Sonny Colbrelli became the first Italian to win Paris-Roubaix in 22 years when he prevailed in a three-man sprint finish at the end of a gruelling race on Sunday.
His whole body covered in mud after 257.7 kilometres featuring 30 cobbled sectors, Colbrelli burst into tears as he collapsed on the grass of the Roubaix Velodrome after triumphing in the first rain-hit edition of the Hell of the North since 2002.
The European champion, of Team Bahrain Victorious, pipped Belgian Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal) and Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), who were second and third respectively.
Van der Poel, one of the pre-race favourites, came up just short after doing most of the work in a small group chasing Italian Gianni Moscon, who seemed to be heading to victory before a puncture and late crash ruined his chances.
Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers) eventually finished fourth, 44 seconds off the pace, leaving his compatriot Colbrelli to become the first Italian to win here since Andrea Taffi in 1999.
Van der Poel, who was also making his debut on the Paris-Roubaix in the first edition since April 2019 after the Covid-19 pandemic prompted organisers to put off the event, matched his father Adrie’s podium finish from 1986.
Countless crashes marred the race with triple world champion Peter Sagan hitting the deck and Swiss Stefan Kung going down three times.
Colbrelli spent most of the day tucked into Van der Poel’s slipstream and when the final sprint on the velodrome loomed, the Italian was the freshest man.
It long seemed, however, that Moscon would be celebrating a solo win.
Moscon pulled away from a leading group in the cobbled sector of Auchy-lez-Orchies to Bersee 49km from the line as the sun pierced through the clouds and the roads started to dry.
Entering the key cobbled sector of Mons-en-Pevele, Moscon led Vermeersch and fellow Belgian Tom Van Asbroeck by 35 seconds and Van der Poel, Canada’s Guillaume Boivin and Colbrelli by 1min 10sec.
Powering his way through the thick mud, Moscon extended his advantage over the Van der Poel trio to 1:25 as Belgian Wout van Aert faded away.
With 38km remaining, Vermeersch and Van Asbroeck were reined in by Van der Poel and company and the newly formed group organised the chase behind Moscon.
The Italian lost some 30 seconds with a flat rear tyre that prompted a bike change 29km from the line with the chasing quintet reducing the gap to 45 seconds.
It fell to 15 seconds after he crashed on a muddy patch but the Italian stayed just clear as Boivin crashed in the group of chasers in the cobbled sector of Camphin en Pevele.
He was however caught and dropped 16km from the finish in the Carrefour de l’Arbre as Colbrelli, Van der Poel and Vermeersch went clear to contest the final sprint. Reuters
Colbrelli wins Paris-Roubaix!
Sonny Colbrelli ends Italy’s 22-year wait for a win in Roubaix – the last one being Andrea Tafi in 1999 – after the Bahrain Victorious rider beat young Belgian Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal) in a three-up sprint. Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) is third.
Colbrelli collapses to the ground, immediately letting out a primeval scream – six hours one minute and 57 seconds of agonising racing distilled into one almighty release of emotion. “Unbelievable, my first Paris-Roubaix and I win. I don’t know, I’m very happy,” Colbrelli said in the track centre of the open air velodrome where he became the first Italian since Tafi to win the race nicknamed the ‘Hell of the North’. “Today is a legendary Roubaix with the rain and the weather at the start and an attack with 90km to go after [the] Arenberg [Forest].”
By contrast, Van der Poel looks disappointed with third and may, once the dust has settled, consider doing a little less work on the front on future races. As brilliant as he is, dragging Colbrelli all the way to the line was a naive, though easy to say that from the comfort of my chair.
Unlike Saturday’s race when Lizzie Deignan won the inaugural edition of the women’s race with a long-range solo attack, the 118th running of the men’s event went down to the line after Gianni Moscon had earlier appeared on course to win Ineos Grenadiers’ first cobbled monument. Minutes after taking a bike change from a team car, Moscon crashed on the wet and slippery cobbles that peppered the 257.7km route.
After pre-race favourite Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) had pulled Colbrelli and Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal) over to Moscon, the Ineos Grenadiers rider was dropped leaving the trio to push on towards the post-industrial town of Roubaix. Having navigated the final section of the 55km of cobbles in the race, the trio entered the famous old velodrome where after completing one-and-a-half laps of the 500 metre long concrete track the Bahrain Victorious rider was able to write his name into the history books.
“I was at the limit in the final. It was super difficult because I had to pay attention for the crashes form the first sectors and then there’s always the stress to be in position in the cobbles,” a delighted Colbrelli added.
