Roubaix’16: Heroic Hayman!

Race Report: How many superlatives can you use to describe this race? Stunning? Incredible? Outstanding? Greatest Ever? For Australian Matthew Hayman you only need one – victorious. The 2016 Paris-Roubaix was open to many possible winners, but no one would have tipped the man from down-under to swoop in for the win.

When you woke up this morning and looked at the forecast, a dry Roubaix? That’s boring isn’t it? Matthew Hayman turned received wisdom on its head as he stayed away for 230km and then out-sprinted Tom Boonen, the (possible) retiring legend. Behind it was disappointment for Sagan and Cancellara who were victims of an early split in the peloton and could never rejoin the leading group. Tom Boonen and his team made the race but the Belgian couldn’t quite finish it off. Hayman did, at 37 years old, for an emotional win.

Paris-Roubaix, arguably the best single day of cycling in the whole season, starts today with the prospect of warm Spring weather and light breezes. The race begins in Compiègne, a town around 100km north east of Paris and meanders north, through rutted cobbled farm tracks to the velodrome of Roubaix, a town on the border between Belgium and France.

The first 100km of the route are fairly insignificant with minor rural roads dragging the peloton towards their inevitable fate, the final 150km of brutal cobbles. The cobbles start with the 2.2km Troisvilles but it’s not until 8 sectors later that the race really heats up with the 2.4km, slightly downhill, Trouee d’Arenberg – the first 5-star cobble section of the race. There are two more 5-star sections, the most difficult of the race, the Mons-en-Pevele starts 46.5km after the Arenberg and that is followed by Le Carrefour de l’Arbe, the fourth sector from the end, which starts just 20.5km away from the finish. The last three cobbled sections are much easier and will filter the riders onto the Roubaix velodrome, for 1 and a half laps, for the second most famous finish in cycling.

The Calm Before the Storm
The opening salvos of the 2016 Paris-Roubaix featured some high profile break attempts as Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Jasper Stuyven & Stijn Devolder (Trek-Segafredo) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) all tried to get away. These names were much too big for the peloton to grant them freedom and the pace was quick, to not only bring back this group but also prevent further attacks from teammates of the main favorites.

The first group allowed any degree of freedom was a 16 man group featuring Marko Kump (Lampre-Merida), Borut Bozic (Cofidis), Magnus Cort Nielsen & Matt Hayman (Orica-GreenEDGE), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Yannick Martinez (Delko-Marseille-KTM), Yaroslav Popovych (Trek-Segafredo), Tim Declarq (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Salvatore Puccio (Sky), Frederick Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Michael Mørkøv (Tinkoff), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) and Maxime Daniel (AG2R-La Mondiale). Mørkøv was dealt a harsh blow on the first cobbled section however when he punctured and found himself back in the grip of the peloton, reducing the leading group to 15. Martinez was the next to depart leaving just 14 out front against the chasing Etixx led peloton. Jelle Wallays was the next to suffer misfortune and he was sent packing from the hemorrhaging break.

Yaroslav Popovych (Trek-Segafredo) led the break through Arenberg

Once More Unto the Breach
Etixx had spent most of the classics season at the front of the race without delivering a final product. That hadn’t perturbed them in this race and it was Tony Martin who increased the pace. He was riding so hard that he decimated the peloton with the two main favorites, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) the worst affected. Martin wasn’t done yet and he was dragging Boonen clear of the chasing group.

The Boonen group contained Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE), Robert Wagner (LottoNl-Jumbo), Ian Stannard (Sky) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data). Boonen was on fire though as he hit the front through the Arenberg trench but the Sagan group was very slowly crawling back, they now stood just 1 minute down. Boonen’s cause wasn’t helped by the fact that nobody, apart from team mate Martin, was assisting with the pace making.

In the confusion of the splits and cobbled sections a group containing Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNl-Jumbo) and Luke Rowe (Sky) were within touching distance of the Boonen group and closing. Meanwhile, Sagan and Cancellara were forced into doing a lot of chasing work thanks to the wariness of the other riders in their group.

Tony Martin blew the race apart for his Etixx – Quick-Step teammate Tom Boonen… it nearly worked

Young and Old
The Rowe group made contact and it was advantage Sky. They had Rowe and Stannard together and Puccio leftover from the earlier break. Martin’s pace had completely blown the rest of his team away and only him and Boonen remained.

In the break Hayman wasn’t prepared to wait for the Boonen group to catch up and he set off alone up the road. The foray was short lived and he was caught by the remnants of the break with 73km left to ride and a 50 second gap over the chasing group.

The Cancellara group were still going hard but the gains that had been so easy to achieve early on were getting harder to find, but they were just 30 seconds behind. The addition of the Rowe group to the Boonen group hadn’t helped them pull away and all the work Boonen had done earlier looked like it was going to be in vain.

With 60km to go it was gruppo compacto up front and there was now the simple equation of Cancellara needing to close 35 seconds to rejoin the lead. Onto the next section and Cancellara was determined to close the gap. He stamped onto the sector and only Sagan could hold his wheel. The Slovakian was able to pass him halfway through and they were now alone, except for some of the fading break members.

