The Moment The Race Was Won: Paris-Roubaix

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Greg Van Avermaet wins the sprint in the Roubaix velodrome after a frantic race ridden at record speed that was defined by misfortune and mishaps. The result was uncertain right until the final metres as Zdeněk Štybar launched a powerful sprint and looked to have the jump on his rivals only for Van Avermaet to surge in the final straight and win.

KM 0 Paris Roubaix

The race started with wave after wave of attacks. Attacks rather than breakaways, nothing could stick. There was a tailwind but it was light, the wind turbines on the horizon were spinning slowly like giant clocks. The peloton was like an ants’ nest that had been poked with many riders and teams keen to send riders up the road in the early move; the live TV was another incentive for the lesser teams to get some airtime. Sometimes a move would get ten seconds and hold this for kilometres only to be reeled in by the relentless pursuit. Katusha and Cannondale-Drapac were among the World Tour teams firing men up the road in these early attempts.

Luke Durbridge

With 172km to go Luke Durbridge crashed, the first of several mishaps for him and the first lesson of the day that a rider can be in form but out of luck and it proved to be a hard 26th birthday for the West Australian. Finally after over 90km a move went with Yannick Martinez (Delko-Provence-Marseille), Mickaël Delage (FDJ) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal). 40 years ago Martinez’s father Mariano was in the early breakaway too but Yannick didn’t last long as he washed out on the cobbles to leave two in the lead.

Oliver Naesen was the next contender to crash and if he fought back it cost him plenty of energy as he chased through the dust clouds with the scenes more like the Dakar rally than northern France. Soon after Niki Terpstra was involved in a different crash and if he was up and riding for a moment he had to stop because of his injuries. This would be a blow to Boonen’s chances but with hindsight Boonen had Štybar for cover later on so we don’t know what Terpstra could have done.

Greg Van Avermaet was the next victim of misfortune with 102km to go, a long way out but a crucial moment because the Arenberg Forest section was only minutes away. Tom Boonen knew it and accelerated to help bury his Belgian rival and for a moment Van Avermaet was isolated without his team mates. It was about this time though that Alexander Kristoff punctured and this was a quietly significant tactical event. As the main group of riders reached Arenberg Tony Martin hit the front and appeared to be riding tempo on the treacherous stones and for a while nobody could pass.

Behind Van Avermaet and Kristoff had got together with others while up ahead Katusha were slowing the pace as much as they could. For once the Arenberg wasn’t about who was eliminated but the Van Avermaet and Kristoff group being able to keep in touching distance.

The Hornaing cobbles saw Trek-Segafredo hit the front en masse and they shredded the group forcing a split that saw Tom Boonen on the wrong side. He’d chase but this was energy being used up and by now his Quick Step team was diminished with only Zdeněk Štybar and Matteo Trentin in proximity to Boonen.

Maciej Bodnar and Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan attacked with 77km to go, taking team mate Maciej Bodnar for company and Daniel Oss of BMC and Jasper Stuyven of Trek jumped on. A long way to go but the big names were on the move and Sagan was forcing his rivals to react, especially as Quick Step were looking light, Trek were catching their breath and BMC and Katusha were still preoccupied with getting Van Avermaet and Kristoff back to the front of the race. Only Sagan’s threat lasted minutes, his back wheel was fishtailing across the pavé thanks to a puncture. With Bodnar stopping to help his leader it left Oss and Stuyven up the road, two valuable lieutenants rather than captains, unable to ride away with the race on their own but they weren’t going to be given any room either in what was a theme of the day with nobody being allowed to take a significant, sustained advantage of a minute all day.

Jasper Stuyven and Daniel Oss

Gianni Moscon impressed last year as a neo-pro before crashing out late in the race and Il Trattore (“the tractor”) was back for more and looking even stronger. The accordion-playing Sky rider clipped away after the Orchies pavé with Jürgen Roelandts and Dimitri Claeys and soon formed a five man group with Oss and Stuyven. Soon after on the five star rated Mons-en-Pévèle cobbles Peter Sagan attacked again prompting a new selection with nine riders now in pursuit of the five ahead and they caught them with 40km to go. Oss surged away solo followed by Sebastian Langeveld and later Zdeněk Štybar gave chase over the Templeuve pavé. Peter Sagan saw the danger and chased. Could he get across? No as he suffered another puncture and went from contender in the lead to also-ran in seconds while Greg Van Avermaet quietly slid across.