“This year is my year, I’m very happy.”
Incredible win for the 31-year-old European champion who discovered his legs this year, finishing third on a mountain stage at the Tour de France and now outsmarting Van der Poel to land a first monument.
1km to go
Into the Vélodrome André-Pétrieux. One-and-a-half laps of the concrete velodrome to follow.
2km to go
All as one as the leading trio near the entrance to the Vélodrome André-Pétrieux.
3.1km to go
Florian Vermeersch rises out of his saddle and lands a little jab on his rivals, but Sonny Colbrelli is smart to the move and closes him down within the blink of an eye, Mathieu van der Poel on the Italian’s wheel.
5km to go
Nervous few minutes incoming for the three riders involved here. Plenty of looking around among this small group. Who will be taking the line honours in the Vélodrome André-Pétrieux in a few minutes?
7km to go
Having navigated their way over the penultimate sector of cobbles, the 1.4km stretch from Willems to Hem, the trio of Mathieu van der Poel, Sonny Colbrelli and Florian Vermeersch remain locked onto each other’s wheel. Van der Poel appears to be doing slightly longer turns than his rivals and you have to worry about that – this may be playing into the hands of Colbrelli. Incidentally, all three are making their debuts in Paris-Roubaix.
10km to go
Just 10 km of this monumental race to go and I cannot see Gianni Moscon getting back into contention, nor am I predicting that Wout van Aert et al will be closing the one minute gap on the leading trio of Mathieu van der Poel, Sonny Colbrelli and Florian Vermeersch.
12km to go
Florian Vermeersch who has yet to win a professional win in his short career, is riding a superb race here today. The youngster is not riding for a second longer than he needs to on the front.
13km to go
Will Mathieu van der Poel, Sonny Colbrelli and Florian Vermeersch be going all the way to the line, or can somebody escape off the front?
15km to go
Mathieu van der Poel, Sonny Colbrelli and Florian Vermeersch now lead the race, Gianni Moscon having been chewed up and spat out the back. Vermeersch is riding down the centre of the cobbled Carrefour de l’Arbre while his rival opt for the gutter. Impressive stuff from the youngster.
Moscon is caught
Mathieu van der Poel pulls the chasers over to Gianni Moscon. Almost immediately Sonny Colbrelli counter-attacks but the Dutchman is having none of it. Florian Vermeersch, still just 22, is holding the wheels.
Van der Poel attacks
… but is unable to shake off Florian Vermeersch and Sonny Colbrelli.
17km to go
Gianni Moscon still leads Paris-Roubaix as he hits the Carrefour de l’Arbre.
18km to go
Gianni Moscon is slipping and sliding across these four-star Camphin-en-Pévèle cobbles, while Florian Vermeersch, Mathieu van der Poel and Sonny Colbrelli trail after Guillaume Boivin hits the deck, the Canadian surely out of the reckoning now.
20km to go
Gianni Moscon is fighting back and gained a few seconds on the chasers, while further back Wout van Aert, Greg Van Avermaet, Yves Lampaert, Sebastian Langeveld, Anthony Turgis, Christophe Laporte, Jasha Sütterlin and Gianni Vermeersch are closing in, that group of strong riders trail by just 1min 10sec now.
21.5km to go
Onto the four-star Camphin-en-Pévèle section of cobbles which will be followed the third and final five-star stretch over Carrefour de l’Arbre.
23.5km to go
Mathieu van der Poel, Sonny Colbrelli, Guillaume Boivin, Tom Van Asbroeck and Florian Vermeersch have race leader Gianni Moscon almost within touching distance, just 150 metres separate the Italian and the chasers. Surely the Inoes Grenadiers rider will be getting caught soon, and surely his legs will be empty and unable to challenge in a sprint? Stay with us here on Telegraph Sport to find out.
The Italian hits the deck after losing his rear wheel. Once back in the saddle the Italian presses on, but loses an age of time to the chasing group who now trail by just 16sec. Advantage Mathieu van der Poel.
30km to go
Bike change for Gianni Moscon which was not as quick as the Italian will have hoped for. That cost him 17sec. His lead, according to the television pictures, is now at 40sec.
32km to go
Blue skies are threatening to break and the cobbles are starting to dry out, but the resting water and pools of mud on the corners remain. Gianni Moscon may lead the race by 45sec, but there is a long way to go. Reports are saying there is a slight tail/crosswind. If that time gap is correct, then that means the Ineos Grenadiers rider has lost around 30sec in the last couple of kilometres which will, I am sure, give his sports director in the team car some concern.
