Van der Poel plans ‘big party’ after crushing rivals on Paris-Roubaix cobbles

Alpecin – Deceuninck team’s Dutch rider Mathieu Van Der Poel cycles in a lone breakaway ahead of the pack of riders on a cobblestone sector during the 121st edition of the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic cycling race, 260km between Compiegne and Roubaix, northern France, on April 7, 2024. AFP

Mathieu van der Poel triumphed over the Paris-Roubaix cobbles for a second straight year Sunday after a solo 60-kilometre breakaway to win the race known as ‘the Hell of the North’.

The 29-year-old Dutch world champion won the Tour of Flanders a week ago and crossed the line exactly three minutes ahead of the nearest chasers after the brutal 260km run including 57km of cobbles.

“This goes way beyond my expectations, there will be a big party tonight,” he said at the line.

“I was at the limit at Flanders, but here I really enjoyed the final kilometres,” said Van der Poel who was cheered by vast crowds over the final 50km.

Already one of cycling’s best-paid riders, Van der Poel wins 30,000 euros (32,500 dollars) for his efforts and will have his name engraved on a plaque at the outdoor showers where riders usually wash off splatters of mud.

His winning time of 5 hours 25 minutes and 58 seconds meant it was the fastest average speed in the history of an event first raced in 1896, this was the 121st edition.

“I was just trying to make it hard for the others, that wasn’t meant to be the winning move or me going solo, but after that I had the wind on my back,” said Van der Poel.

Van der Poel’s Belgian teammate Jasper Philipsen was second and Dane Mads Pedersen of Lidl-Trek was third as they contested a three-way sprint with German Nils Politt of UAE at the line.

“You need a bit of luck to win here, and to avoid punctures,” Politt told AFP ahead of the race. He did indeed puncture, but so did Pedersen and Philipsen.

“I was confident I wouldn’t puncture, but the team car was always right behind me,” said the winner, who finished without mishap.

Pedersen said he was happy with the result.

‘He’s impressive’

“Mathieu was in his own league. He’s impressive. I just couldn’t follow him. I’m at a loss as to how to beat him. I was at 100 percent, but I was beaten by better boys.”

Swiss rider Stefan Kung, who was fifth, said after the race he would be able to “tell my grandchildren I raced against him”.

“He’s the best rider in the World,” Kung said.

The decisive moment came on cobbles, with Van der Poel shifting from 40kph to 60kph in almost the blink of an eye, devastating the lead group of around 12 riders which featured Briton Tom Pidcock.

Pidcock had lost key support when Ineos teammate Josh Tarling was thrown off the race for holding on to a team car when trying to catch up with the lead group following a puncture.

The hefty cobbles that make up the surface of around 57km of the route, in 29 sections, caused countless punctures, broken wheels and falls.

The 175-rider peloton burst away from the Compiegne start line 80km outside Paris headed north despite a recent spate of nasty crashes.

Organisers had introduced a last-minute safety measure after Jonas Vingegaard, Wout van Aert and Jay Vine all suffered serious injuries in recent cycling falls.

As the race approached the Arenberg coal-mine, the cycling world held its breath as the peloton approached the controversial safety chicane designed to slow the pack.

The move was unpopular with the riders, but it did the trick, with no fallers.

This ultra-long ‘Queen of the Classics’ usually features miles of mud as well as the millions of cobbles, but on Sunday it was raced in bright sunshine through the glimmering green fields bordering Belgium.

Some 106 bikes were inspected at Compiegne ahead of the race in the fight against electronic fraud, with eight bikes subjected to x-rays.

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