The Moment Paris-Roubaix Was Won

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Mathieu van der Poel leaves the Carrefour de l’Arbre pavé sector solo while arch-rival Wout van Aert is forced to stop because of a puncture. This was the final, decisive moment that gave Van der Poel the win but came after a series of events that worked in his favour to the detriment of Van Aert.

A tailwind and so much for third time lucky, it seemed it took 27 attacks before a small group could open up a gap but that only lasted a few minutes. Even going by TV footage which didn’t show all the attacks given they also cut to video at the rear, the shots of cathedrals and landscapes, you lost count after the fiftieth visible attack. This was not a matter of arithmetic but anarchy. Amid the chaos though you could discern a plan or two. Alpecin-Deceuninck were provocative with the likes of Silvan Dillier; Jumbo-Visma were defensive, using Edoardo Affini to chase. The first 100km were covered in two hours because of all of this.

A move got clear as the first pavé sector loomed, seemingly many in the peloton needed to urinate before the crucial next phase. This couldn’t be done too too close to the cobbles because by then many would be pacing their leaders into position so a brief window opened up and Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Jonas Koch (Bora-Hansgrohe), Sjoerd Bax (UAE) and Derek Gee (Israel-PremierTech) jumped through it, with Nils Eekhoff of DSM trying to chase. It looked tentative rather than menacing and risked being swept up by the time the cobbles came.

Come the crashes. Even in the dry conditions the pavé are pernicious and the gutter perilous. Among the fallers was past winner Peter Sagan, one among many in trouble and from here the only sighting of the Soudal-Quickstep team was when they were having mechanicals or being dropped. Harsh? Yes but take your pick among many other teams who would also be out of the picture too.

Jumbo-Visma weren’t immune to misfortune. Wout van Aert had a puncture with 110km to go. Far from the finish and no hurry… only he and his team had other plans. He got back, rode up to the front and minutes later the race caught fire on the Haveluy to Wallers cobbled section when Jumbo-Visma attacked. Traditionally teams try to pace leaders into the Arenberg to get them ahead of any crashes but this was an attack and an attempt to distance rivals as well as risk. Suddenly Van Aert, Laporte, Van der Poel were clear with Stefan Küng, John Degenkolb and the surprise of neo-pro musketeer Madis Mihkels. With hindsight this move was perfect as the participants hauled themselves clear of the carnage.

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The Arenberg section felled many riders including last year’s winner Van Baarle and the ensuing traffic jam delayed more. Mads Pedersen made it through and got across to the lead and soon after Max Walscheid, Laurenz Rex and Alpecin pair of Jasper Philipsen and Gianni Vermeersch made it too. With these additions, a subtraction as Christophe Laporte was undone a puncture in the Arenberg trench and out while Alpecin-Deceuninck and Intermarché-Circus-Wanty had numbers while Jumbo-Visma didn’t. Numerical superiority is the Dutch team’s prime plan whether it’s the Galibier last summer, Geraardsbergen last February and probably Gruson here. Only Van Aert was now by himself.

Laporte got a spare and tried to chase but was eventually swept up. Soon he and team mate Van Hooydonck jumped clear of the bunch and were joined by Lotto’s Florian Vermeersch. A two minute gap to close? Well they couldn’t just sit back in the peloton and chat, plus their potato-hunting forced Alpecin-Deceuninck to drive the front group, thus allowing Van Aert to hang back.

Each cobbled sector seemed to shake loose a rider and the unheralded ones too, soon Koch was cooked, Bax went backwards and Rex was deposed to leave an all-star group of seven: Van der Poel and Philipsen, Van Aert, Küng, Ganna, Pedersen and Degenkolb. Degenkolb was the surprise traveller in the front wagon but as former winner of the race, plus a Roubaix stage winner in the Tour, he was very much a first-class ticket holder.

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Van der Poel was making several moves, including on the tarmac. Too much, too soon? It was a worry in the moment especially because a year ago he looked so strong then faded. If some of the others in the group wanted to win then it should have been them making these moves but the likes of Ganna and Küng were just holding on tight.

On the four and five star sectors Van der Poel and Van Aert looked like staff on a cruise ship during a storm, deftly navigating the bumps in the road while the likes of Ganna, Küng and Pedersen were stumbling around the course. This reached a culmination on the Carrefour de l’Arbre when Philipsen wobbled, forcing Van der Poel to move and this took down John Degenkolb but Van der Poel only lost a few pedal strokes.

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In the wake of the chaos Van Aert accelerated but only Van der Poel was coming across. It was an attack by Van Aert but the move said plenty about Van der Poel’s day, he could have been floored seconds earlier by a crash but instead was chasing down his arch rival.

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The two didn’t last long together. As the Carrefour section came to an end Van Aert was a few metres off Van der Poel’s wheel and his rear wheel flailing about: a rear wheel puncture and presumably his hopes and dreams were equally deflated. Van der Poel was solo and if there was still 18km to go, it felt like the result was a formality. He stayed clear for the win, able to celebrate a lap ahead in the velodrome with team mate Philipsen taking second place and Van Aert third.

The Verdict
An energetic race but one with few surprises. Paris-Roubaix often features riders with intriguing cameo roles and stories of partial resurrection where characters that haven’t quite been written out of the script can still flourish. This year’s edition was more Hollywood than art house, the final hour was an all-star billing that was reduced to a duel. The early breakaway barely existed, the day was all about the celebrities and the moves they made from Haveluy onwards.

More than any other classic Roubaix throws up shock results and you apply hindsight to explore how the winner triumphed. This year Van der Poel’s win requires little analysis, he was the strongest rider supported by a solid team, and boosted by the misfortunes of his rivals.

Was Van Aert’s Carrefour crevaison the decisive moment or the final straw? Some of the pre-race chat was about the adjustable inflation system being used by some Jumbo and DSM riders during the race which allows a rider a softer ride across the pavé and then a firmer tire for the tarmac. Yet for all the marginal gains Jumbo were repeatedly undone by that plague of pneumatics the plain puncture. Notionally the two Vans used the same tires but there’s plenty of difference in terms of set-up, with rims, pressure, foam, sealant and other choices contributing. And luck too. In the “Hell of the North” Van der Poel enjoyed a heavenly day.

146 thoughts on “The Moment Paris-Roubaix Was Won”

  1. Thank you for a great write up.
    Maybe a better write up than race!
    As said yesterday – Flanders was an all time classic so no issue to have a forgettable Roubaix.
    Even at it’s worst Roubaix is still majestic.

    Although there is a nagging voice starting to creep into my head that if a race doesn’t have Pogacar is it worth watching!

    (This is a joke obvs I will watch Giro happily in coming month, but his shadow is looming and I’m currently more interested in Pog vs MVDP than MVDP vs WVA… despite his good luck yesterday I feel like MVDP has WVA’s number as the results of last decade seem to clearly show, even taking into account they’re slightly different skill sets)

    • Although you can’t argue with head-to-head results, I think that any evaluation of what WvA can do needs to take into account what he has done in GT’s, and last year’s Tour was simply amazing. By that evidence the difference in skillsets might be more than slight.

    • oldDave wrote: “Thank you for a great write up. Maybe a better write up than race!”
      For once we agree! I think MVdP can win all 5 monuments during his career since he’s already got the one that PhilGil couldn’t get and I look forward to seeing him try.
      Next up for me is Friday’s final stage of Giro di Sicilia, just a short train ride (with bike) up the coast from our home. Forza Caruso!