37.5km to go
Another sector of cobbles chalked off by Gianni Moscon and he does not appear to be slowing. In fact, he looks to be pedalling fairly smoothly in not in any trouble. Tom Van Asbroeck and Florian Vermeersch, meanwhile, have been caught by Mathieu van der Poel, Sonny Colbrelli and Guillaume Boivin. Surely the Dutchman is going to attempt to shake the quartet off and go off up the road after Moscon? Easier said than done, I know – this is not PlayStation cycling!
40km to go
Tom Van Asbroeck and Florian Vermeersch trail race leader Gianni Moscon by around 50sec, while Mathieu van der Poel, Sonny Colbrelli and Guillaume Boivin are 1min 24sec down on the Italian who will be leaving Ineos Grenadiers at the end of the season, off to join Astana.
45km to go
Sonny Colbrelli is looking surprisingly relaxed as he sits on the wheel of Mathieu van der Poel, the Dutchman who will be expected to do the lion’s share of the chasing here, while Guillaume Boivin is hanging in there. One would imagine Van der Poel will not want to take Colbrelli, who has a strong sprint, all the way to the line in Roubaix. But before he starts to think about that, Van der Poel will have to rein in Gianni Moscon.
Moscon the lone leader
Gianni Moscon leads Paris-Roubaix, the Italian has 35sec on Tom Van Asbroeck and Florian Vermeersch while Mathieu van der Poel is at 1min 13sec. Wout van Aert, meanwhile, is another minute down the road and unless he can find some time will not be seeing his old cyclo-cross pal Van der Poel until the showers later on this afternoon.
50km to go
Around 52km out from the line Gianni Moscon, who finished fifth here in 2017, attacked the lead group à la Tom Boonen. The Italian wasted little time in gaining. Further back Mathieu van der Poel now has just Sonny Colbrelli and Guillaume Boivin for company, but I suspect the Dutchman will be hoping to change that soon once they hit the five-star Mons-en-Pévèle section of cobbles.
53km to go
Race leaders Gianni Moscon, Tom Van Asbroeck and Florian Vermeersch are onto section 12, the 2.7km road from Auchy-lez-Orchies to Bersée and the sun has made its first appearance all day.
60km to go
A brief moment of respite up near the front of the race as riders start to think about the next five-star section, Mons-en-Pévèle, which will follow shortly. The leading group, meanwhile, has whittled down to just three riders – Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers), Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel Start-up Nation) and Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal) – and hold an advantage of 40sec over Greg Van Avermaet et al, while Mathieu van der Poel’s group is closing in.
Van der Poel attempts to shake off rivals
Mathieu van der Poel presses on once again as his five-man group near the end of section 14 of cobbles. Guillaume Boivin is smart to the move, though, and gets straight onto his wheel.
Van der Poel on the march
Unbelievable stuff from Mathieu van der Poel who has bridged over to the second group on the road, then attempts to ride straight through in an effort to blow this quite dramatic edition of Paris-Roubaix to pieces from 70km out. The Dutchman, however, opts instead to work with his counterparts. No sign just jet of Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) who remains in the next group down the road. I suspect Van der Poel will be attacking again sometime soon.
68km to go
The new leading group comprises six riders – Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo), Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers), Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel Start-up Nation), Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) and Max Walscheid (Qhubeka) – while further back Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) has attacked off the front of his group. Heinrich Haussler (Bahrain Victorious) briefly followed, but the Aussie was dropped leaving just Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-Quick Step) on the Dutchman’s wheel.
71km to go
Mathieu van der Poel has managed to work his way back into the group featuring Wout van Aert, the Dutchman now has Heinrich Haussler (Bahrain Victorious) for company. Apologies in advance, but it is quite difficult to work out who is in which group at the moment thanks to the mud-splattered faces and jerseys.
74km to go
Bike change for Mathieu van der Poel as the Dutchman et al approach the next section of cobbles, the 2.4km long road from Warlaing to Brillon.
76km to go
Florian Vermeersch and Max Walscheid have been caught, one suspects any hope they had of lifting the famous cobbled trophy later this afternoon having dissipated. Yves Lampaert has managed to regain contact with the Wout van Aert- Mathieu van der Poel group.
