Paris-Roubaix’18: Super Sagan Swoops Through Hell!

Race Report: We already knew that Peter Sagan was something special, you don’t win the World road race championships three times in a row by chance, but Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix put the Slovakian in the legend class. Clever, fast, powerful and pure class.

On a benign Sunday afternoon on the concrete pastures of the Roubaix Velodrome, triple world champion, Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe & Slovakia) entered legend with a beautiful win in the Queen of the Classics, Paris-Roubaix after an attack some 54 kilometers from the finish. Second and ‘man of the match’ was Swiss former track star, Silvan Dillier (AG2R-La Mondiale & Switzerland) after being ‘away’ all day. Third was an inevitable Quick-Step; Dutchman Nike Tersptra adding the Roubaix podium to Le Samyn, E3 and Flanders wins. And respect has to go to Taylor Phinney (EF-Drapac & USA) who gave his all for team leader, Sep Vanmarcke and still managed to finish eighth. ‘What might have been’ of the days was young Wout Van Aert (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan & Belgium) dropping his chain in the final kilometers whilst still with the Terpstra group.

Sunshine in Compiegne for the 25 teams of seven men. Will Quick-Step let an early break go? They didn’t last weekend. And it’s the same this weekend; it’s taking one heck of a time for the break to go, not surprising given the speed as riders go up the road in ones and twos but come back just as quick.

It was almost an hour before six got away with biggest name Giro stage winner, Silvan Dillier (AG2R-La Mondiale & Switzerland). The gap grows eventually, three bridge up and we have nine: Dillier, Sven Erik Bystrøm (UAE Team Emirates), Marc Soler (Movistar), Ludovic Robeet and Jimmy Duquennoy (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Geoffrey Soupe (Cofidis, Solutions Credits), Gatis Smukulis (Delko-Marseille Provence-KTM), and Jay Robert Thomson (Dimension Data).

Inside 200K to go and the gap is up to five minutes and rising as the peloton enjoys the sunshine. Not long until the first secteur now as the gap goes to eight minutes plus. . . The break spells nicely, the peloton continues to chat in the spring sunlight – come secteur 29, Troisvilles there’ll be the first major skirmish of the day as they fight for position.

The break is on the cobbles with 100 miles to go – a much safer proposition for nine men then it will be for the huge peloton. Bora leads the peloton in, Quick-Step are there too – crash! A huge number of men are on the deck as the escapees enter secteur 28. Terpstra and three team mates to the fore and Rowe for Sky at the head of the bunch; it’s not going to be easy for the those held up by the fall to get back – GVA is back there. Iljo drives into secteur 28 with the GVA group at 40 seconds.

It looks over for Kristoff, out of the back and struggling. Secteur 27 for the break with 5:27 of their lead left – and now the peloton thunders in with Keisse driving. The gap drops below five minutes with the peloton in one snaking line out of secteur 26 as Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale) puncture. Secteur 25 with Tony Martin on the front of the bunch as behind Démare, Naesen and Sky faller, Moscon all battle hard to get back on. The nine in the break continue on merry their way, untroubled by such problems but inevitably doomed, their lead down to 4:15.

Secteur 24, ‘just’ two star difficulty, ‘easy’ cobbles or not, Soler choses to ride in the dirt gutter rather than rattle on the sets. There are six Quick-Steps to the fore into this secteur with big Tim de Clerq the strong man. There’s big Stijn Vandenbergh on the front of the peloton for AG2R into secteur 23 as the escapees enter secteur 22. Soupe’s beard will need a lot of attention after this race as he charges through the dust clouds.

The break exits 22 as the bunch charges in. That’s 21 come and gone for the break as still Quick-Step wield the whip. Tarmac for a spell to give sore derrieres a respite – but not for long as the break rattles into secteur 20, four star difficulty, narrow and with grass in the middle.

The peloton eats it up but it’s a lethal one and Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) crashes out. Arenberg looms – our race fave Phil Gil shows face for the first time, it’s a cage fight into the forest. Burghardt and Sagan lead under the concrete bridge, the big German Champion is riding very strongly – as the splintered break exits the forest.

Back on the tar the break has lost a couple of souls as Gilbert and a Sunweb – it’s Teunussen – have slipped the bunch out of Arenberg as the break zooms under Pont Gilbus and into secteur 18. Big German Politt tries to get up to Gilbert and Theunissen; Pedersen for Trek leads the chase behind but Stybie is right there for the flooring team.

That’s the race proper starting now.

Politt makes it across as behind Wout Van Aert (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan) reacts, he realizes that giving Gilbert too much rope isn’t a good idea, especially accompanied by strong boys like Teunissen and Poliitt. The five surviving breakaways bounce into the long secteur 17, with Gilbert & Co. catching those jettisoned by the break. We have the five man break and the Gilbert & Co. which is now accompanied by Soupe and his beard.