  2. On French TV Laurent Jalabert made the very good point that at Paris Roubaix, you aren’t unlucky to have a mechanical / puncture problem, rather you are lucky not to have one.
    That being said MvdP was the strongest too, or at least on a par with van Aert.

  3. Great write-up. With two of the more difficult/random monuments recently won, what are the chances that MvDP gets all 5? He’s top-10’d the remaining two so in theory it looks possible but Il Lombardia may be a tough get. But I’d have to think his odds are now slightly better than Pogs to get all 5.
    Maybe someone can explain “potato hunting” to me.

    • I’d got the impression a little this year that perhaps he’d put on a little bulk. His arms look noticeably more muscular than just about everyone elses. I’d say Liege is within his grasp but RCS would have to have a serious rethink about the route of Lombardia if he’s to do much better than his current PB there.

      • MvdP has been doing a lot of core training for his back problems. With all those planks and mountain climbers you probably develop some more muscle in your shoulders and arms too 😉

    • Tick off Sanremo and Roubaix and you’ve eliminated the ones where a lot is down to chance or where rivals can just have a better day. The Ronde is the big which leaves the others as more calculated efforts but with just a lot of climbing and it’s not his thing. Wout van Aert is the better climber when in great condition but was distanced last year in Liège and Lombardia is almost Alpine. So a course change? It’s still possible but demands a lot, and quite possibly some luck on the day.

      But does he need to complete this set? The road worlds, maybe Olympic gold in the MTB for revenge, the green jersey in the Tour or something else is more to his liking?

      • I was thinking too of what MvdP will aim for next. The Green Jersey in the Tour was a thought as well, and it would make a truly epic contest if van Aert goes for it too.

      • I would say Worlds and/or Olympics in road and MTB are probably goals for him. He can probably become a better climber if he wants to. But does he want to?

        • What does he aim for next is quite a funny question?

          He won’t win LBL or Lombardia unless they change their parcours (which I hope both do so we get MVDP vs POG) but no point aiming there till they do.

          Going for Green, however much I respect it and would be a worthy addition to his Palmares feels unlikely given Philipsen is in the squad, and you also get the impression that it wouldn’t add much to what he’s won? We talk about Sagan under achieving (despite winning so much) because he missed more Flanders/Roubaix’s and Van Aert similarly despite his TDF feats because Monument matter so much more for riders like MVDP?

          Which basically leaves the World’s and more Flanders/Roubaix…

          I kind of think repeating cyclo cross worlds, flanders and roubaix’s for the next five years is MVDP’s best scenario unless other races change?

          And if he can add a Road Worlds to that then great?

          • Please check out MVDP’s day in LBL2020 (and then look at what he did during/as a conclusion of the 4 days before ;-)) …I don’t think they’ll have to change that parcours for him to win, all that’s needed is that he decides at some point that he wants to win it and gears his trainings toward it. Lombardia is probably too much.

          • Why should LBL and Lombardia change their course so that a big guy can win it? No way, if MvDP can’t win these monuments, it makes no sense to turn these races into another set of northern classics.

            The full set of 5 Monuments needs to be reserved for the truly special rider who can adjust themselves, not for the race organisers to “water” down it’s defining characteristics.

      • He came very close this year to achieving something not even Merckx did – winning MSR, Ronde and Roubaix in one season, perhaps that could be a goal. Ideally in the rainbow bands 🙂

        • Great point.
          That would be something special – even if achieving almost everything your talent has the ability to achieve by 28 is already something special.

  4. Probably the most disappointed I’ve been by the end of a bike race. When Van Aert got his puncture I turned it off. It was bubbling up nicely until then and whilst there wasn’t much surprise there was plenty of tension. I’ll be honest and say that I am a Van Aert ‘fan’. As such I’m genuinely not sure I can face watching Amstel and the near inevitable MvdP win, if he’s starting. I appreciate how sad that is for a man my age. I’m quite looking forward to the Ardennes and the Giro for some new faces and scenery.

    • But your prediction of fastest PR was spot on! You should be happy!
      Aside from MVDP winning every prediction I made was miles off…

      I guess as most recent races are fastest ever it wasn’t that much of a stretch but take the win!
      You nailed it.

  5. Was it ‘bad luck’ that decided the race? Possibly, however punctures aren’t always bad luck. Something I’ve noticed when watching off-road (MTB/ CX) racing often its too low/too high tyre pressures, poor tyre choice, or even poor line choice.
    JV had a number of punctures, which would suggest it’s not totally ‘bad luck’ if it keeps happening, and yet they use the same tyres as AlpecinDK. While new tech is interesting, one feels Jumbo are trying to be too clever.

    Wout had a puncture in the 2021 CX Worlds and never recovered; yet in 2017 in Bieles MvdP had 4 during the race and Wout won.

    • I feel like this is a little bit of a stretch without more information…

      First WVA did not use the much fabled variable-pressure mechanism – second shouldn’t we take the cobbled classics as a whole not just Roubaix and how many punctures did Jumbo have over others?
      Plus whatever more more info there is to be had before making up our mind…?

      You might be right and they got too clever but you might also be wrong and jumping to conclusions without all the facts – it’s likely the later as your opinion seems semi-formed without providing a particularly indepth argument.

      • Yes, we know he didn’t use the system – I don’t remember saying he did. Nothing is semi-formed, merely a guesstimation/ probability on what might have happened. What do you want, an essay? Bore off you clueless roadie….

        Punctures aren’t always ‘bad luck’ as road commentators are inclined to say, it’s just a lazy narrative.

      • I agree with wiperman – JV had more mechanical issues in P-R vs. MvDP. It’s a small sample size, but the same thing happened last year too. That looks like a pattern.

        Keep negative comments down – no one wins when Inrng shuts down the comment section early.

        • Humans are pattern-recognition machines. That is, we are massively prone to recognize patterns, even when there are none. At the same time, our intuitions about randomness are rarely accurate. That two years in a row JV appeared to have more mechanical issues than MvdP’s team is firmly in the category of random chance. There MAY be a real pattern there, but a sample of two is not evidence of such a pattern. If you flip a coin twice and it comes up heads or tails, both times, is that evidence of a pattern?

          I do agree about the need to keep negativity down. This is not the place for that kind of immaturity.

          • Yep – I said “looks” like a pattern – was careful not to say, “100% JV mechanics cost WVA the win”. We can debate this as much as we want, but the race looked very even before the mechanical.

            I can’t wait for the next 4 years worth of battles between these two. And then for Pogacar to continue to compete for these wins in the future.

  6. It would be interesting to see whether MVDP thinks a major slim down is possible for a Lombardia tilt – pos combined with a climber worlds (imagining Zürich 24 won’t be flat) and maybe a Vuelta GC experiment? Perhaps he’s having too much fun on the stones for the extremities of GC (non) eating plans …

    • I love Lombardia. Great race.

      Various people on here have argued it’s too far in favour of climbers now.
      I disagreed but based on current generation of riders I have changed my mind.

      I don’t think it’s for MVDP to slim down, I think it’s for Lombardia to change their parcours so riders like him can win again as Gilbert did previously.

      It’s in their own interests to find a way to welcome MVDP into the fold as the TourDeFrance did in 2012 by giving Wiggins a dream route to capitalise on new found British interest.

      There would be no shame in doing this as it would only be returning Lombardia to what it was and giving cycling fans what they want – more races where any of the big5 can win. I can’t imagine a single fan not now wondering who might get all five monuments first between Pogacar and MVDP – and it feels like the answer lies in the hands of the organisers of Lombardia as without a route change only Pogacar has a chance.