As it stands
Race leaders: Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal), Max Walscheid (Qhubeka)
Chasing group at 26sec: Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo), Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers), Timo Roosen (Jumbo-Visma), Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko), Robert Stannard (BikeExchange), Harry Sweeny (Lotto-Soudal), Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel Start-up Nation), Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal), and Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious).
Second chasing group at 57sec: Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), Guillaume Boivin (Israel Start-up Nation), Baptiste Planckaert (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Jérémy Lecroq (B&B Hotels).
Third chasing group at 1min 10sec: Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education-Nippo) plus eight others.
90km to go
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) has caused a split in this group, the Dutchman taking with him Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), Guillaume Boivin (Israel Start-up Nation) and Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar). Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) trails by, I think, around 30sec and there is now no sign of the Deceuninck-Quick Step trio who we are hearing have all had punctures. Absolute chaos.
93km to go
Wout van Aert loses some ground on the Deceuninck-Quick Step trio and a handful of others after getting caught up behind Simon Clarke who has crashed. Mathieu van der Poel, meanwhile, is applying the pressure on the front as the Dutchman presses on, perhaps sensing that his great rival is being made to work to chase back on. Each effort will cost here today, every ounce of energy wasted by chasing back on or from losing a wheel may prove costly once the race reaches the Roubaix velodrome.
Here we go . . .
Into the forest go Nils Eekhoff and Florian Vermeersch. The Trouée d’Arenberg is only 2.3km long, but is rated as a five-star section and is a key point in the race. The pair’s lead over Wout van Aert and that trio of Deceuninck-Quick Step riders – Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert and Zdenek Stybar – has dropped to 1min 47sec. Will be interesting to see what their advantage is by the end of this very tough stretch of road.
Florian Sénéchal, the Frenchman riding for Deceuninck-Quick Step, has had a rear puncture. He was some people’s pick for today and having won Le Samyn a few years ago you can see why Paris-Roubaix would suit him.
100km to go
A group containing a number of Deceuninck-Quick Step riders and Wout van Aert are riding hard on the Haveluy to Wallers section of cobbles, difficult to identify all of the riders as they are caked head-to-toe in mud. Deceuninck-Quick Step have three riders though, so looking good for the Belgian super-team.
102km to go
Greg Van Avermaet turns to the television cameras, blows his lips and looks pretty ashen-faced.
To be fair, the Belgian is not the only rider suffering out on the roads today.
105km to go
Nasty looking crash at the rear of the peloton involving both Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) and Jasha Sütterlin (DSM).
The leading pair of Nils Eekhoff and Florian Vermeersch are nearing the four-star section from Haveluy to Wallers, which will be followed very quickly by the five-star Trouée d’Arenberg.
Van Aert sits up
The Belgian road champion who started as one of the favourites here today, has either had a mechanical issue with his bike or is in need of a new bike and has sat up waiting for his Jumbo-Visma team car. Perhaps he is having the same problem as Christophe Laporte who, according to French TV, lost the use of his brakes hence the fancy footwork.
112.5km to go
Mathieu van der Poel is grimacing, the Dutchman riding hard off the front of his group a smooth asphalt section of road. The Alpecin-Fenix rider looks like he is wanting to start closing this gap on Nils Eekhoff and Florian Vermeersch whose lead has, possibly as a result of that effort, dropped slightly to 2min 25sec.
115km to go
Nils Eekhoff, who many will remember from the Under-23 road race at the world championships in Harrogate in 2019 when he was relegated after race commissaires adjudged him to have taken an illegal draft from a team car, and Florian Vermeersch are gaining on both the chasers and the peloton. Cofidis rider Christophe Laporte is spotted using his left foot as a brake on his rear wheel – just as BMX bandits did back in the early 1980s. Not sure I have ever seen that before.
120km to go
Nils Eekhoff and Florian Vermeersch are working well together on the front of the race, the duo hitting section 23 –Artres to Quérénaing – around 50sec ahead of the chasing group, while the peloton remains another two minutes down.
Luke Rowe, who had been riding well at the front of the race, suffered a puncture earlier, as confirmed by his Ineos Grenadiers team . . .
Degenkolb goes down
John Degenkolb (Lotto-Soudal), another former winner here today, has crashed. The German went down heavily at last weekend’s road world championships and so he is not having the best of times. As the television cameras lingered on Degenkolb picking himself up from the gloopy pools of mud, a motorbike rider lost control of his vehicle. It is that sort of day.
Rowe loses contact
No sign of Luke Rowe in the leading group. A little chaotic out on the roads today and not sure what happened to him. Max Walscheid just crashed, leaving just Nils Eekhoff and Florian Vermeersch out in front with a lead of 47sec on the second group on the road, while the main peloton is at 2min 45sec.