Without Sagan the result was a lead group with Štybar, Roelandts, Stuyven, Moscon, Langeveld and the BMC pair of Oss and Van Avermaet. This group of seven held about 30 seconds on the chasing group with Boonen, largely thanks to the work of Oss who towed the group onwards while behind there were few teams or riders willing to chase because the only team with significant numbers in the Boonen group were Trek-Segafredo and Lotto-Soudal and they had Roelandts and Stuyven ahead. Oss soon cracked on the Camphin cobbles, the price to pay for his herculean exploits, just as Langeveld and Štybar accelerated with Van Avermaet in tow.

The Carrefour de l’Arbre, so often decisive because of its location in the race as well as severity saw Greg Van Avermaet launch the winning move. He accelerated and had Langeveld in his wheel while Štybar showed some of his cyclocross skills to rush Stuyven on a corner and latch on to the departing move just in time. Roelandts, Moscon and Stuyven were all blown away to leave a trio.

Behind Boonen wasn’t finished as he tried to give chase and we got to see him in full flow over the cobbles for one last time, back arched, elbows at right angles with those triceps flexing. But this was his last fight and by now he was too far back and had rivals marking him out even if Oliver Naeasen was a brief help, still somehow back in the action after all his troubles.

Up front Van Avermaet was doing the most work among the three. He had to. Štybar was in a Sedan chair knowing he didn’t need to work because Boonen was chasing behind. Langeveld could contribute because a podium place was at stake but knowing that he is intrinsically slower in a sprint it was up to him to help sap Van Avermaet rather than tow him into Roubaix.

The three entered the velodrome together but slowed up so much that Stuyven and Moscon caught them on the track. Moscon launched the sprint and Štybar and Van Avermaet chased. Crucially Van Avermaet paused in his chase which let Štybar go ahead. The Czech then surged and Van Avermaet could follow his slipstream and then come around in the finishing straight to take the win.

Behind Arnaud Démare won the bunch sprint ahead of a lively André Greipel in what proved to be a tightly packed finish with 23 riders within 30 seconds of the winner, there are often minutes between the first few riders and we have to go back to 1997 to find an edition with so many riders in such proximity to the winner.

The Verdict
It wasn’t a thriller with ever-changing scenarios and big drama. This was more the story of gradual changes and attrition. For example Greg Van Avermaet was among those to suffer from misfortune because of his puncture before the Arenberg forest but gradually rode himself back into the race while Peter Sagan was undone by an accumulation of setbacks rather than one spectacular moment like last week. Similarly there were no barnstorming attacks but we still got plenty of suspense in the finish given the uncertainty of the sprint in the velodrome, especially when Moscon and Stuyven gatecrashed the sprint to make it a five rider contest.

Greg Van Avermaet’s good fortune was to suffer his misfortune early so that he had time to ride back into the race. The Belgian collects his first Monument classic and continues a run of form that’s included victory in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the GP E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem as well as second place in the Tour of Flanders and Strade Bianche. He’s not done yet as he says he’ll ride the Amstel Gold Race and who’d bet against him at the World Championships later this year in Norway too? “Golden Greg” can’t replace Tom Boonen, not because of results but because of personalities – not for him photoshoots in a bath of beans – but he’s proving equally reliable as Boonen, albeit aged 32, and so the Belgians will have plenty to cheer as they wave goodbye to Boonen and wait for the likes of Naesen and Stuyven to bloom. Zdeněk Štybar’s second place on the podium is overdue and perhaps a satisfying result too because first place might have had a touch of the lèse-majesté about it even if he demonstrably sat on the back of the trio for much of the ride into Roubaix. Sebastian Langeveld gets a surprise result after years in the wilderness, a Dutch national title in 2014 but a shadow of his 2011 season when he won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in foul conditions and placed fifth in Flanders and makes you wonder how good Sep Vanmarcke could have been.

The race finished with a record average speed of 45.204km/h, beating Peter Post’s 1965 effort from an era before they added the notorious farm tracks that define the race today. Today the tailwind helped but it also was the manner of the race that was different, they covered 51km in the first hour, 50.5km in the second hour and kept going. Wanty-Gobert’s Yoann Offredo told Eurosport he never had the chance to stop and urinate, normally a given during such a long race.