      • Van der Poel is a big guy and he hasn’t really shown the kind of climbing prowess that Van Aert has. I’d be surprised if he ever won Lombardia. He’d always be droppable on the longer climbs at his current weight.
        I don’t think they need to massively alter the course or be ‘unauthentic’ in any way. Keep the big climb’s early and have smaller sharper climbs towards the end. San Fermo della Battaglia and the cobbled climb up to Bergamo Alta are ideal last climbs. Just don’t put a 5k climb at 10% immediately in front of them.

        • @ Richard S, re: “Van der Poel is a big guy and he hasn’t really shown the kind of climbing prowess that Van Aert has”
          But reportedly WVA is even bigger: 75-76 inches vs MVDP 72-73 inches. WVA perhaps 5-10 lbs heavier.
          I’m thinking WVA has physiology and aerobic capacity better suited for long alpine climbs, ie his sustainable 20-30 minute watts/kg is larger than MVDP ‘s, whereas MVDP has larger 1-5 minute watts/kg.

          • I think it is more a psychological factor more than a physical one that makes a difference. WVA is a better time trialist which in these days is an asset for climbing. MvDP gets bored/lose focus faster of riding at a sustained pace.

            Both riders could lose weight and be better climbers. I think after Pogačar Flanders win both may decide on a later strategy for future years..Pogačar is an excellent rouleur and time trialist while being much lighter and better in the climbs. He could win MSR, flanders as well as Lombardia and Liege. Mathieu van Der Poel is 7cm taller and probably 10kg heavier. If he could go close or below 70kg, similar to a GC contender of the same size, that would mean like Rui Oliveira. He might not become a Grand Tour contender but could have a go at Lombardia and Liege while not necessarily losing his chance at Flanders or MSR. He may even wish to try some 1 week tours GC. I don’t think it would hurt his chance in MTB and CX either given Pidcock’s results.

            But he may not want that kind of life. He probably has already a pretty strict diet and GC contenders are pushing the boundaries even further at the risk of developing eating disorder problems.

        • I don’t think so.

          He is one of the top time trial rider of the peloton, he can sustain repetitive accelerations and ride well in long races. Sure a bit more weight doesn’t hurt for stability on the cobbles but the bikes of today with 30 to 32mm tires makes it much easier than the 28mm tires of 10years ago and the 25mm ones of 25 years ago on the cobbles. And he may grow heavier and more powerful with age depending on his goals.

      • PhilGil and MvDP are two completely different riders – 1 is over 6′ tall, the second is 5’10. There is also approx. 15lb weight difference. I wouldn’t expect Lombardia to suit MvDP, even in the year that Gilbert won it.

        I’m completely against the race catering to MvDP – he needs to adjust his body and riding to suit the hillier races, not the other way around.

    • It’s interesting how the Monuments have become the collection to aim for, although as you say the Worlds are a big thing too, arguably the sixth Monument but a moving feast.

      I can’t see him winning Lombardia unless there’s a course change but he could win on a course with the Ghisallo and one or two late sharp climbs before the finish that might satisfy enough people to be an authentic parcours.

      • Yep, exactly what I was thinking.

        I think the clamour for this should begin now… although would MVDP be preparing for the cyclocross season by then even if they did make the change?

        I would love to know if they’re having this conversation at Lombardia Towers.

        • Well, our accord didn’t last long! I hate to think of RCS mucking around with the Race of the Falling leaves in an attempt to make it easier for MVdP to win. It’s a MONUMENT for Pietro’s sake, not to be devalued. Plus I don’t think he needs that…if the guy wants to win all 5 monuments it’s up to him to prepare rather than the races. Do you want ’em to take a bunch of the climbs out of L-B-L for the same purpose?

          • I don’t think we’re hugely disagreeing here.
            I love Lombardia and have enjoyed the recent climber focused editions.
            I think you might have missed other comments here where INRNG noted a version that would be a traditional Lombardia but just returning to a different course rather than changing it or devaluing it.

            Courses for races change all the time – Flanders for a more spectator friendly route, Amstel for a route that encouraged riders to attack earlier, RCS themselves regularly tailor Giro’s to attract specific riders as do the TDF. LBL and Lombardia have both also altered their routes in the last decade.

            It’s completely normal stuff and I’d be surprised if both LBL and Lombardia aren’t looking at ways now to attract MVDP for a face off with Pog without either devaluing their races or losing the spirit of historic routes.

            Also weren’t RCS themselves guilty of the most famous route appeasement with Moser in the mid80s?

          • oldDave – I never said it hadn’t been done but that I don’t much like it – the tailoring of a route just to attract Rider X whether it’s Moser, Evenepoel or MVdP.
            Same for Abbiategrasso-Sanremo. RCS should kiss and make up with Milano so the iconic scenes of the Duomo start endure,

          • I don’t think they need to do anything to Liege. Since they took away the drag up to Ans both of the Vans have had good results, as well as other non climbers such as Jungels.

          • That makes sense.

            I guess I think every single race any cycling fan has ever watched has been altered for some reason or another at some point and very likely once or twice to attract a rider or type of rider. There’s probably many sections of one day routes we all take for granted which were originally altered for this exact reason – strangely recently Lombardia is the most obvious example. To me it’s such a standard part of cycling it doesn’t seem worth being for or against.

      • Course changes should be well-thought-about but no taboo. They never were. Even less at Lombardia. Of course, you should keep the “spirit of the race” as coherent as possible. I’d defend that in general term it’s the athlete who should make the effort in order to get the race, or the specific value of winning the different ones would be void. That said, it’s up to the organisers – MvdP & Pogi age or not – to keep the race reasonably open to a not-too-narrow range of riders. What’s too much? What’s enough? That’s the tough question. Many commenters here look like as if they thought that a race can be won only out of a direct face-off of sort, but it’s not like that. Sure, it’s very hard, as it should be to grab a victory which sits right on the edge (or slightly beyond) of what you’re excellent at. Tafi’s Lombardia or Chiappucci’s Sanremo come to mind. Or, more recently, Gilbert’s cobbled Monument’s wins. MvdP will be marked? Sure, but maybe less so in a race which doesn’t suit him or if he does something crazy enough.

  7. Thanks for the review! Surprises? Alpecin-Deceuninck had 3 guys at the business end, Degenkolb’s ride and once again, the first two hours averaging 50 km/h.
    Pogacar won de Ronde with multiple attacks, van der Poel said, they raced like juniors. Non-stop movement and lots of attacks – also played into Van der Poel’s hands, he said. This seems to be the new style to beat the team strength of Jumbo Visma.

  8. The race made for slightly unusual viewing – rather than excitement, the race felt tense for a long time – it felt inevitable that there’d be attacks on sectors 5 & 4, and that they’d come from one of the ‘vans’. So I was waiting for others to make some moves, but the moves didn’t come…and then on le carrefour, the race was decided in about 90 seconds…in that regard, it was like a bumpy version of Milan San Remo!

    It also was surely a story of luck – Van Aert’s bad luck was obvious. But MvdP’s good luck was more decisive – from a moment of his own choosing (attacking past Philipsen) he almost crashed himself out of the race, but instead stayed upright whilst a competitor fell, chased onto a wheel, and then found himself alone with a 30 second lead…no doubt the strongest in the race, but he was carrying his lucky charm with him yesterday.

    • Not to mention he was millimetres away from being clipped out by a barrier.

      I understand organisers wanting to close off that footpath from riders on the last significant sector. But surely there are better ways to do it than how they put a barrier in every 50 meters or so perpendicular to the course. That’s madness.