132km to go
Poor old Stefan Küng has gone down again. With his mud-splattered face, Florian Vermeersch is now on the front alongside Nils Eekhoff, Luke Rowe and Max Walscheid after having navigated the Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon to Vertain section in one piece.
Sagan the former champion crashes
Peter Sagan is one of three or four riders to hit the deck on a right-hand corner.
Back on the front of the race and Luke Rowe has ridden Nils Eekhoff, Florian Vermeersch and Max Walscheid off his wheel on the Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon to Vertain section which is 2.3km long.
135km to go
Luke Rowe‘s quartet holds advantage of 18sec on a 21-man chasing group, while the group featuring many of the pre-race favourites such as Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel are almost three minutes down. There may still be some way to go, but surely those riders will starting to get worried about this move.
The gang of four | 140km to go
Not entirely sure what happened in the last few minutes, but the leading group has been blown to pieces leaving a quartet of Nils Eekhoff (DSM), Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal) and Max Walscheid (Qhubeka) out in front with an advantage of 20sec. Further back and Mathieu van der Poel, I think, has had a mechanical issue but has been swamped by a few team-mates on hand to help him chase back on.
145km to go
Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-Quick Step) lost contact with the leaders a few minutes ago, while the peloton trails by 2min 20sec.
Hell is round the corner . . .
The leaders are some way from the Carrefour de l’Arbre section, but here’s what lies in wait for them.
151km to go
Luke Rowe is back on the front of the leading group as the Welsham hits section 28, which at 3.7km long is the longest in today’s race and with four stars, the Quiévy to Saint-Python stretch is the toughest of the days so far and includes a sharp right-hand turn at the midway point. In these conditions, and turns are incredibly difficult to navigate and the slightest lapse in concentration can end a rider’s hopes or dreams of glory. Their lead on what I am calling the peloton has increased to 2min 2Osec.
153km to go
Max Walscheid (Qhubeka) hits the front of the race going into the Viesly to Quiévy section. Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe), by the way, has also lost contact with the leading group and the wind is whipping up a storm. Cannot overemphasise how nasty the conditions are today, these are scenes that have not been seen in the men’s race for 20 years, meaning nobody – not even the veteran Philippe Gilbert – will have ever ridden a wet Paris-Roubaix.
155km to go
Imanol Erviti (Movistar) and Florian Maitre (TotalEnergies) have been dropped by the breakaway which is now edging its way towards the next section of cobbles, the 1.8km stretch from Viesly to Quiévy.
158km to go
Large pools of water, streams of thick slippery mud and some of the worst road conditions in the world are making the first of 30 sections of cobbles looking very dangerous. Unsurprisingly, riders are taking any corners in the road rather gingerly, while the leading group has already started to string out with a few struggling to stay upright.
Briton Rowe leads Paris-Roubaix
The Welshman, a real Flandrien of the sport, will be loving this.
Onto the cobbles we go . . .
. . . and it is Luke Rowe or his Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Gianni Moscon who leads the way. Sorry, there’s a lot of water and mist making in the pictures making it difficult to identify the riders.
Küng crashes again
As the riders back in the peloton battled for position up near the front on the approach to the Troisvilles to Inchy section of cobbles, a number of riders lost their wheels on a wet and slippery left-hand turn. Unfortunately for French team Groupama-FDJ, one of their main men for the day, Stefan Küng, crashed for a second time. One imagines his nerves will now be shredded into pieces.
Calm before the storm | 165km to go
Tension is no doubt mounting in the 29-man breakaway that leads the peloton by 1min 45sec now as it approaches the first section of cobbles. For those new to the sport here’s some of idea, or context at least, about the size of the cobbles there warriors today will be riding over.
178km to go | That breakaway in full . . .
As mentioned earlier, there are some seriously strong riders in here, but there is an awful long way to go yet and their advantage on the peloton has not really increased over the last 15 minutes or so.
Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma), Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo), Andre Carvalho (Cofidis), Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange), Nils Eekhoff (DSM), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Marco Haller (Bahrain-Victorious), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), Florian Maitre (TotalEnergies), Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers), Luca Mozzato (B&B Hotels p/b KTM), Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), Timo Roosen (Jumbo-Visma), Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers), Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Robert Stannard (BikeExchange), Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates), Harry Sweeny (Lotto-Soudal), Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel Start-up Nation), Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal), Max Walscheid (Qhubeka) and Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious).