This evening the curtain comes down on the cobbled classics for another year. There were 102 official finishers but 18 others made it to Roubaix to prove that the crumbling concrete bowl in Roubaix is somehow an Elysian field. Everyone in the race today will have their own stories of misfortune and private battles and Peter Sagan’s account would be interesting, he was dominant during several phases of the race only to lose out because of mechanicals. Tom Boonen can now dine out knowing that he finished in Roubaix still a contender all those years after his third place in 2002.

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Chris April 9, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Good race with a result that left no doubt.

I wonder if we will miss Boonen? I say this because a year ago I thought we’d miss Fabian Cancellara but already his place has been occupied by others and new rivalries are in shape.

Netserk April 9, 2017 at 9:53 pm

It seems like the cobbles are less and less selective, could it be that the work to restore them has been done too well?

Cobblestone April 9, 2017 at 10:16 pm

I think there are more reasons for that. The level between riders seems to be closer with every year passing. Another reason is some very defensive and tactical riding (see Boonen’s comments on Degenkolb). People seem to be happy to mark other riders and watch their moves but as soon as they are wheeled in, they stop riding. Very few want to take the initiative.
I think it’s about time for some foul weather during P-R to see big gaps and solo moves. I still think however that today’s edition was an intriguing affair. Pity about some of the mechanicals which happened, particularly during Sagan’s two attacks as those could have been pivotal moments in the race. It’s a shame that the best part of the entire season has finished today.

STS April 9, 2017 at 11:01 pm

Can we really ask for more than today’s race? There have been editions with muddy conditions which were far less exciting than today’s race which I watched from the start to the end – most of the time without any commentary and commercial breaks thanks to the Eurosport Player – but wasn’t bored a single minute. I would say road racing at its best and having seen some 30 editions of this race I hope for many more dry editions of P-R.

Ecky Thump April 10, 2017 at 9:36 am

Totally agree.
That was the fast and the furious.
I thought it was compelling.
Eurosport seemed to be cursing everyone; they’d flash an interview up on screen or mention a rider, and the next thing *crash, bang,wallop or hiss*.
A poster yesterday mentioned The Grand National and that comparison was quite fitting too somehow.

Somers April 11, 2017 at 5:13 pm

I’ve never seen a P-R where there were so many punctures to the favourites!!! It was crazy.

STS April 9, 2017 at 10:18 pm

Thanks for the good report and analysis, Inrng. Many other things will be written about this race but you elaborated the two main things:
1. A race this fast will never let big time gaps develop, since it’s mutually exclusive.
2. And P-R is always a lottery more than any other race.
But still the probably strongest rider won. His self-confidence going into the final with a non-working Stybar on his wheel seemed to be exuberant but his sprint showed that it was absolutely justified. What a supreme victory leaving no room for what ifs to be answered at least for me. GvA was luckier than the wheelbarrow-pusher (love it) but in the end he prooved that he had no competition to fear today.

The Cauberg April 9, 2017 at 10:23 pm

Ride into Rio? Am I missing a pun or is that a typo?

The Inner Ring April 9, 2017 at 10:36 pm

A cruel autocorrect I think, comparing Roubaix to Rio. Both gold for Van Avermaet though. Fixed now.

J Evans April 9, 2017 at 10:42 pm

Very good analysis – great to have you back doing these.

Why is Moscon called ‘The Tractor’?

Thought Degenkolb sitting on Boonen’s wheel doing not nothing was rather pointless (evidently, Boonen wasn’t impressed either), as Stuyven was dropped fairly early from the front group.
Not that Stuyven – or Roelandts – ever looked like they had much of a chance. So, their teams played into GVA’s hands a fair amount.

That said, GVA has been one of the strongest and certainly the cleverest (apart from missing QS’s move on the Muur) this spring. And his sprint was incredible.

Sagan could learn from GVA about remaining anonymous in races and only attacking when you have to (he could also take a pay cut and have someone like Oss on his team).
(Sometimes it does seem that ego triumphs just too much over good tactical racing in his mind. Overall, though, I hope he doesn’t change – I don’t really care how many races he wins, but this way he makes the races much more exciting.)
He could also learn about how to deal with wheelsuckers – they’re part of racing and GVA just got on with it (again).