      Maybe board that sector up sprint finish style next year? We already had an incident last year (collision with spectator, but the way they set up the barriers caused the incident) and quite a few almost race alerting near misses this year. Surely someone needs to look at this and think it through.

      • It’s a cycle-path on both sides of the penultimate pave sector and obvious the organisers want the racing on the cobbles. The plastic objects aren’t ideal and apparently they’ll have something different next year.

      • This year was better than last year on that section, as the plastic barriers were closer together this time, to force riders onto the cobbles throughout. Last year they were more widely spaced, which led to riders zig-zagging on and off the bike path, which was nerve wracking as a viewer!

  9. “Philipsen wobbled, forcing Van der Poel to move and this took down John Degenkolb but Van der Poel only lost a few pedal strokes.”
    I went back and watched this a few times and each time it looks to me like MVdP moves over into Philipsen who then took out Degenkolb. Nothing deliberate or dirty, just that MVdP’s action caused the crash rather than Philipsen’s?

    • I think you may have mixed up the Alpecin guys? MvdP in the middle goes for the gap between Philipsen (left and slightly in front) and Degenkolb (right and slightly behind), while at the same time Philipsen moves to the right and closes the gap that MvdP was aiming for. MvdP has no choice but to move more to the right, which squeezes Dege who has nowhere to go and gets pushed onto the grass verge. Disappointing for Dege, but its a racing incident.

      If it was a finish-line sprint we could say that Philipsen deviated from his racing line, but it wasn’t a sprint at the end of a stage so the sprinting rules don’t apply – I think (is this correct INRNG?)

      • This is what Degenkolb and MvdP himself both said about it as well. Race incident, noone to blame. He would probably have stayed upright if he hadn’t hit the spectator but unlike some of the others, this spectator could hardly be criticized for coming too close. I saw an interview with Degenkolb where the journalist tried to stir up some controversy but John wouldn’t have it.

      • I had ’em reversed in position? I thought it was MVdP at the left moving over based on what the commentators said so I never looked close enough to identify them other than the moves they made. So the guy who ends up 2nd almost takes out his leader and takes out a competitor in the process? I still won’t say it was dirty or on-purpose but the result still has a bit of unfairness (for lack of a better word as taint or cloud too much implies it was on-purpose or takes away from the strongest man winning) to it IMHO.
        OTOH one can say they ALL should have been on the pave rather than on the grass so….? It seemed to me they had less barriers this year to keep ’em on the stones than in previous editions? If they DQ’d everyone who rode on the grass post-race nobody would be left so the only way is more barriers, assuming they care to keep ’em on the pave?

        • Yeah agree with everyone here.
          It’s too tough to call and is clearly just a racing incident.

          As far as I could see Degenkolb just got unlucky as MVDP went for a gap that was there at the exact moment Philipsen moved to the right by which time it was too late for MVDP to react. Nobody’s fault just bad luck that both MVDP’s and Philipsen’s actions happened at the exact same time and cost Degenkolb.

          I love Degenkolb and was disappointed to see him go, but in truth it’s very hard to imagine a scenario where he beats both MVDP and Philipsen in the finale so it didn’t change the race in the way WVA’s puncture did.

          I don’t think the result is particularly tainted it was just an average edition that failed to ignite but it’s fair Larry would point to these incidents as they’re the flashpoints where it started to all go wrong for us watching!

          From about 50km out it was obvious Ganna was struggling, and likewise Kung (who would’ve attacked by then if feeling good given his need to get ahead), and Pedersen having chased on… leaving only Degenkolb aside from WVA likely to even attack and challenge Alpecin but knowing WVA’s recent form was iffy and Degenkolb wouldn’t be as strong, it made the only really debate who would win between MVDP/Philipsen… which was also a little obvious!

          • I disagree the gap wasn’t there, from the photo of Deg on the ground Mathieu still hasn’t got on terms with Philipsen.
            They were level behind with Mathieu going from the middle of the road straight at the gutter Deg riding straight up the gutter with speed, Mathieus line choice was always going to create conflict with Deg and then Philipsen flinched which really cocked it up for both of them behind him.
            I think DQ everyone who rides off the road one year and it will stop instantly, if not rope them off CX style so they have to ride the stones not the verge or bike path.

        • I agree with the sentiment here – the finale all felt a little unsatisfactory…unlike MvdP’s victory at Milan San Remo, which was an absolute masterclass in tactics, timing and brute strength, in Paris Roubaix we didn’t get to witness that kind of performance; rather his two biggest competitors for victory in that lead group were taking out of contention in the space of 2 minutes, one by a crash of MvdP’s causing (completely accidental, I hasten to add) and another by a puncture, and then the victory was all but certain…

        • Larry, look at the photo fifth from the top of this post. That’s obviously MvdP taking out Degenkolb. And Degenkolb wasn’t riding in the grass, he was in the gutter, which was dry and flat. In retrospect I wonder if Philipsen was heading for that gutter when he went to the right, since it was much more than a wobble or an indecisive drift.

          From the way the crash played out (watching the overhead in slow motion), MvdP ends up fully in the gutter to avoid Philipsen, who veered from the middle right to the very edge of the cobbles (and seemed set to take the gutter himself till he felt the shoulder of his teammate). Degenkolb might have stayed upright in the grass and recovered except his bars caught on a fan’s flagpole, which ripped the bike out from under him. And the fans weren’t crowding the road, the flagpole was a good meter away from the outer edge of the gutter. Two fans in fact ended up being knocked down by Degenkolb and his bike, despite stepping back.

          I agree it was a racing incident, but I do think Philipsen was partly at fault for making such a strong move to his right without having any sense of what was happening immediately behind, and MvdP was partly at fault for using using his broad shoulders to shove Degenkolb into the grass instead of touching his brakes. Degenkolb saw what was coming, with MvdP directly beside him and closing in, and leaned his shoulder/elbow over to make contact. Philipsen continued to close the gap until he ran into the barrier of MvdP. Both the Alpecin riders were very lucky not to get tangled up and go down. I know in the heat of the moment both their instincts were to press on and let everyone else fend for themselves, but it didn’t seem sporting. The way they both apologized to Degenkolb afterwards to me signaled that they knew they’d been callous, or at least thoughtless/selfish.

          It’s unlikely that Degenkolb would have won, but who knows. It’s easy to say he had no chance, and being crashed out changed little, but he deserved the chance to make the Alpecin riders prove that on the road, and not by some very sloppy and very aggressive riding.

          • Just want to throw my $0.02 out – there’s a lot of finger-pointing and analysis going on here but let’s not forget that when this incident happened, they were 240km into Paris-Roubaix, rumbling over the Carrefour de L’Arbre at ~50kph, probably well above threshold heart rate, in a tunnel of screaming fans.

            Nobody tried to do anything on purpose here. The three of them wanted to ride in that dirt-path gutter, and they converged there in a split-second. Decision-making becomes difficult and awareness shrinks dramatically given the atmosphere and conditions they were in. A result of the race’s climactic moment, and unfortunately Degenkolb was closest to the spectators when it happened. That’s racing, that’s Paris-Roubaix.

          • Dege could have applied his brakes just as easily as MvdP could have. Dege was actually slightly behind MvdP.
            It was JP who moved – he couldn’t see that his leader was coming up behind him – and then the other two both kept racing.

