It’s the Queen of the Classics and Paris-Roubaix 2019 did not disappoint. With the peloton hitting full gas from Kilometre 0, the race ebbed and flowed with chaos and echelons all day long. With no break being allowed to get
for very long, the peloton went full pelt through the cobbled sectors until Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Katusha’s Nils Politt made the move that broke the race apart, as they were joined by defending champion Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), Sep Vanmarcke (EF-Education First), Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and PhilGil’s teammate Yves Lampaert. Working together until about 10km to go, it was soon down to Gilbert and Politt, with the Belgian winning the sprint in the Velodrome. Lampaert came third. That was the short version of what happened … but whoa, this race gave so much more than a victory.
Rider of the RaceEmbed from Getty Images
When you win Paris-Roubaix and your fourth out of the five Monuments, I think you’ve earned the right to be the sole Rider of the Race. Philippe Gilbert has had a phenomenal career since turning professional in 2003 (yes, 2003 …) and has been a fixture in the spring season ever since. His palmares includes stages in all three Grand Tours, three national championships, one-day race championships a go-go, particularly in the Ardennes, a World Championship and titles in all the Monuments except for Milan-SanRemo (there’s always next year). Along the way, he has ridden with grit, determination, esprit d’corps and a large dollop of panache. And today was a masterclass in how to win the hardest race in the calendar.
Roubaix requires sustained luck; and it rewards focus and attention and a career’s worth of experience and racecraft over youth and exuberance. Gilbert had the luck – no punctures, crashes, bad placement in the peloton; and he had the experience to make the first significant attack that shook the race apart with 67km to go, the racecraft to put in big digs that uncoupled tired members of an elite six-man group just before the 20km mark, and the focus that enabled him to jump onto Politt’s wheel when the Katusha rider made his own bid for glory after Carrefour with 14km to go.
No one could follow and the duo were soon away, riding together to keep Sagan, Vanmarcke and Lampaert from regaining contact (they’d distanced Van Aert a bit earlier). By the time they went under the flamme rouge, it was Gilbert’s to lose – but even then he didn’t take the win for granted. He maneouvred Politt to enter the Velodrome in front of him and kept him there until the final bell when the 36-year-old legend put in a turn of speed that Politt couldn’t match.
Katusha’s surprise second
Katusha have been having a rough time as a team – not seeming to be able to put together a race plan that made sense over the past year. So when the light blue and maroon of the team kept popping up at the front of the race – either in short-lived breaks or on the front of the peloton itself – I joked that I’d seen them more this afternoon than I had all year. But when Nils Politt, the 25-year-old German rider, went with PhilGil in the decisive break and then when he went on the attack in Carrefour de l’Arbre and only PhilGil could bridge, it looked like a fairytale ending could be in order. It was, however, PhilGil’s day but what a result for this young rider. Let’s hope we see a lot more of him in the future – he’s got a lot of class.
Wout the hell?
It was not a good day for Jumbo-Visma riders – or riders who were on the wrong side of the Jumbo-Visma teamcar. First up, Wout Van Aert, who is clearly an unbelievably strong rider but this season particularly hasn’t had much luck. A mechanical in Arenberg, and crash after crash had the young Belgian rider picking himself back up and racing at full pelt to get back on the end of the peloton time and time again. The amount of energy he had to have expended just to keep the Roubaix yo-yo going was astonishing. It’s no wonder that when PhilGil put the pressure on with 22km to go, WVA couldn’t hold the wheels and saw his tilt at a podium place leaving him in a cloud of dust. But he kept on riding, he kept on trying to make the catch. If nothing else, the kid just never folds.
But the big question of the day was: where were his teammates when he crashed? Why didn’t Jumbo send someone back to help pace him up when he had his mechanical and when he crashed earlier in the race? Where was his teamcar (we’ll answer that in a second)? For a rider who has shown such promise and determination this season, it’s strange that there would be little to no team support.
And speaking of the Jumbo team car – what the actual hell happened to Tiesj Benoot? Well, seems the Lotto-Soudal rider went into the back of the car – there was a picture of where the back windscreen should have been, so he must have hit it with speed. He had to leave the race in tears – and was sent straight to hospital.
It wasn’t just Jumbo team car that had its problems, but the EF-All the Words team car drove straight past Taylor Phinney while he was by the side of the road, waiting for a bike change. They apparently didn’t seem him. Even though he is actually almost 7ft tall and was wearing bright pink. So Phinney had to abandon. I guess it’s lucky That Boy is so chilled …
He took it with good graces
Remember: for more Roubaix reactions, plus a lot more, don’t forget about Tuesday’s TWEETS OF THE WEEK. We have more great tweets waiting than cobbles in the Forest of Arenberg.
Final resultsEmbed from Getty Images
1 Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 5:58:02
2 Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) same time
3 Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) +0:13
4 Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First) +0:40
5 Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) +0:42
6 Florian Senechal (Deceuninck-QuickStep) +0:47
7 Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) same time
8 Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep) s/t
9 Edvaldas Siskevicius (Delko Marseille Provence) s/t
10 Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) s/t
For full race reports, go to cycling news.