Štybar’s overtake of Stuyven was the race highlight for me. Oof.

Anonymous April 9, 2017 at 11:36 pm

All this nonsense about Sagan needing a pay cut to have “better” teammates is irritating. With guys like Saramotins, Selig, Burghardt, Bodnar u.s.w., he has had solid support not only today but throughout the classics season. Bad luck and the target on his back, under which Cancellara also suffered, have not made his or his team’s job easy. So what? From the fan’s point of view, it’s made amazing racing, and all these Monday morning quarterbacks need to calm down and enjoy the show.

MJj April 10, 2017 at 6:49 am

Isn’t this blog the opportunity to Monday morning quarterback or are we merely cheerleading? Other than the Bodner move, I cannot recall a dynamic action by Sagan’s teammates late in any Classic. And as much as the media wants to elevate him, I do not see Sagan as the force majeure that Cancellara was. My only quibble with J Evans commentary is that I am not sure Sagan can be anonymous; everyone looks to him and GVA has learned to profit from this. But this season he looks just as strong.

Anonymous April 10, 2017 at 8:48 am

Quick Step, Trek, BMC, amongst others – much stronger team’s than Bora.

Rod April 10, 2017 at 7:23 am

If you were arguably the #1 rider in the world and double WC, would you prefer better teammates and win more races… or get jobs for yourself and 4 of your best mates, including your brother?

Good or bad, Sagan is not the Cannibal – his desire to win is not all-consuming.

Anonymous April 10, 2017 at 8:05 am

Then why is he a professional athlete?

Rod April 10, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Well, by definition, because he makes a living from his sporting activity. And he has enough clout to define such terms in his contract. And Sagan has never made a it a secret that he doesn’t have the desire to win every race he enters: he’s not Merckx, or even Armstrong, in that regard. I’d say he is more than good enough as it is 🙂

Having an entourage as a rider in the contract is not that unusual. Lots of sprinters have included their leadout men, and Contador has included a set of helpers as well. Arguably the teams that sign the contracts and pay the salaries know what they are getting into. If you prefer, you can try to setup something like a no-salary-all-bonuses contract with big $ for winning races. Maybe Tinkoff would have hired you as a labour and contract solicitor!

The Inner Ring April 10, 2017 at 8:42 am

He’s the tractor because he’s from a family of farmers (mainly apples) and from a young age enjoyed riding on the tractor… and in the U23 ranks he was as powerful as one, he was the first pick for “riders to watch in 2016” in this blog’s annual piece (http://inrng.com/2016/01/neo-pros-to-watch-for-2016/)

J Evans April 10, 2017 at 8:50 am

Ta.

N April 9, 2017 at 11:02 pm

Thank you

Othersteve April 10, 2017 at 1:55 am

Was it my imagination or did it seem that Moscon ( Sky) was on the front for no real reason other then to be on the front?

Thierry April 10, 2017 at 4:30 am

Well that’s a good reason.

J Evans April 10, 2017 at 8:51 am

Because Sky.

Hammarling April 10, 2017 at 12:34 pm

At the least it gets you out the way of other riders making it easier to avoid crashes and pick your own line. May waste more energy against the wind, but as we saw yesterday it wasn’t wasting energy that ended many riders hopes of a win.

Joe K. April 10, 2017 at 2:56 am

GVA seems to be a whole different rider from just one or two seasons ago. It’s not only his fitness that’s improved, but his mental game, like racing strategy as well as his overall confidence, especially in the final sprint–which has become quite zippy. Glad to see him reaching his full potential.

NickV April 10, 2017 at 9:52 am

GVAs emergence this season as a calculated winner is reminiscent of Cadel Evans post his world championship win in Mendrisio.
Amazing talent, lots of potential, told by everyone you’ll be a champion one day, but it takes a victory of significance to the rider themself (Worlds for Cadel, Olympics for GVA) that finally unleashes the self belief that is the last piece of the jigsaw.

stevhanti April 10, 2017 at 1:07 pm

I think that déclic came with his first tdf stage win over Sagan. If memory serves me that same summer he got robbed of a San Sebastian victory by a race moto. Which fired him up quite a lot.

duncan April 10, 2017 at 1:40 pm

+1 – very similar to CE

Pax April 10, 2017 at 3:21 am

Nice write-up.

GVA was impressive with Oss doing an awesome job.