  10. Picking up the thread from an earlier post about race days.

    Van der Poel’s sequence of 1st in Milan-San Remo, 2nd in Flanders, 1st Paris Roubaix is the same as Sean Kelly achieved in 1986. But that spring, Kelly also won Paris- Nice (+ 3 stages); Pays Basque (+ 3 stages); 2 stages in Critérium Internationale (+ 2nd overall); 1 stage in the Three Days of de Panne (+ 2nd overall) and was 5th in La Flèche Wallonne, back when it was a proper 250km classic …

    2 – 9 March – Paris Nice
    15 March – Milan San Remo
    Criterium Internationale
    De Panne
    6 April – Tour of Flanders
    7 – 11 April – Basque Country
    13 April – Paris Roubaix
    16 April – Flèche Wallonne

    • That 1986 year, Kelly reportedly raced some 76 days, less than his previous two mammoth season and quite in the range which several athletes could sit within in recent years (not as much the current champions we’re speaking about, of course, although Roglic did at the end of the 10s).

      His winning ratio was impressive, over 30% I believe. He raced less and won the same.

      But that season, and more generally speaking those 3-4 years, also showed why Kelly was well above what we’re seeing from most current cyclists (waiting for Pogi and Remco’s career to fully develop, of course). Quality and quantity, all around. However, as I noted, hopefully we’ve got more to see ahead.

      • Wasn’t CX invented as a way for road racers to stay in shape during the off season? 😉 I don’t think the rigors of the two sports are directly comparable. Certainly race distances are massively shorter. And it looks like MvdP has averaged about 10 CX race days per season the last three years. So even if you add his road and CX race days together, it’s waaaaaay less than Kelly did, or even high mileage road racers of the current era.

  11. Thanks’ for the excellent write up. I thought the race was full of suspense and came alight at exactly the place where action was expected.
    The one observation that became evident as the race unfolded, was the difficulty Ganna had in closing gaps every time the pressure was on. I was surprised by his slow and labored response. Good race with a worthy winner – again.
    Degenkolb was a surprise. His trials and tribulations added to the unfortunate drama of the day.

    • Ganna struggles with cornering, and needs much more honing up his pavé skills, don’t know if he’s still got time to do that. He’s performing great considering relative lack of experience and practice, which might look like a lost occasion of course, but he was going after big targets these previous years, too.

  12. Looking at the top 10 I notice Max Walscheid (Cofidis) in 8th place. He’s got a big engine for this sort of race and has done well here before (12th while on NextHash). Which makes me think of Christophe Laporte, also once at Cofidis. When he went from one of the smaller teams to the biggest, a team that’s got “a huge gap, it’s a team that’s pushing the limit, legally of course”, as Rohan Dennis memorably put it, Laporte went from a rider with a creditable string of 2.1s (and a to a genuine WT contender, a step-function improvement. His knock was that he was realistically a 200km rider (though he did finish 6th at PR once), but this year he’s added monument length and is a serious threat at any one day. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to his chances now is the presence of van Aert (who will gift him a win, to be fair).

    N = 1 here, but it makes you wonder. Is the training and resource difference between the small teams and the big so large? Is JV’s secret sauce really that special? And why hasn’t one of the big teams looking for Classics success picked up Walscheid?

    • Lots of teams were interested in Laporte when his contract was up. Walscheid’s maybe a different rider, a lot heavier, in fact among the very heaviest in the peloton. He’s been very useful to Cofidis, he won for them last year and scored points which they needed, plus he is a great leadout rider.

      • Just out of interest INRNG – how/when did you know this?

        Like TDK, Laporte’s sudden jump came as a bit of a surprise – nothing suspicious, I just didn’t realise he was sought after in the transfer market? I assume you knew it at the time or did you find out later? What team were interested?

        I’m only asking as I regularly know which big riders are making waves in the transfer market and which riders are at risk of losing their careers but the middle tier of riders who are sought after but maybe without a current reputation that punctures the consciousness of a casual fan like myself are something I’d love to hear/know more about?

        Do you know who are the current 23-25 year olds who are coming to the end of a contact and sought after by bigger teams?

      • Didn’t intend to say that Walscheid and Laporte are similar — Laporte has greater range and would be of more help in a GT, eg. Nor am I implying that Walscheid should leave Cofidis and in fact I hope he stays (not a big fan of big teams getting bigger and vacuuming up all the talent). It just seems odd that he hadn’t been picked up. JV is full up with WvA, van Baarle, and Laporte, but istm that a squad like Ineos, UAE, or SQS (where, if he makes anything like the improvement Laporte did, he’d be more useful than Lampaert or even Merlier) would be interested.

        But maybe Laporte is a one-off (haven’t looked at others, tbh) — going from a decent match between rider and team to an excellent one.

    • One thing i heard that supposably was from laporte was that at Jumbo he is having as many as 4 or 5 high altitude training camps a year. At the old team you could go do a high altitude camp if you orgainised and paid for it yourself. Can’t remember where i heard this but the inference is obvious even if i am not sure if altitude training camps are useful. One team invests in rider training a lot and the other does not so much.

      • In that same interview Dennis also said that JV does so much for a rider that if you don’t perform, it’s on you. Though come to think of it, I haven’t seen much of Dennis since the TDU.

  13. This was a race that gradually deflated. First with Laporte’s wheel change, then the Degenkolb incident and then the final blow of Van Aert’s puncture.
    As far as the MVDP hype is concerned I am thinking that Evenopoel probably has more in the tank in the context of a one day race.
    (I don’t fully understand the talk about the advantage of weight on cobbles … Nibali used to glide over them).

  14. For all that is to be said about the bad luck Jumbo suffered on Sunday, I’m struggling to recall a time that MVDP had a flat tire in any of the Paris-Roubaix starts he’s made? At least an impactful one that would be classified as bad luck. Is he riding the cobbles differently? Weighting himself on the bike in a softer way? He rails the cobbled corners like nobody else can, perhaps he’s able to float over things that most stay firmly planted on their saddles? Just a thought I had amidst all of the talk of “luck” with this race and the result – is it entirely luck?

    • You do make your own luck and some riders have smashed into the cobbles and wonder why they got frequent punctures. But Van Aert knows plenty about handling too, they both look almost feline on the pavé as they float over the stones.

    • MvdP is in another league technique wise – and has always been ahead of Wout. You don’t win in XC MTB without being good, those guys are a level above the top CX riders. I can only remember his puncturing once in a MTB World Cup, back in 2018 at La Bresse.
      It’s not just luck he has so few punctures in Roubaix….his skills.

      • While agreeing that Van der Poel is technically better than Van Aert, I didn’t think he rode the corners better on Sunday. In fact he looked a bit wild a times, running way wide and losing speed, while Van Aert was more controlled and kept his momentum steady. I’m not saying he was out of control, but he was lucky not to get a flat on those rough edges. That said, Wout seems to have a flat every single P-R. It might not have cost him the race as obviously as it did on Sunday, but he’s frequently playing catch up and wasting energy after a change.

  15. Two observations from Sunday.

    Why doesn’t ASO employ drone coverage for Roubaix? Plenty of great places to fly a drone close to the peloton. Aerial footage is sometimes the best way to see the gnarly condition of the pave.

    Second what percentage of the peloton have rode roubaix multiple years? Seeing lots of riders do 1 or 2 Roubaixs and never again. Curious how many veteran riders there were.

    • (1) I understand the bureaucracy of getting a permit for a drone to fly close enough to get a worthwhile view is a big hurdle. The UCI is still reluctant – no matter how paradoxic it may seem when one thinks about the number of motorycles and the team cars – to let drones fly above or near the riders and I believe (but may well be wrong) you would need separare permits from every local or regional authority, which in their turn have rules about how low you can fly above masses of people on the roadsides.

