on with a small degree of “what-if” as well as happiness after his former team finally stamped its authority all over Paris-Roubaix.
Dylan van Baarle capped an excellent team performance Sunday to win the race solo on the Roubaix velodrome but the Dutch rider benefited hugely from a collective support act. The win marked Ineos’ first victory in Roubaix since its formation as Team Sky in 2010.
“Ineos played it perfectly,” Wiggins told Eurosport after following the race on a motorcycle.
“When they went in the crosswinds, and split it, they took the opportunity,” he said. “We’ve never seen anything like that in Paris-Roubaix. It marries up with Dave Brailsford’s approach of doing things differently and breaking the traditions of the sport, and they certainly did that today.”
Ineos Grenadiers blew the race apart in the crosswinds even before the first cobble had been raced, and with the entire team making the front group, it looked as though the race was over for several pre-race favorites.
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Even when the race came back together with about 100km to go, Ineos had numbers at the front of the race and van Baarle marked several key moves before eventually going clear with 19km left to race. The win marked the biggest victory of the 29-year-old’s career.
Ineos certainly didn’t have it all their own way with several mechanicals and crashes for their riders. Michal Kwiatkwoski crashed, Filippo Ganna had several mechanicals and bike changes, while Magnus Sheffield and Ben Turner also hit the deck at various points in the race.
“You’ve got to have the firepower to finish it off and they had the Amstel Gold winner in there with Kwiatkowski, they had some great firepower. Ganna had some punctures but Luke Rowe sacrificed his chances today for Ganna, giving him the wheel. And Dylan van Baarle what a rider. He finished it off.
“We saw that he was strong a few weeks ago at the Tour of Flanders but today he got the big one for them. It’s the first win in Paris Roubaix, and of course for Ineos, who were Team Sky.”
Wiggins added that the team bolstered its classics unit, obviously backing youth with several riders given their chances this year, but also dovetailing the ambitions and abilities of riders who can switch between the cobbles of France and Belgium with athletes that support grand tour leaders in races such as the Tour de France.
“They’ve built a squad that isn’t based on your traditional classics riders,” he said. “These guys are riders that also lined up in the Tour de France and are the big domestiques for the riders like Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas. These are the big guys that support these guys. They’re not just the classics riders who disappear after April. They’re there every year.”