Great race – fun to watch the whole thing.

Also was impressed by Moscon, and the Cannondale, Quickstep, BMC, Trek, Lotto Soudal teams.

Augie March April 10, 2017 at 3:57 am

Trek as a team certainly laid the smack down and I thought they were really going for it, but then it became obvious Degenkolb was just planning to sit in, expecting Boonen and Sagan to tow him to the finish line which was disappointing.

I’m glad GVA finally gave me the victory I’ve been predicting on this blog for him for years now 🙂 Seriously though, a great ride worthy of a monument winner, and Oss has to be the teammate of the year.

Langeveld was especially impressive considering his team lost their two biggest engines to crashes last week.

Finally, great to see Greipel up the pointy end, he seems like if he really focussed on this race he could be a real contender, but usually seems to be working for others.

Logan April 10, 2017 at 3:41 am

Great race, maybe not a classic so to speak, but you didnt know who was going to win until the last few seconds.

In regards to riders racing defensively, I think when you have a few riders who are clearly that bit stronger than others, you will always get negative racing. Forcing gaps to open on the flat is always harder than when it’s a w/pkg competition going uphill. Every time Boonen forced the pace on the cobbles, people were happy to scramble to jump on, but that was it. No one was really strong enough to ride everyone off their wheel.

As Pax mentioned, solid ride by Moscan, could probably done more by not being so aggressive later in the race, but he was clearly feeling good. He was impressive last year as well, so this just solidifies it. Cannondale batted above their average so to speak, they were very impressive bearing in mind how mediocre they have been all classics campaign.

Anyway, bit tired now here in Australia, the 1am finish with young kids waking up early makes it tough.

Anonymous April 12, 2017 at 5:58 am

Try watching it in New Zealand

Thierry April 10, 2017 at 4:34 am

Where are the east europe teams and the east europe pros this year ?
After the russian affair, Are they searching for a new lab ?

mdk April 10, 2017 at 2:23 pm

Sagan, Stybar, Kwiatkowsky are east europe pros.

Eskerrik Asko April 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm

Central European, please.

One Man Grupetto April 10, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Katusha decanted almost all their Russian riders to the Gazprom team who scored an invite to the Giro again this year. They’ve also got a very decent race programme but tend to ride more in Italy and Spain to start the year, although will race De Brabantsje Pijl on Wednesday.

DaveS April 10, 2017 at 7:07 am

Somehow, it would not have been fitting if Stybar had won. He played the shadow too much on the closing stages. All in all, great race with great result. I loved being able to watch the whole thing. Paris/Roubaix is a race that develops slowly and it was great to see exactly how.

duncan April 10, 2017 at 1:39 pm

did you feel like the speed they went out at might have contributed to a dull 2nd half this year? just wondering, full tv coverage might have helped a great race last year, was just wondering if it had a negative effect this year.

Red Tornado April 10, 2017 at 9:03 pm

Agree. Although I can understand why he or the team chose that tactic initially, but by the last 5-10km (maybe even within 10-15km) it was obvious that Boonen would not be contesting for the win. Prior to that I don’t have a problem with him sitting on, but after that a win would have reminded me too much of Gerrans @ MSR. Cunning race tactics? Yeah, probably; but also bad form IMHO. It’s a debate that will always generate differences of opinion based on what side of the fence your on.

Not the same since this example is club riding not racing as a job, but guys who show up for our club rides who sit on forever refusing to do any work and then out-sprint the pack repeatedly are eventually asked to take some pulls or go find another ride.

DaveS April 14, 2017 at 8:53 am

It’s always a dilemma this sitting on thing. From the athlete’s point of view, the result is all that counts, but from the point of view of the fans, it’s as much HOW the result is achieved. And we have seen some serious heroics this spring. Great stuff.

Mendip5000 April 10, 2017 at 7:20 am

Not only am I left wondering how Sep Van Marke might have fared, I can’t help thinking how the race might have been if Gilbert had been there to repay the favours Boonen bestowed on his team mate from de Ronde.

duncan April 10, 2017 at 9:36 am

For real? Boonen was a little lucky to be leader I was thinking, obvious his rep/retirement warranted it but Gilbert’s support surely wouldn’t have elevated Boonen to GVA’s or any of the other two pre race favourites level (Sagan/Neasen) – you have the feeling whatever firepower Boonen had in support, given a different scenario, one of those three would have been on him and had the beating of him in the final reckoning (whether soloing or sprinting).