      (2) It would indeed be quite interesting to see the start list and/or the result list with the number or Roubaix’s done by each rider!

      Two first-timers worth a mention: Madis Mihkels who I believed featured in the race more and longer than any other only to suffer a puncture and fade towards the end and finish 114th – and Joshua Tarling who had an above average number of punctures and time lost behind crashes and reached the velodrome but finished over the time limit.

      • INRNG noted recently that the UCI really doesn’t have much money/power so its fair to think their hesitancy/slowness in incorporating drones beyond logistical/bureaucratic difficulties may also be lack of money/support/manpower to actually make it happen. ASO at Roubaix and then the Tour are more likely to move the needle on this but there are multiple difficulties (range, feed, extra employees) that will also take time to solve so I do think we’ll likely have to be patient on this. In my opinion we should have had live data from the riders nearly a decade ago and still haven’t so I wouldn’t keep too many fingers crossed…

        (by live data I mean what almost every semi-interested cycling fan has access to from their garmin or zwift – watts)

        On the second point – there’s also the converse that it takes four previous Roubaix participations on average to win so clearly those who are suited/enjoy it come back regularly – as Hayman’s famous seventeen participations show…

        The wider answer to the question is it varies – Some riders are suited to Roubaix and know it’s their chance to shine so return hoping for glory. Some riders have undefined specialities so take part only to change their programme later in career and skip the race in future (Geraint Thomas a good example). Some are just there to make up the numbers as the team had no one else, and even worse apparently there was an inside joke at Movistar where riders in the dog house would be sent on a classics tour. In general it’s pretty obvious Roubaix is for big, heavy riders so most teams and riders themselves will know if Roubaix is for them or not although as Cancellara pointed out recently modern tech is beginning to change this.

    • Note ASO organises the race but it’s not in the business of TV production. This is down to France Télévisions, the French state broadcaster. It’s also illegal in France to fly a drone in a situation like that with the crowds and infrastructure in place like power lines etc, it has to be tethered like the one they use on the Champs Elysées. We’ll see if the Olympics brings change as the producers here will be wanting improved production techniques, it could work but not easy for cycling, you’d need some kind of production truck in place for the zone in question, uplinks etc and the sport is Roubaix is already expensive to cover with the specialist motorbikes etc.

      Quite a few riders do Paris-Roubaix over and over again, it’s a race for specialists like Sep Vanmarke, Luke Rowe, Marco Haller, Luke Durbridge. Kristoff, Van Avermaet and Schär all finished their 13th edition on Sunday.

      • As viewers we are used to the moto POV and its separate depictions of the groups that form in races.
        Surveillance style images from above or static cameras with long lenses simply don’t put the viewer in the race like motos do.
        Fine if you want to use an overhead in later analysis but please don’t interrupt the front-on view, leading or following, as we watch the front of the race.
        Follow drones are simply a no-no above crowds and athletes. Plus wind and weather, pranksters etc.
        It would be better to put on-board cameras with the riders and develop the relay tech but how could that possibly be mixed at the production desk to offer a sensible broadcast output? Races like Paris Roubaix just have so much going on all over the place you’d soon be desperate to see the race from a steady outside POV – the moto. And occasional aerial views – the helicopter that carries a steadycam and all the first-line relay equipment.

        Let’s hear it for the mechanics and all the trades that built the bikes, wheels, tyres that allow riders to apply their skill and athleticism beyond the asphalt.

        • Did you see the use of drones at the Cyclocross World Champs?
          It got nearly universal praise from all sorts, including here.

          I’m actually not for or against drones if I’m honest and it wouldn’t be a hill I’d die on! I can see how helicopters with a small crew and hours of flight would be cheaper than multiple drones with operators spanning an entire course for the foreseeable future (ignoring health&safety/bureaucracy issues) unless tech to follow riders without operators is developed sometime.

          I likewise love in race moto footage but I am also wary to not inhibit progress…
          The motos we love we added once upon a time and probably to some people’s disapproval.

          Broadcasters should always look to new tech and advancement to incorporate and some will work and some won’t – we can just trust them to find a place where most people are happy after a little trial and error – but cycling broadcasts are lagging behind (due to lower budgets) and I believe broadcasters should be encouraged to look at innovations more in the immediate future, as it seems GCN are trying in their instudio shows at the moment, I’m all for it.

          I’ve been thinking for a while that GCN’s rising prowess with youtube video production might soon be put to go use with wider application in races, it would take time but be good overall.

          Using drones to fly lower and show uphill gradients more clearly over less populated sections of a race would be a good function beyond their obvious godseyeview capability, as mentioned above in race data is an obvious addition that should have already happened, open radios for broadcasters to use would again be an obvious win (hearing the tone in Wout’s voice when he had his PR puncture would have been great) but there are so many more ways to improve viewing give the time/budget/skill.

          • There was an article at the time (might have been on CN) about the conditions o the drone shots at the Cyclo-cross worlds. As I recall, they were quite restrictive: on a section of course without spectators, filmed from behind only, and line-of-sight to the operator. The endurance was also very limited. They worked well where van der Poel and Van Aert were well away in front, but would be harder to match at a big road race. For example, a drone shot along the Trouee d’Arenberg: ignore for a moment the “spectator free” and “line of sight” – if you had flown a drone behind the peloton on entry, by time you got to the exit a few minutes later the winning break would have formed out-of-sight well in front of of the drone.

          • What could work here is some copy of the cable-mounted Skycam they use in the Ronde for the Oude Kwaremont as it’s legal for starters. Now for Arenberg it’s harder given the feature is lined with trees but I’d like to see it installed elsewhere, or outside Paris-Roubaix, overhead for bunch finishes and see how this looks compared to heli footage.

          • I’m sure in due course we’ll get drone-type shots (even if e.g. from a skycap setup).

            There’s an article to be considered in how races have evolved in lock step with developments in media. For example, the early epic races (such as Bordeaux – Paris or Paris – Brest – Paris) could be made gripping in the hands of skilled writer, even if that writer had only followed the race by train and dropped in at a couple of key points before racing ahead to see the finish. There is heroism, suffering, endurance, and an element of mystery to allow those qualities to be emphasised with no-one to argue “but that didn’t happen”.

            By the 1930s you get journalists and photographers able to follow the race, but our images are all about single moments encapsulated in still photos: Vietto crying by the road, or Coppi and Bartali sharing a bottle. As coverage with moving pictures develop postwar, you see some of the action, but it is to a degree curated, and it wasn’t unusual for the action to be fairly static before the TV coverage started; a six hour flat stage in which there’s no early break because there is no-one to see it. Now we get 3 hour GT stages that are all action from the gun because the cameras show the whole race.

            Our perception of what is great is affected by the dominant media. Fausto Coppi’s win in the 1946 Milan San Remo is the stuff of legend, but a four hour solo break in which the winner comes in a quarter of an hour ahead of the runner up is not a ratings winner on TV. It is a legend essentially passed down in photos and the written word. But it works the other way: van der Poel’s blistering attack a couple of years ago in Strade Bianche was jaw-dropping on TV, but actually not easy to write about: there are only so many ways you can convey the sense of an attack that is so much more devastating than any other.

          • “…unless tech to follow riders without operators is developed sometime.” I think we’ve had that for several years. Here’s a review of what was available last year at the lower end (hobbyist) of the market:

            A few years ago DC Rainmaker posted a video of one of these drones following him around the bike trails around Amsterdam, including among tall trees. I’m too lazy to find that video, but it was quite impressive. I know that’s far from being cycling race-ready, but my sense is that this could easily be done for sections of a race if the will is there. The technology is there, perhaps the biggest technical issue is getting a feed from the drone images to the broadcast booth, but my hunch is that this isn’t that huge a deal, either.

