Paris-Roubaix is no normal race, with the titles of 'Queen of the Classics' and 'Hell of the North' only worthy of one with the toughest of reputations. Even by those standards, this was no normal Sunday in hell.
A coating of mud soon made the usually multicoloured mass of riders a uniform brown, the decisive moves came early while both the smooth roads and challenging cobbles were at times as slippery as skating rinks and home to crash after crash.
Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) emerged through all this, in his first Paris-Roubaix, as the victor. The 31-year-old made it into the right move and then, when in it, stuck to the wheel of a master of muddy conditions, world cyclo-cross champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix).
As a result, Colbrelli rode into the hallowed Roubaix velodrome in a group of three, at that stage almost guaranteed a podium spot alongside Van der Poel and Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal). Through the mud and cobbles, the sprinter Colbrelli had now moved into the territory that played to his strengths as the trio vied for the top step, although there was no telling what could happen in a dash for the line after the arduous 258 kilometres the trio of race debutants had experienced in hellish conditions.
The youngest went first, with 22-year-old Vermeersch launching from behind with a half a lap to go and surging ahead. Colbrelli and Van der Poel were closing on the right, the trio lined up beside each other as they charged through the final metres and then the experienced Italian managed to hit the front just when he needed to.
There was no mistaking the depth of Colbrelli’s emotion at capturing the victory. Excitedly leaping off his bike and holding it into the air and then crashing to the ground with exhaustion-filled, yet joyful, sobs as the gravity of the moment washed over him. Colbrelli, after all, had just taken the biggest win of his career in a dramatic edition of the Paris-Roubaix that will be long remembered.
Click or swipe through our gallery of photos above to see the mud, pain and joy on the faces of the riders after the first wet Paris-Roubaix since 2002. You can also find a gallery filled with action from out on the road in our race report.
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.