He got pretty unceremoniously dropped quite a way out, which left me with the impression that really even with Gilbert, only massive stroke of luck would’ve made a difference for Boonen yesterday – plus Demare, Degenklob and Greipel had the beating of him in the second group, and you expected the same had bet on them were it the first group. Boonen really was second tier yesterday and hadn’t really *(this season) earnt the support, which was a shame, but he’s won four so can surely sleep easy!

I actually think completely the opposite – I would be frustrated were I Gilbert that I wasn’t allowed to ride P-R with full support as he was clearly the form rider at QS. It was a huge shame he wasn’t there. From that stand point it feels like he did Boonen a big favour stepping down so there was no fear of dual leadership. Duncan

J Evans April 10, 2017 at 10:57 am

I largely agree about Gilbert, although he might be a bit lightweight for the pave. If he doesn’t perform in the Ardennes this won’t look a very good decision (although they did still come 2nd).

irungo txuletak April 10, 2017 at 2:15 pm

I still predict a good Gilbert in the coming races. gilbert is a rider that needs to race to be in form and usually maintains his level during some time.

cd April 10, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Langaveld is lighter. I think Phil could have done well, but may have suffered same fate as Stybar.

Duncan April 10, 2017 at 8:41 pm

Admittedly he’s only ever raced P-R once…. so who knows!

Paul Gorman April 10, 2017 at 9:26 am

Another fine cobbled season comes to an end (does Brabantse Pijl count?). Some great racing over the last 6 weeks, and at last Greg gets his monument.

The Inner Ring April 10, 2017 at 10:20 am

There’s the Tro Bro Leon coming up soon too but that’s different and the season switches soon with stage races, the Giro is fast approaching.

Ecky Thump April 10, 2017 at 9:28 am
Huylebroeckt April 10, 2017 at 9:58 am

It’s a wordplay on his name: Boonen means beans in dutch

The Inner Ring April 10, 2017 at 10:16 am

Exactly he’s “Tom Beans” in English, the same as Alberto Contador can translate literally as “Albert Accountant” etc

irungo txuletak April 10, 2017 at 2:06 pm

foreign language note:

Boonen means “beans” indeed, but contador means “counter”, not “accountant”. Accountant is translated by “contable” in spanish.

Rod April 10, 2017 at 3:24 pm

“Contador” is the exact term for accountant in many Latin American countries (Arg., Mex., etc.).

Specifically advertised as “Contador Publico” (public accountant) if you’re trying get someone to help you with your payroll, etc.

The Inner Ring April 10, 2017 at 8:47 pm

Ha, that’s why I carefully typed “can translate” fearing there’d be a Spanish vs Latin American explainer 😉

irungo txuletak April 11, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Learned something, thanks… My comment was based on the spanish language as it is spoken in Spain indeed. Didn’t know that “contador” was used for accountant in latin america.

Ecky Thump April 10, 2017 at 4:35 pm

Ha, that’s fabulous.

PT April 13, 2017 at 12:45 pm

So Boonen and Contador on a podium together give us a Bean Counter?

Steppings April 10, 2017 at 9:29 am

Very enjoyable race, though going past the rape seed fields I almost thought we had been transported to July! GVA the strongest of the hammers lately and well deserved win. I though Tom could be very proud of his efforts today and a nice way to bow out, all be it a podium would have been nicer. Oss looked so smooth out there I thought at one point he may have gone all the way. As has been mentioned, its a race of a thousand stories and I am so glad there were NO crazy incidents etc. this year

Hugh W April 10, 2017 at 9:53 am

I was a bit surprised that Stybar didn’t try harder to get away in the last 10km. Having seen Terpstra – again after having done no work – beaten in the sprint by Van Avermaet at Flanders, he must have known he stood little chance in the same situation. The speed with which Van Avermaet covered Stybar’s single effort – at about 4km – was, at least in my head, the moment the race was one.

duncan April 10, 2017 at 1:35 pm

I agreed – as soon as Sagan was gone it over for me based on recent form even if I like Stybar – the fact that Stybar beat GVA in a Roubaix sprint a few years back gave a glimmer of interest, but from everything more recent made it pretty faint.

