The Trek-Segafredo team appeared as one of the strongest outlets in the 2017 edition of Paris-Roubaix. The American team entered the race with 2015 winner John Degenkolb as team leader and young Jasper Stuyven as his sidekick. The latter was somewhat relegated after a lackluster spring classics season so far. Still, he surprised everybody with his best ride of the season so far, falling just short of a podium result in the sprint for the victory. Fellow Belgian Edward Theuns captured an eighth place and Degenkolb finished tenth.
At 82 kilometres from the finish, the Trek-Segafredo team moved to the front of the peloton with half the team. Shortly before that, Greg Van Avermaet returned in the peloton after having a mechanical ahead of the feared Arenberg forest. Due to Trek-Segafredo's move, the peloton stretched out again and only thirteen riders - including Degenkolb and Stuyven - survived the selection on the cobbles of sector 17, from Hornaing to Wandignies. Shortly after the cobbles, several riders returned to the front but then world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) put in a massive acceleration with his teammate Maciej Bodnar. Only Jasper Stuyven and Daniel Oss (BMC) managed to bridge back up to the Bora-duo. Little later, the duo dropped back, probably after a crash from Sagan.
"When the group with me and John was caught back I no longer had a big acceleration in my legs, but John wasn't actively responding to the moves so I went myself. Suddenly, we had Greg, Moscon and the others with us," Stuyven said. From there, Stuyven always remained near the front until he got dropped by Van Avermaet, Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) and Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Drapac) on pavé sector 4, the infamous Carrefour de l'Arbre.
"It was very hard, very fast from the beginning. Katusha tried to make it hard from the start. We opened the race at a certain point after Arenberg [sector 17: Hornaing to Wandignies]. That was an idea we had before the race. It worked out quite good. From this moment on, Jasper was in the front group. Of course, they came back and it was always changing. We were always in the front group, except after the Carrefour de l'Arbre. The plan worked out," Degenkolb said.
Having Stuyven up front allowed Degenkolb to mark the wheels from his rivals. That wasn't much appreciated by Tom Boonen, who hit out at Degenkolb in his farewell interview. Boonen stated Degenkolb rode the most cowardly race of his life, shadowing the Belgian throughout the race.
Degenkolb, seemingly unaware of Boonen's complaints, was content about his race and how the team had raced. While recovering on the vélodrome, shortly after finishing the race in tenth place, Degenkolb was asked whether having Stuyven instead of himself in the front group didn't bother him.
"No, it was a good situation for me. I was in a situation that I had to react, rather than act. It also takes away an insane amount of energy to do that," Degenkolb said.
From there, Degenkolb headed to the shower building on the site in Roubaix. Every winner of Paris-Roubaix receives a name tag in the legendary Roubaix shower building. Degenkolb didn't race Paris-Roubaix last year, and this time around he was happy to freshen up in 'his' shower. A few moments later, he appeared at the team bus and confirmed he was pleased with the team performance.
"We can be happy with the team result. It was good. Unfortunately, he [Stuyven] didn't jump on the podium but having three guys in the top-10 shows how strong the team is. It's a very good result for us. For sure, that gives a lot of confidence for the next classics seasons. We have a great team and I love working with these guys," Degenkolb said.
Meanwhile, Jasper Stuyven went through a rollercoaster of emotions. Shortly after crossing the finish line, he needed some time to take in what just happened. After getting dropped on the Carrefour de l'Arbre he ended up chasing the three leaders by half a minute together with Team Sky's Gianni Moscon. They seemed to be out of contention until they suddenly appeared in the front group, halfway through the final lap on the vélodrome. Moscon immediately opened up the sprint while Stuyven - a decent sprinter - was biding his time from behind.
Still, in the sprint he was unable to fight up against the trio, only passing Moscon and finishing fourth. Stuyven was very emotional, receiving support from his girlfriend. The 24-year-old was a co-leader of the team for the spring classics but that didn't work out well. On Friday, Stuyven regretted that he was no longer regarded one of the leaders for Paris-Roubaix. He was glad to have shown that he can do well in the classics.
"I think I showed that I was right there. The last few weeks weren't easy for me. I started without expectations, no good and no bad scenarios. That helped me today to stay super calm and go with the flow of the race, without worrying too much. Then, it's fun to ride like I did. I think I was among the four strongest riders in the race. Sagan often rides at the side of the road and you've got a much higher risk of a puncture. That's Roubaix," Stuyven said. He got dropped on the last hard pavé sector of the race, the Carrefour de l'Arbre, but that was a close call, according to Stuyven.
"That's Roubaix. You've got to keep going. I got dropped on the Carrefour but I wasn't dropped by the worst riders. I was hoping there would be a headwind on the Carrefour so the pace would drop and I would be able to close down the final twenty, thirty metres. We hesitated to keep chasing the leaders or wait for the peloton but we kept going. It's painful that I just wasn't strong enough to fight for the win. We bridged back up but these guys were recovering for half a lap. I hoped to move along in the wheel of Langeveld and then pass him but it wasn't possible," Stuyven said.
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