185km to go
Juraj Sagan is doing plenty of work on the front of the peloton, working on behalf of his brother Peter Sagan who won Paris-Roubaix back in 2018. Both, as I’m sure you will know, will be leaving Bora-Hansgrohe at the end of the season to join French team TotalEnergies. The gap between the two groups, by the way, is holding at around 1min 15sec.
190km to go
Stefan Küng has reacquainted himself with the peloton which now trails the breakaway by 1min 20sec. It looks like a rotten day for a bike ride in northern France today, and that’s before they have even reached the first of 30 sections of cobbled roads.
Küng down, but not out . . .
Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), the Swiss time trial specialist and a strong rouleur, has gone down quite heavily while the breakaway navigated its way around a roundabout. Küng, however, was able to remount but lost contact with the breakaway and is currently tapping away in no man’s land with blood rolling down his left leg – his left knee appeared to have taken the brunt of that fall.
200km to go
The 30-man breakaway group has a lead of over a minute on the peloton, which includes Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
204km to go
Ineos Grenadiers has three riders – Owain Doull, Luke Rowe and Gianni Moscon – in the leading group, Lotto-Soudal has two (Tosh Van der Sande and Harry Sweeny), Deceuninck-Quick Step has a pair (Tim Declercq and Davide Ballerini) while there is a smattering of other strong riders including Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) and Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën). As it stand they lead the peloton by around 15sec, with the sort of horsepower in this group some of the pre-race favourites will, you would imagine, be a little concerned. However, Mathieu van der Poel, apparently, just stopped for a comfort break so it sounds as if the Alpecin-Fenix rider who is making his Paris-Roubaix debut today is not overly worried by this move. I wonder if he will regret that later?
The wind is blowing up | 212km to go
Lotto-Soudal and Deceuninck-Quick Step have riders on the front of a decent-sized group that has gained some road on the peloton that appears to have been caught out by some strong winds. Eurosport are reporting that Michael Valgren (EF Education-Nippo) may have been caught short while talking a comfort break.
220km to go
Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën), the 2017 Paris-Roubaix winner, and Sven Erik Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates) briefly clipped off the front, but the pair were soon reined back in. Shortly afterwards another small group attempted to make a move but the entire peloton appears wise to any move and everything is being watched closely by the likes of Tim Declercq who, I am assuming, will be acting as road captain for Deceuninck-Quick Step here today.
Two men off up the road | 230km to go
The racing is under way and as it stands there are two riders – Max Kanter (DSM) and Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) – leading the way, the pair holding an advantage of around 10sec on the peloton.
After rolling through the neutralised section in Compiègne there was a crash involving Jonas van Genechten (B&B Hotels p/b KTM ) and Mitch Docker (EF Education-Nippo), the latter of whom will be retiring from racing after today’s race.
Weather-wise it is wet and windy in northern France. As we saw in the women’s race on Saturday, the wet conditions will cause plenty of problems for the riders once they reach the cobbles. One suspects there will be a battle royal for position ahead of the first section, the 2.2km long three-star Troisvilles to Inchy secteur.
‘To win you need to be powerful – a sprinter, time trialist or rouleur’
Sean Kelly sat down with Telegraph Sport a few years back to discuss what it takes to win the race he won twice during an illustrious racing career.
The world No 1 between 1984 and 1989 remains one of the greatest all-rounders in the history of cycle sport and with a palmarès that boasts 21 stage wins at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España as well as nine monuments – the Tour of Flanders was the only one the Irishman failed to conquer – and it is easy to see why. Of the modern-day peloton, the rider that most mirrors Kelly would be Wout van Aert who today is hoping to put behind him the disappointment of last weekend’s world championships, but does he have within his armoury what it takes to win the ‘Queen of the Classics’?
“I think Paris-Roubaix has to be the toughest race because you have the terrain – there are anything between 52 and 55 kilometres of cobbles over the course of around 260 kilometres,” Kelly explains.
“It’s just one of those races that takes a lot from you, not just physically but mentally too,” the 1984 and 1986 winner says. “All of the time you are turning left and right, not only on the cobbled sections but also when you’re off on the normal asphalt road. When you get to the final 100 kilometres it is just left and right all the time, then those cobbles. Of the classics, Paris-Roubaix is the toughest.
“To win at Paris-Roubaix you need to be powerful, you have to have big power on the flat. The guys who have big power on the flat are generally big riders, they’re big men, so you know they are 75kg.