GVA deserved the win, it was impressive and would have shame had he never won a Monument (I like the best winning at some point!) but just such a shame we never saw the GVA vs Sagan face off in Flanders/PR.

They’ve been so far ahead this Spring of everyone aside from Gilbert & Neasen, it’s all I really wanted.

Although, even aside from this the race was quite dull – all the bit part players seemed to either no be on form or have bad luck, the amount of moans on cyclingnews is quite impressive but no real threat for all the various reasons from Van Marcke, Krisoff, Degenklob, Stannard, Rowe, Boassen Hagen, even Boonen was a real shame.

There were so many teams racing without almost no real point – is this always the same? Bahrain Merida, Roomport, Fortuneo, Wanty, Astana, SVB, Cofidis, Sunweb all seemingly had nothing to contribute or really turn up for, which really does feel like a shame.

I know part of this is ‘it’s just cycling’ and I love minor stories in the tours and teams to make up the numbers, but the list above just feels a little excessive, almost like the race itself is at fault…

And it’s even including Direct Energie and a few others who were present towards the finish but you knew had no real hope. Duncan

One Man Grupetto April 10, 2017 at 2:29 pm

P-R is a World Tour race so all the top level teams have to ride, even where you could say they don’t have a top-level legitimate contender. I did see De Backer for Sunweb yesterday, De Vreese for Astana, Marcato for UAE but rarely anyone from Bahrain-Merida aside from maybe Božič early on. That said, they still offered more than when Euskaltel were forced to ride. You really knew where you were in the pecking order at that team if you got handed a schedule for the year with the cobbled classics on them.

I agree though, there seem to be a large amount of wild cards which for a race which squeezes the peleton through cobbled sections. However there are some decent cobbles riders on many of those team. Cofidis (Senechal), Wanty (Offredo) and SVB (Allegaert) were all in the top-20.

Mr. Pither April 11, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Štybar was allowed by team to go for himself only 4 kms to go.

Ecky Thump April 10, 2017 at 9:59 am

There was another fascinating race-within-a-race yesterday, with the final Spring instalment of the Quick Step v Sagan battle for the universe.
I realise that I’ve become a fully paid-up member of the Peter Sagan Fan Club this past year, but I actually thought that this was the one race that QS did a number on him.
It was toe to toe, wielding their S Works clubs. The cruelest was the Boonen / Stybar series of one-two’s.
It had Sagan virtually done for in my estimation, and the puncture totally put an end to him.
Battle for the Universe did I say – except the winner has been Greg Van Avermaet!

duncan April 10, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I thought similar Sagan got completely worked over.

Ecky Thump April 11, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Inner Ring mentioned Tersptra.
You would have to assume that Terpstra would have formed part of this relentless series of attacks on Sagan.
It underlines an issue here – if Sagan is over-prominent on the front, he is prone to a strong team like Quick Step pulling off this tactic and, of course, everyone else is looking at Sagan and his team mates to close them down.
If they don’t, he’s got a Gilbert, Stybar, or a Terpstra sailing off in to the distance.

Michael B April 10, 2017 at 12:54 pm

For all the focus on Sagan over the past few years GVA looks unbeatable at present. I’d like to thank the bookies who had him at a very generous 9-1 yesterday. Ka-ching!

duncan April 10, 2017 at 1:37 pm

such a good bet. those are mad odds. he was easily co-favourite even if Sagan might be a better rider overall, GVA has been the closer this season – whether or not that has been a consequence of Sagan vs the Peloton.

irungo txuletak April 10, 2017 at 2:23 pm

It is incredible to see how gva turned from being a serial looser to a winner. When Stybar launched the sprint and entered the last curve with such an advantage, I really though gva was beaten – this is normally what happens in Roubaix. But this time, gva succeeded in restablishing the situation in a magistral way.
In general terms, he races much more audaciously than before. For sure he had a bit of luck yesterday, but it cannot be denied that he made the moves he had to do and at the right moment too.

Duncan April 10, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Luck in that Sagan punctured? Felt like GVA (even if I’m not a lover) over came quite bad luck – plenty of riders who didn’t crash and puncture and be held up as bad as he did who he beat… just shows how much better he is than the majority this season I guess – which I why I was thinking it surprised me a bit he didn’t drop everyone on Carrefour… although I guess even Cancellara couldn’t drop the wheel sucker Stybar! *(I like Stybar – just joking, although he is a bit of a cobbles follower!)

tyler April 11, 2017 at 2:02 am

He also escaped the shadow of a doping investigation not so long ago. Based on cycling’s storied history, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

I have my doubts.