Kristoff has battled back to the peloton as Trek drive the peloton then Sky – Gilbert & Co. aren’t so far up the road as the break’s margin slides inexorably towards one minute. Gilbert & Co. come back and Stybie attacks immediately. For a skinny Spanish climber, Soler is riding an impressive race, still clear and getting good TV time for Movistar.

Trek with Degenkolb and Pedersen react as the break battles out of secteur 16. And now the five dusty survivors enter secteur 15, Soler has popped at last, Stybie scoops him up; the final shape of the race is forming with 68K to ride. Stybar isn’t going too deep as behind it’s Oss leading the chase for Sagan. The break is on secteur 14 now as Stybie comes back; secteur 13 next as the gap dips towards the half minute.

Dillier powers the three survivors across the cobbles – an impressive performance by the Swiss Champion. Perhaps 35/40 are left in the peloton with no one keen to commit. As I write that, GVA attacks but is immediately marked by Van Aert – he comes back, Sagan goes on the attack with 54K to ride. That three man break just keeps going – secteur 12 now as Sagan tries to get to the three desperadoes with 53K to go. Stuyven and Van Aert react now – two big strong boys. Sagan is on to the break but doesn’t go through immediately, he catches his breath and gets down to the job – Stuyven and Van Aert are working hard as the break hits secteur 11, Mons-en-Pevele.

Back in the bunch a crash takes Kristoff out as Sagan charges through the huge crowds in secteur 11. Phinney (EF-Drapac & USA) leads for Vanmarcke back in the ever-reducing bunch but Terpstra dumps the nitro and blasts the group apart. Secteur 10, Sagan, Dillier and Wallays have a minute on Terpstra, Phinney, Vanmarcke, Van Aert, Stuyven, Debusschere and GVA with another group containing Gilbert, Stybie, Naesen, Moscon chasing. Secteurs 9, 8a, 8, that’s 20 miles to go through mad crowds with 52 seconds on a rabid Terpstra who’s dragging the rest along. Sagan charges in to secteur 7 looking good with 26 K to go, Dillier clings on as Wallays pops; secteur 6 now.

It’s going to come down to secteur 4, Carrefour de l’Arbre, that’s where they’ll try to get up to him. Secteur 5, Camphine-en-Pevele, 1800 meters, Dillier battles hard, Sagan looks – as we say in Scotland – “neither up nor down”. Phinney drives the chasers, Van Aert’s chain drops – ouch!

Terpstra goes! Phinney pops. Sagan is on the Carrefour, he’s flying, making it look easy, Dillier’s ride is remarkable today. Debusschere pops back in the chasers. Niki drives, he’s with Vanmarcke, GVA and Stuyven – meanwhile Sagan hammers over secteur 3 with a minute in hand.

The world champion parts the crowds in the secteur like Moses with the Red Sea – Dillier spells him back on the tar as the gap dips under the minute. Secteur 2 and the gap dips to 44 seconds as the four favorites behind dig deep, deep, deep. GVA’s jersey is caked in dried salts, he’s full gas. Terpstra still looks good; Vanmarcke pummels the gear, Stuyven looks close to the end of his tether. But Sagan is bestial, acrobatic – they exit secteur 2, smooth tar, Dillier spells Sagan who’s man of the day, however it ends. The smooth tar up to the track, the remarkable Dillier hangs in, takes a drink, two K now. Last secteur, red kite, the track, the bell. . .

Dillier leads, Sagan tracks him high on the fence, last banking, Sagan kicks, Dillier can’t match him – the arms go high, he screams to the heavens. Peter Sagan, Champion of the World and winner of 2018 Paris-Roubaix – beautiful. Silvan Dillier second and undoubted man of the match. Terpstra finishes solo to take third – you can’t keep those Quick-Steps off the podium. GVA fourth, Stuyven fifth, Vanmarcke sixth, Politt seventh and an amazing Taylor Phinney eighth. Heroes all in the ‘Queen of the Classics.’

The final kilometer:

Paris-Roubaix Result:
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe in 5:54:06
2. Silvan Dillier (Swi) AG2R-La Mondiale
3. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors at 0:57
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC at 1:34
5. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
7. Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin at 2:31
8. Taylor Phinney (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
9. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors
10. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
11. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Sunweb
12. Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale
13. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Veranda’s Willems Crelan
14. Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 2:37
15. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 3:07
16. Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) LottoNL-Jumbo
17. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
18. Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
19. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Sky
20. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida
21. Bert De Backer (Bel) Vital Concept Club at 3:48
22. Mathew Hayman (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
23. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC
24. Edward Theuns (Bel) Sunweb at 4:23.

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