“They can be sprinters, they can be time trialists or, as they say, rouleurs, either way they are big strong guys. Those are the qualities that you need to have to win at Paris-Roubaix and the qualities you need to be a classics rider.”
What does the men’s startlist look like?
As with all WorldTour races, each of the 19 teams that make up the top-flight of professional cycling receive an invite and in the case of Paris-Roubaix each of them are contractually obliged to race.
In addition to the WorldTeams, Alpecin-Fenix qualified as the No 1 ranked ProTeam from 2020 while Arkéa-Samsic, B&B Hotels p/b KTM, Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB, Delko and TotalEnergies were handed wild card entries. In total 25 teams of seven will compete in a field of 175 riders.
Ag2r-Citroën (Fra): Stan Dewulf (Bel), Lawrence Naesen (Bel), Oliver Naesen (Bel), Michael Schär (Swi), Damien Touzé (Fra), Greg Van Avermaet (Bel), Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel).
Astana-Premier Tech (Kaz): Gleb Brussenskiy (Kaz, neo-pro), Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz, neo-pro), Yevgeniy Gidich (Kaz), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz), Hugo Houle (Can), Davide Martinelli (Ita), Ben Perry (Can).
Bahrain Victorious (Brn): Sonny Colbrelli (Ita), Marco Haller (Aut), Heinrich Haussler (Aus), Jonathan Milan (Ita, neo-pro), Matej Mohoric (Slo), Marcel Sieberg (Ger), Fred Wright (GB, neo-pro).
BikeExchange (Aus): Jack Bauer (NZ), Sam Bewley (NZ), Luke Durbridge (Aus), Amund Grondahl Jansen (Nor), Barnabas Peak (Hun, neo-pro), Robert Stannard (Aus).
Bora-Hansgrohe (Ger): Maciej Bodnar (Pol), Jordi Meeus (Bel, neo-pro), Daniel Oss (Ita), Nils Politt (Ger), Juraj Sagan (Svk), Peter Sagan (Svk), Maximilian Schachmann (Ger).
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (Fra): Piet Allegaert (Bel), Tom Bohli (Swi), Andre Carvalho (Por), Jempy Drucker (Lux), Eddy Finé (Fra, neo-pro), Christophe Laporte (Fra), Szymon Sajnok (Pol).
Deceuninck-Quick Step (Bel): Kasper Asgreen (Den), Davide Ballerini (Ita), Tim Declercq (Bel), Yves Lampaert (Bel), Florian Sénéchal (Fra), Zdenek Stybar (Cze), Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel).
DSM (Ger): Nikias Arndt (Ger), Cees Bol (Hol), Nils Eekhoff (Hol, neo-pro), Max Kanter (Ger), Soren Kragh Andersen (Den), Casper Pedersen (Den), Jasha Sütterlin (Ger).
EF Education-Nippo (US): Stefan Bissegger (Swi, neo-pro), Mitchell Docker (Aus), Sebastian Langeveld (Hol), Jonas Rutsch (Ger, neo-pro), Tom Scully (NZ), Michael Valgren (Den), Julius van den Berg (Hol).
Groupama-FDJ (Fra): Clément Davy (Fra), Arnaud Démare (Fra), Stefan Küng (Swi), Olivier Le Gac (Fra), Fabian Lienhard (Swi), Ramon Sinkeldam (Hol), Jake Stewart (GB, neo-pro).
Ineos Grenadiers (GB): Leonardo Basso (Ita), Owain Doull (GB), Michal Golas (Pol), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Gianni Moscon (Ita), Luke Rowe (GB), Dylan van Baarle (Hol).
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux (Bel): Aimé De Gendt (Bel), Tom Devriendt (Bel), Wesley Kreder (Hol), Baptiste Planckaert (Bel), Taco van der Hoorn (Hol), Kevin Van Melsen (Bel), Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel).
Israel Start-up Nation (Isr): Rudy Barbier (Fra), Jenthe Biermans (Bel), Guillaume Boivin (Can), Hugo Hofstetter (Fra), Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Den), Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel), Sep Vanmarcke (Bel).
Jumbo-Visma (Hol): Edoardo Affini (Ita), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Hol), Dylan Groenewegen (Hol), Timo Roosen (Hol), Mike Teunissen (Hol), Wout van Aert (Bel), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel).
Lotto-Soudal (Bel): John Degenkolb (Ger), Frederik Frison (Bel), Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Sébastien Grignard (Bel, neo-pro), Harry Sweeny (Aus, neo-pro), Tosh Van der Sande (Bel), Florian Vermeersch (Bel, neo-pro).
