Paris-Roubaix 2017 was supposed to be the fairytale ending of a legendary career. All the stars were supposed to align in order for cycling fans the world over to see, one last time, the magic of Tom Boonen crossing the finish line in the Velodrome, dirty but victorious. Ah, but Roubaix doesn’t work that way. Instead, the dirty but victorious rider was this season’s colossus Greg Van Avermaet, who outsprinted Zdenek Stybar and Sebastian Langeveld to lift the cobble trophy. Roubaix giveth and Roubaix taketh away …
Rider of the Race
No rider wins a race like Paris-Roubaix by himself. To get a rider to that point where they can take the race by the scruff of the neck and wring a victory out of it takes teammates – or often just one very special teammate who did all the right things at the right time. For me, no other man on the cobbles today deserved Rider of the Race as much as Daniel Oss.
Just as the peloton was cranking it up to hit the Forest of Arenberg, GVA had a crash that busted his bike. While there’s never a good place to be in want of a bike in this race, right before Arenberg has to be one of the worst places for this to happen. (This screengrab from @norbs)
I absolutely thought it was over for GVA – he lost minutes and had to chase back for much of the race (as in Flanders) and with the high pace – it was the fastest Roubaix ever – it just didn’t seem possible that he would be able to make it back in any shape to contest the win.
However, Daniel Oss had faith. He made his way into the break, rode like hell, seemingly the only person confident that GVA would find his way back, dropped his breakmates one by one until he dropped Jasper Stuyven to go cobble-crazy alone. Meanwhile, GVA was fighting his way back, jumping from group to group until he connected to Oss. Riding together in a bigger bunch, giving his team leader some respite and encouragement, making sure he was fed, watered and cared for, Oss kept riding until he had nothing else and blew out the back, leaving the Belgian to the victory. The embrace in the Velodrome said it all for both of them. Chapeau, Daniel Oss, chapeau!
In amongst the sectors
Stubborn Stybar: The Quick Step team had a very mixed Roubaix. Niki Terpstra abandoned the race after a heavy crash halfway through the race, weakening the Boonen battering ram that the team was surely supposed to be on the cobbles, yet Zdenek Stybar came within half a bike length of winning the whole thing today. There was, however, a lot of consternation in the commentary box, on Twitter and on the road itself when Stybar refused to take his turn with Langeveld and GVA on the run into the Velodrome. Should he have ridden with them? King Kelly in the commentary box kept saying he should – and that by doing that he had the best chance of winning because GVA and Langeveld wouldn’t gang up on him. Suffice it to say, he came in second so there’s wisdom in Kelly’s words.
Cannondale’s cool customer: With Sep Vanmarcke and Taylor Phinney sidelined with injuries sustained in last week’s Ronde Van Vlaanderen, I’m sure many of us thought Cannondale would do some breakaway riding today but their classics season was on the sidelines. Luckily, Sebastian Langeveld didn’t think that, riding an incredible race, keeping his cool on a hot and dusty day and keeping his wheels on the cobbles to claim a brilliant third place. Roubaix never ceases to surprise.
Bring in the kids! Probably the only thing I like about football is the fact that the players are accompanied by little children when they come out onto the field. Roubaix organisers got it totally right today by having kids (both boys and girls) escort the three riders to the podium and hand out the flowers. What a thrill that must have been for the kids – something they’ll remember their whole lives. So let’s gracefully retire ‘podium girls’ and inspire the next generation of riders by letting them mix with the pros.
Hats or no hats No hats – let’s learn a good lesson from Stybar today.
I wish we could all just hug Tom Boonen. We’ll miss him for years to come.
1 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) 5:41:07
2 Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) same time
3 Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Drapac) s/t
4 Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) s/t
5 Gianni Moscon (Team Sky) s/t
For full review of the race go to Cycling News
Header image: Greg Van Avermaet ©GETTY IMAGES / Corbis Sport / Tim de Waele