SPR April 10, 2017 at 3:39 pm

One thing I missed (well saw it but want to check out what lead to it) and would like to re-watch to check is why Boonen didn’t follow when GVA was trying to follow Stybar? That’s where his challenge for the win ended.

Duncan April 10, 2017 at 4:33 pm

He must have been out of legs – no other reason – no team issues as he’d have just needed to follow – free ride – I agree it’s where the race was lost for Boonen – but you suspect even if he had somehow been in that group before GVA found his way over he’d have been beaten somehow by GVA – he just wasn’t in that calibre this year. Dashing Duncan.

STS April 10, 2017 at 4:45 pm

The most probable reason was that Tom had half of the field sitting on his rear rack whenever he twitched a leg muscle fiber. So at that point he was eventually – much too late IMHO – accepting that QS had to enter a game of poker in order to win the race rather than try to smash the competition the Russian style. With all the guys watching his every move he would have nullified Stybar’s move if he followed GvA.

The Inner Ring April 10, 2017 at 8:34 pm

I think he was out of place at the time, uncharacteristically he was towards the back of the group at this important moment so he could only see what was happening.

Duncan April 10, 2017 at 8:40 pm

Isn’t it strange though that he first didn’t follow Sagan and then didn’t follow GVA? I just saw it as being a gonna at that stage?

SPR April 10, 2017 at 10:11 pm

That makes sense but he seemed to see it in time to go all in to chase if he wanted (certainly didn’t look like the time Cancellara caught him out) and it made sense to chase as Stybar had a gap to GVA and therefore stopping the GVA catch at that point would benefit both Stybar and Boonen. I remember thinking it was odd immediately. I can’t remember whether Boonen had done a big turn leading into that moment though.

Bern April 10, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Not really a ‘moment the race was won’ (unless you focus only on those last dozen pedal revs)…more a ‘set of moments when the race could have been, but was not lost’.

Which is just as good, and must feel supremely satisfying for the victor and his team…

JEB April 10, 2017 at 4:28 pm

A thorough and insightful write up. Thank you sharing with us Inrng.

I feel vindicated in suggesting Greipel could be worth chainring in the preview. The bookies had him at 50 to 1 with the option of 1/4 odd for each way (top 4). Clearly setting the odd on previous results rather than recent form and focus. Didn’t have to win, just win the ‘bunch’ sprint for 2nd/3rd/4th. Nearly paid off but not quite. At least I had GVA as my ‘safety’ bet at 8 to 1! (again setting by results and not form or focus). Boonen and Sagen were never worth a punt at nearly even odds when so much of this race depends on not having a puncture, mechanical or being the wrong side of a crash.

The Inner Ring April 10, 2017 at 8:35 pm

It was a pleasure to watch Greipel racing, he’s done it before and very visible in his kit so it sticks in the mind. He’s helping his team who will ride for him in the weeks and months to come and seems to enjoy the racing itself. I have a small theory that when a sprinter solos away for the win it’s a kind of swansong but Greipel isn’t there yet.

Alejandro Marinero April 10, 2017 at 4:43 pm

It’s about time that the three GTs should include an individual time trial over a cobble/gravel roads of at least 42 kms to challenge riders not to be dependent to their teammates. This for me has more impact to define the greatness of a cyclist. It could also spiced up more to the excitement in a GT. As of now ITTs are either on a hilly, pan-flat or MTF, but all of which are on a smooth surface.

STS April 10, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Interesting suggestion. Now include a little climb and a descent into that gravel section and we’re facing a lot of entertainment 😉 .

Duncan April 10, 2017 at 8:45 pm

Great suggestion – although would be a shame to lose a big contender to a crash on the cobbles… ‘spose we lose them any way along the way…

Would massively favour Froome I suspect in the TDF currently though, Quintana did well last time, but a TT you’d expect of all the current contenders Froome to be a bit ahead of the others?

Would be very interesting when Dumoulin comes to his top GT level in the next few years. Have all my fingers crossed for him at Giro.

J Evans April 12, 2017 at 10:44 am

Would massively favour Nibali.

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