Movistar (Spa): Gabriel Cullaigh (GB, neo-pro), Imanol Erviti (Spa), Iván García Cortina (Spa), Juri Hollmann (Ger, neo-pro), Matteo Jorgenson (US, neo-pro), Lluís Mas (Spa), Mathias Norsgaard (Den).
Qhubeka-NextHash (SA): Victor Campenaerts (Bel), Dimitri Claeys (Bel), Simon Clarke (Aus), Michael Gogl (Aut), Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (SA), Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita), Max Walscheid (Ger).
Trek-Segafredo (US): Alex Kirsch (Lux), Emils Liepins (Lat), Mads Pedersen (Den), Quinn Simmons (US, neo-pro), Toms Skujins (Lat), Jasper Stuyven (Bel), Edward Theuns (Bel).
UAE Team Emirates (UAE): Mikkel Bjerg (Den), Sven Erik Bystrom (Nor), Fernando Gaviria (Col), Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Rui Oliveira (Por), Matteo Trentin (Ita).
Alpecin-Fenix (Bel): Silvan Dillier (Swi), Senne Leysen (Bel), Tim Merlier (Bel), Jasper Philipsen (Bel), Jonas Rickaert (Bel), Mathieu van der Poel (Hol), Gianni Vermeersch (Bel).
Arkéa-Samsic (Fra): Amaury Capiot (Bel), Benjamin Declercq (Bel), Dan McLay (GB), Christophe Noppe (Bel), Clément Russo (Fra), Connor Swift (GB), Bram Welten (Hol).
B&B Hotels p/b KTM (Fra): Bert De Backer (Bel), Jens Debusschere (Bel), Quentin Jauregui (Fra), Jérémy Lecroq (Fra), Cyril Lemoine (Fra), Luca Mozzato (Fra), Jonas van Genechten (Bel).
Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB (Bel): Jonas Castrique (Bel), Timothy Dupont (Bel), Arjen Livyns (Bel), Tom Paquot (Bel), Laurenz Rex (Bel), Ludovic Robeet (Bel), Tom Wirtgen (Lux).
Delko (Fra): Pierre Barbier (Fra), Clément Carisey (Fra), Alexandre Delettre (Fra), August Jensen (Nor), Dusan Rajovic (Srb), Evaldas Siskevicius (Ltu), Julien Trarieux (Fra).
TotalEnergies (Fra): Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor), Florian Maitre (Fra), Adrien Petit (Fra), Geoffrey Soupe (Fra), Niki Terpstra (Hol), Anthony Turgis (Fra), Dries Van Gestel (Bel).
And welcome to our live rolling blog from the 118th edition of Paris-Roubaix which is making its return to the WorldTour calendar after 902 days of inaction on the cobbled lanes of northern France following the cancellation of last year’s race due to you know what.
Setting off from Compiègne, a town around 60km north of Paris where the race has started since 1967, at 10.15am (BST) and finishing in the Vélodrome André-Pétrieux in Roubaix around six hours later, the course covers 257.7 kilometres, of which 55 are on bone-rattling cobbles. Spread over 30 sections – or secteurs if you want to sound local – all of the cobbled stretches are crammed into the final 160km of the race, each featuring a star rating depending upon how difficult they are. A one star section is the least treacherous, five the toughest.
Numbered in reverse order, the riders reach the first secteur (No 30, Troisvilles to Inchy) after 96km, while the final stretch of cobbles start just 1km from the finishing line. Once all of the cobbled sectors have been navigated, the riders enter the open-air stadium where they will be welcomed like returning heroes before riding one-and-a-half laps of the 500 metre concrete velodrome.
The first rider over the line will trouser a cheque for €30,000, receive a cobble taken from the roads around Roubaix mounted on a plinth and have his named etched onto a brass plaque that will later be attached to the famous showers behind the old velodrome. Most importantly of all, though, he will have his name inscribed into cycling folklore in perpetuity alongside Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck, Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara and all of the others who have won this unique race.
Paris-Roubaix had been dominated by the Belgians who have won 57 of the 117 editions, including Philippe Gilbert who triumphed the last time the race took place in 2019. France has had 28 victories. No Briton has won the race, though three have stood on the third step of the podium – Barry Hoban (1972), Roger Hammond (2004) and Ian Stannard (2016).
Today’s live blog will kick off in earnest at around 11am (BST).