37-year-old veteran Mathew Hayman recorded the most important victory of his entire career in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, spectacularly out-sprinting a stellar group containing pre-race favourite Tom Boonen in the famous velodrome. The Belgian came across the line in second place, while Ian Stannard completed the podium. Fabian Cancellara bade a sad farewell to his favourite race, with his hopes dashed by an unfortunate crash.
Rider of the RaceEmbed from Getty Images
There could only be one man given the rider of the race prize: winner Mathew Hayman. The Orica-GreenEDGE man has recorded impressive results at the classics before, including an eighth place in Roubaix four years ago. However, never in his career had he recorded a major victory, and not since 2011 had he notched any wins on his palmarès. At 37 years-of-age (two full years older than the retiring Cancellara), he cannot have ever expected to record such a major victory as this.
It wasn’t just the mere fact that he managed to win the race that is so impressive, but it’s the way he did so. He got into the day’s first major breakaway along with a whole host of other riders in the first few kilometres, and managed to hang on when the likes of Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step), Ian Stannard (Team Sky) and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) bridged the gap. He still had enough energy to win the final sprint against riders who, on paper, are much faster finishers.
Oh, and finally, there’s the small fact he wasn’t even supposed to be riding the classics: the Sydney Morning Herald reported back in February that Hayman was to be sidelined for the spring after fracturing his arm in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Not only has returned to action, but he’s now going to have a huge chunk of French pavé sitting proudly on his mantlepiece. A great chapeau is in order for a hero whose song is being sung at the very last.
Shattered dreamsEmbed from Getty Images
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. The stage was set for a final showdown between the two great classics riders of our time, Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo).
However, cycling is an unpredictable sport, and Paris Roubaix perhaps its most unpredictable race. The dream ending wasn’t to be. Hopes of a dramatic head-to-head sprint were dashed when Cancellara slipped on a greasy section of cobbles in the Mons-en-Pévèle sector, ending his chance (and, for that matter, Peter Sagan‘s) of closing the 40 second gap that had opened up between the three-time champion and Boonen up front. Cancellara did manage to finish the race, albeit in 40th place – an unceremonious end to a glorious classics career. Especially after he crashed while waving the Swiss flag on the velodrome. Oops.
quand ca veut pas ca veut pas pour cancellara pic.twitter.com/MXPFxO96O6
— philippe (@philousports) April 10, 2016
Boonen’s fate – though less embarrassing – may well have been even more agonising: he would never have expected to be pipped on the line by a 37-year-old rank-outsider. Tornado Tom hasn’t yet decided when to call it quits, but the tears he shed at the finish line in Roubaix were those of man who knows he isn’t going to get many better opportunities at grabbing a record-breaking fifth victory in this race (as it stands, he’s level with his legendary compatriot Roger De Vlaeminck on four). He’ll surely be replaying the final sprint over in his mind for the next few days, though one can’t help but wonder if it was lost a little earlier on.
When a split first formed – with over 100km to go – between the Boonen and Sagan-Cancellara groups, Etixx-Quick Step (and Tony Martin in particular) were ordered to set a devastating pace at the front, presumably in a bid to squeeze the life from the two favourites who’d missed the cut. It worked, too: Sagan and Cancellara never managed to close within half-a-minute of the leaders, and when Cancellara fell, their chances were all but over. However, the upshot was that Boonen was isolated without a teammate in the final few kilometres, when having Martin there to chase down the accelerations could have made all the difference. It is, perhaps, a foolish thing to be wise after such an incalculable event, but maybe – just maybe – Martin’s powder should’ve been kept dry.
— Etixx – Quick-Step (@Etixx_QuickStep) April 10, 2016
Still, if Boonen can take any consolation from the victory, it’s that he too is two years Hayman’s junior – there’s still more than enough time for him to give it another go if he wants.
The bridesmaids impressEmbed from Getty Images
The trio of Sep Vanmarcke, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Heinrich Haussler (IAM) are three of the great unfortunates of the peloton. They’ve doubtless got plenty of talent between them, but things never quite seem to swing in their favour. As a case in point, Vanmarcke has now finished as runner-up in Roubaix once, and missed out on the podium on a further two occasions. However, they all deserve credit for their performances today, coming in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. They’re all young enough to have a few further attempts at winning this race; and they can’t be unlucky forever, right?
Top ten results
1. Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEDGE) 5:51:53
2. Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step) same time
3. Ian Stannard (Team Sky) s/t
4. Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) s/t
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) +0:03
6. Heinrich Haussler (IAM) +1:00
7. Marcel Sieberg (Lotto-Soudal) s/t
8. Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) s/t
9. Imanol Erviti (Movistar) +1:07
10. Adrien Petit (Direct Energie) +2:20
Header: Hayman crosses the line © @Paris_Roubaix/Twitter