The Luke Rowe group had brought over Sky reinforcements and their massed ranks were now fighting against Sagan and Cancellara. Luck was not on the British teams side and on a rare wet corner Rowe fell bringing down team mate Mosconi. On the very next corner, Puccio, who had avoided the first crash, came down and slowed up Stannard. In a period of 100m the Sky plan had completely unraveled.

It all went wrong for Sky in the finalé

Onto the final 5 star sector and Vanmarcke was beginning to peel away. Boonen had no immediate response, but Stannard had dusted himself off and he was following the Dutch man. Behind, and there was even more drama as Cancellara came down on the wet cobbles and Sagan was able to bunny hop the stricken Swiss. The loss of Cancellara also meant a huge loss of firepower.

Back in the lead and Vanmarcke and Stannard had been pulled back in by a Boonen chase effort. He’d been mentioned numerous times last week but this was turning into another incredible ride for Imanol Erviti, the Movistar rider had followed the wheels when Martin dragged Boonen across and he was now digging deep and contributing. He was looking like one of the strongest as the race flew into the final 40km. It was sadness for Cancellara, the Swiss rider was almost 3 minutes back and it was game over for him. Sagan wasn’t having much luck either, despite the crashes in the leading group his deficit had actually gone out and he was now more than a minute behind but, crucially, without Fabian’s assistance.

It was a disappointing day for the World champion

Eight against the World
As the pre race favorites faded it looked likely that the winner would come from the lead group of eight, a group that contained; Rowe, Stannard, Boonen, Vanmarcke, Erviti, Boasson Hagen, Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal), Heinrich Haussler & Aleksejs Saramontins (IAM Cycling) and Hayman. Sky had the advantage but Rowe had previously been kicked off the back of the group when Vanmarcke attacked.

Boonen was doing a lot of work over the cobbles but he couldn’t managed to distance any of the other riders in the lead group. Behind and Sagan had been out of sight but he was gradually closing the gap down, he was just 47 seconds down with 23km left to ride.

After 230km we had the first lull of the race as the leaders took on energy before the hideous Carrefour de l’Arbe sector. Luke Rowe was tasked with upping the pace for Stannard and he immediately dropped Saramontins, Erviti, Sieberg and Haussler. Rowe was the next to go though and there were now just five men left at the front. Hayman had taken over the ‘ride of the race’ mantle, he was in the original break and had just stuck around as others had faded around him.

As they hit Carrefour de l’Arbe it was Vanmarcke who was who was the first to go. He immediately put Hayman in difficulty but no one else was able to close him down. First Boonen tried then Stannard but they couldn’t dent his lead on the cobbles. Boasson Hagen was the next to try but all he succeeded in doing was distancing Stannard, the Brit fought back on though and it was 3 verses 1 with 15 km left. Make that 4 verses 1 as Hayman ignored conventional logic and rejoined the 3 chasers. Vanmarcke was fully committed but his lead was beginning to shrink. A final effort by Stannard and it was all back together again.

On the penultimate cobbled section and Vanmarcke went again but he was unable to gain any significant time. He did distance Stannard but the Brit fought back on and then attacked immediately. He was pegged back though and it was a stalemate once again. They were all attacking each other but no significant gaps had been created. Just 30 seconds back Saramontins, Haussler, Erviti and Sieberg were still in the race.

Stannard attacked but he was caught by Boonen who then attacked but he was caught by Hayman! It was now between these two. Hayman was barely 20m ahead but Boonen was suffering. The Belgian was forced back to the front but he wasn’t committed and Vanmarcke was beginning to close. Boonen led into the velodrome but Vanmarcke was there. It was Boonen, Hayman and Vanmarcke but with Stannard and Boasson Hagen immediately behind them!

Hayman opened it up. In slow motion! Just 75m….

He wins! Tommeke in second. A truly stunning ride and an incredible race.

Hayman turned down the commonly accepted way of winning Roubaix; hide until Arenberg, make the split, then hide again. He went in the break with 230km and, despite being dropped numerous times he just kept coming back. 37 years old but who cares about that?

A fantastic win by Hayman

Paris-Roubaix Result:
1. Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE in 5:51:53
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
3. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky
4. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) LottoNl-Jumbo
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data at 0:03
6. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling at 1:00
7. Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal
8. Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) IAM Cycling
9. Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar at 1:07
10. Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie at 1:20
11. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff
12. Maarten Wynants (Bel) LottoNl-Jumbo
13. Oliver Naesen (Bel) IAM Cycling
14. Luke Rowe (GB) Sky
15. Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Giant-Alpecin
16. Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale
17. Bert De Backer (Bel) Giant-Alpecin
18. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE at 4:40
19. Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC at 5:48
20. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis at 6:18
21. Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
22. Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
23. Koen De Kort (Ned) Giant-Alpecin
24. Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Bora-Argon 18
25. Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) LottoNl-Jumbo.

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