          • They “Pidcock” CX drone through the woods was brilliant, but did struggle to stay with Wout and Mathieu at times, the organisers may be a little nervous of drones in races after the one that fell out of the sky at Schladming and almost landed on Marcel Hirscher at full flight .
            Spidercam could be interesting same with the rail cam they use in athletics to track along side the race, maybe also help reduce the traffic on the cobbled sectors.

        • “Let’s hear it for the mechanics and all the trades that built the bikes, wheels, tyres that allow riders to apply their skill and athleticism beyond the asphalt.” CHAPEAU!
          I sometimes feel sorry for these guys but a) they chose the job b) probably knew what they were getting into before they signed up. I admit to mostly enjoying living “on-the-road” with the bike tours but never as long as these guys and of course nothing we did was ever as critical as what they do…though by the way some of the clients acted you’d wonder! But I’m glad I don’t have to do it anymore 🙂

          • Good points TomJ! One can also consider the viewpoint – I was thinking about this the other day, how a race won by an Anglo-Saxon rider vs a non-English speaking “foreigner” can be labeled “one for the ages” while non-English coverage and comments describe it in much less breathless terms. For me it’s English vs Italian coverage but my guess is it’s the same with the rest?

          • Are you talking about races of the past or more recent ones?
            As it is now, your comment is too vague to considet its value – unless, of course, one guesses that since this is Larry T he must have some of Chris Froome’s victories in mind 🙂

            Anyeway, how can you be sure that foreign or in your case Italian coverage is not inklined to diminish or downplay the achievements of English riders and the style and other qualities – sometimes in a manner not expected of them (which I believe is one element of a race performance that is “one for the ages”) – they showed when they won?

            PS I listen to Swedish commentary and read Danish race analyses and previews in addition to English or Anglo-Saxon, I haven´t noticed any glaring discreopancies between them, (It´s natural that the commentetors pay more attention to the Swedish, Danish and English riders. but that’s not what we are talking about here, is it?)

          • “…how can you be sure that foreign or in your case Italian coverage is not inklined to diminish or downplay the achievements of English riders and the style and other qualities?”
            I can’t, though other than maybe writing about a huge a-hole and dope-cheat like BigTex I see no reason for Italian writers to do such a thing and can’t think of an instance where I thought they did.
            IMHO it’s more the idea of playing UP the exploits of an Anglo-Saxon and the race in the same way any other group would one-of-their own, making a race won by that racer “one for the ages” in their opinion when it wasn’t much more than the XXth edition of the Tour-of-Whatever to everyone else.
            Finally, I’m NOT claiming the practice is unique to Anglo-Saxon media, rather just thinking-out-loud in response to what TomJ posted. I have no doubt an Italian victory in some race was covered in a similar way while Anglo-Saxons thought “Big deal! It was just the XXth Giro-of-Whatever!”

          • “I’m NOT claiming the practice is unique to Anglo-Saxon media”

            In light of the “tailoring courses for riders” discussion upthread, I’m sure the French and Italian press covered the ’84 Giro rather differently …

          • TDK – I have no idea how the French covered that, but the Anglo-Saxon’s seemed to buy heavily into the pro-Moser angle while I assume it wasn’t the case in Italy.
            I think Fignon went to his grave believing the Italian TV ‘copter somehow flew in a way to give him a headwind and Moser a tailwind during that chrono stage. How low a ‘copter would have to fly to do such a thing makes it seem unlikely while the Stelvio argument might have more merit. But even that, when looked at in the perspective of later Giri where snow slides blocked the road (I was at a later Giro when some people were buried in a car for awhile) is certainly open to debate rather than a clear-cut scheme to ensure a home-country victory.

      • So PCS has all the starts from the race. 128 Starters.
        Average starts for all 128 starters is 3.9
        60 Riders (almost half the field have 2 or less starts) including the winner MVP.

        All of these riders have 9 or more starts.
        VAN AVERMAET Greg
        KRISTOFF Alexander
        OSS Daniel
        SCHÄR Michael
        KEUKELEIRE Jens
        DEGENKOLB John
        BOASSON HAGEN Edvald
        BODNAR Maciej
        ŠTYBAR Zdeněk
        VANMARCKE Sep
        SAGAN Peter
        ROWE Luke
        HALLER Marco
        BAUER Jack
        VAN KEIRSBULCK Guillaume
        TRENTIN Matteo
        GRUZDEV Dmitriy
        I am sure some data gurus could extrapolate more from the data.

      • The heli has to be there as a relay for feeds from the motos. The steadycams are full size broadcast standard and the operator is in direct contact with the pilot
        Putting all the cameras on drones is not going to happen; motos will always be needed, and their pilots, motos and equipment are highly regarded. This includes by the riders since they know when they are in-shot (and not..).
        In general the motos operate in all the conditions that riders experience, be it howling winds, rain, hail, closed-in citadelles, forest roads, tree-lined avenues and so on.
        Drones could be used supplementarily in some short sections up to maybe 3km and the footage will get mixed in with existing feeds. Running a drone over the enclosed private land of a cyclocross lap is way different and the range is always under 1km from the operator so batteries can be changed and the drone retrieved at a fixed base.
        – I’m thinking of along some secteurs if the fans can be persuaded to stand along one side only, or maybe up road sections like les Lacets de Montvernier. The picture quality will be inferior and the POV will be external ‘side on’ or observational, not in-the-action like we get from motos.
        – Why not put more thought into onboard cameras for later review on download or if it must be live, place parallel trackways to follow riders side-on in close up at broadcast standard?
        – In the end, is any of this really sufficient advance from the existing excellent coverage?

        • Plurien – do you have any real knowledge/experience in this field? I ask because I was wondering (again) while watching the Giro di Sicilia…WTF we have to listen to the f__king rotor blade racket in the ‘copter shots? Do you know? I understand the TV motos have audio as well as video but can see zero reason for the ‘copter racket to be transmitted and included in the video from up-in-the-sky. If there’s a microphone up there, WTF is it on and transmitting what is just noise? I remember someone claiming the noise was added just to make the viewers aware they were ‘copter camera images, but I can’t believe that.

          • We’ve had this conversation before, the sound is “piped in” as there has to be accompanying sound. If you don’t believe it, listen how the engine and rotor sound is always the same regardless of whether the aircraft is moving fast or slow, changing direction etc as these moves would all cause tonal differences.

          • Really? “.. there has to be accompanying sound” Says who? Why? You have this on some authority I assume? It’s annoying and useless – WTF wants to listen to that? Like we can’t tell the video is coming from a helicopter? And sometimes these people turn up this racket to a ridiculous level to the point the commentators can barely be heard.
            I watch MOTOGP when it’s on free-to-air and don’t recall hearing a bunch of piped-in helicopter racket when they are obviously showing video from a ‘copter flying over the race course. Does this occur only on cycling broadcasts? The other day Riccardo Magrini was commenting on it, saying it sounded like something was wrong with the ‘copter. Whose decision is this?

          • I don’t watch Moto-GP, so I have to ask: is there no sound whatsoever when there is an aerial shot from a helicopter – or is there so to speak a generic sound of engines (and whatever noise there is when motorcycles go around a circuit) in the background?

            I suppose the engine and rotor sound could be replaced with the sounds the peloton or a small group makes as it passes, but wouldn´t it seem a bit odd, as in too unrealistic?

            I´m afraid that no background sound at all accompanying the commentators´ voices would pretty soon get to our nerves as much as the present piped-in sound – and not just because we are so used to what we hear!

          • I’m with Larry: why does there have to be an accompanying sound? We know they’re in a helicopter. And I don’t care if they’re in a hot-air balloon.
            It’s an annoying, pointless noise, and is often far too loud.
            I imagine it’s something they did decades ago because they were – for whatever reason – concerned that people wouldn’t know where these shots were coming from, and now it’s simply something they do because they’ve always done it.

          • I’d be just fine with no background sound. The commentators are usually pretty much non-stop anyway, no? The MOTOGP guys are usually at the event so plenty of background noise comes through no matter how soundproof the box they’re in might be. But the ‘copter racket is heard both on RAI where the guys are there and Eurosport where they’re in a studio in Milan (I think anyway, they could be doing it from their homes for all I know) but I’d certainly prefer nothing vs the ‘copter’s rotor blade noise…I really wonder who wouldn’t?

          • I don’t think there is anyone who actually likes it. But I do think it would seem a bit…eerie?…if there was no sound at all. I bet you, too, would notice something was amiss after a while.
            In other words, it´s far from a perfect solution, but…

            PS I prefer commentators who understand that occasional breaks in the incessant flow of commentary are important 🙂

          • Can’t find it now, but one of the week-long races in a Spanish speaking area has a Twitter account for the race heli. Entries are invariably; ‘Chaka-Chaka-Chaka’.
            Maybe it’s a historical thing from the old 16mm days when there was no sound recording and everything had to be dubbed*, so the noise was a simple audio channel fill-in.

            *A LOT of the classics pre-1970s have completely fake action soundtracks. Lots of heavy breathing, a steady single motor note and a static bike being ridden in the background sort of thing plus random crowd ambient.

          • I´m pretty sure there are plenty of people who´d be fine with silence – and plenty more who don´t fine the absence of noise “troubling” 🙂

            But I also believe that the producers who apparently love the chaka-chaka-chaka know a thing or two.

          • Perhaps old ideas just take a long time to die, as in the ‘copter racket? I may have posted this story before but back-in-the-day in SoCal, KTLA TV was the first anywhere to have traffic reports from what they billed as the “tele-copter”. My father worked in the ‘copter biz, refinishing the rotor blades and told of a time he delivered a set to the airport where the “tele-copter” was based. For some reason it wasn’t flying so they had their reporter in an office in the hanger reading the traffic report – while a vacuum-cleaner was running in the background. He told of another time watching as TV cameras rolled on some sort of report…pointing to the ‘copter with pilot and reporter (“reporting” what they were supposedly seeing) inside…as it sat on the ground with engine running and rotor’s spinning!

  16. I’m surprised by some comments saying it wasn’t a great edition, or boring, or forgettable.

    For a long long while, until 15km to go, any one of the 7 superstars out front could have finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd in any order and the result would be accepted. This for me was thrilling to watch as we didn’t know what was going to happen. Would Ganna or Kung go long? Could they? What would Pedersen do? Would MVDP act as a foil for Philpsen? Or the other way round?

    I understand we were denied the Galaticos sprinting in the velodrome, but that didn’t detract from the race as a whole for me. The insane speed, the lines that MVDP carved through the cobbled corners, the 100km before a break etc etc.

    Thanks for the great write up as always INRNG.

    • Pretty much.
      Ganna and kung may not have attacked but WVA and MVDP did lots. In fact those 2 did a lot more attacks then the winner of the race normally would by far.
      Between the first break going and Jumbo attack there were still plenty of 2nd or 3rd rate riders trying to make breaks.
      Probably the overall most aggressive roubaix i have ever watched in recent times.

      • I haven’t watched nearly as many PRs as you have, but I agree. This looked like a very aggressive version of the race. It started fast, and stayed fast, and MvdP definitely burned a lot of matches before the decisive moments. For me this might be his most impressive win, certainly from the standpoint that I could see the effort and accomplishment as it happened, minute by minute, over so many km.

        • “It started fast, and stayed fast,” There was plenty of commentary about a serious tailwind, especially early-on. It was cited as to why it took so long for a break to form but since then all I read seems to imply (rather gushingly at times) that somehow modern technology and/or aggressive “tactics” were the reason the race was run off at such a high average speed.
          I guess that should be no surprise in cycling where the old joke is “There is only one kind of wind…headwind…anything else is just you having a good day” or something to that effect 🙂

  17. Re: Tom J about media above. Generally interesting, and I think inrng wrote something on the subject several times, though not a full article. Yet, I must note that the way you depict early coverage (not “the earliest” one) is a little misleading, that is, you jump from writing journos to photos underestimating the important evolution which the former went through in the 30s: at GTs, which of course were the leading events, things had started to change a lot since when more and more motorised vehicle could follow the race, and even more so, for obvious reasons, when stage distance was kept more often than not below the 300 km mark, leaving behind the “one stage, one rest day” format. Such a shift, which happened between 1928 and 1929, was one among the several “transition towards modern cycling” (so to say, and not without a pinch of irony), which the sport went through along the whole 20th century, and probably one of the most relevant ones. The consequences included detailed coverage of the race by multiple journos who saw it live and then had plenty of post-race interviews with a variety of characters (lots of pages to fill!), as it’s to be expected in a sport fast growing into a mass sport in the context of, well, mass society. In your – however fascinating – figure of the photos which “encapsulate” instants of the race, you seem to mix up “what we remember or is easily available today” with the whole range of practices to follow the race “back then”. That is, the written form of the earliest years was by then a very serious way to get a consistent, solid, in-depth coverage of the race, which would be, and is, perfectly effective today (I myself sometimes don’t watch or re-watch a race if I can read a good write-up on Cicloweb or Ilciclismo). Plus, didn’t notice if you named the radio… radio is impressively good to follow a race and the first coverage in Italy goes as far back as 1932, in 1934 you already had each and every Giro stage, even if not always live – but more and more often so. In fact, the Sanremo you name is a legend in… radio coverage, because they had to put some music while they waited for the rest of riders. I wouldn’t renounce to tv images, of course, but just think how good is it to have your Renaat or, say, Savoldelli, Cassani, commenting from a moto within the race itself.

    As a separate point, the idea of stage racing where nothing happened before the TV coverage, although mirroring actual attitudes say during Cipo’ s Giro reign, is totally false when applied to a general “past of cycling”, as any general knowledge of how the big races usually developed, well, along the whole history of cycling until the late 90s, shows pretty well. Famous (or not) races were often won and lost very very very far from the line… even if that doesn’t mean you couldn’t also have a final face-off.

  18. Who knows how much less time WVA would have lost if he was changing a wheel with rim brakes.
    Almost certainly, had that been the case for him, Laporte would have joined what was then the Ganna group, post-Arenberg, and would have got back up to the leaders.
    And all so the bike manufacturers can sell them to punters who are – crucially – not in a race.
    (Also worth noting that Boonen said they made no difference because the limiting factor was the contact between tyre and road.)

  19. Better to ride on rubber suited to the task. Out of curiosity has anyone ever had a plan of doing a bike switch once they approach the start of the cobbled sections?

    • No. UCI rules now and organiser-imposed regulations mean a rider can only change bikes back at the convoy ( or with a team-mate in case of a mechanical ). ITTs can have designated places for bike change, typically for flat-to-climb courses.
      Guess you could stop at a roadside soigneur, like riders who’ve flatted do at the end of a secteur, but the time penalty of a wheel change kills the benefit.

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