Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) called his second place at Paris-Roubaix one of his best days on the bike. Politt finished runner up to Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) riding clear of an elite group with just under 15 kilometres to go.
The German earned dark horse status for Paris-Roubaix after an extremely consistent Classics campaign, but he wasn’t so sure about his chances against some of the more fancied contenders. Indeed, there were times that Politt looked like he was going to pay for his efforts earlier in the race. However, he put in a huge acceleration on sector three, Gruson, and quickly distanced a fatiguing Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), who had been sat in his wheel. Only Gilbert had the legs to make it across the widening crevasse he had opened up.
“I’m in my fourth year as a pro now and to get second place in Paris-Roubaix is such a nice feeling and to lose against Philippe Gilbert who was already world champion, who has won so many races, it’s not a shame,” said Politt
“In the winter I was training really hard, especially for the Classics. Now, [I have finished] two times in the top 10 with sixth in Harelbeke [E3 BinckBank] and fifth in Flanders, and today a podium in Roubaix. You can say for me it's one of the best days on my bike.”
This was Pollit’s fourth appearance at Paris-Roubaix after making his debut during his first season as a professional in 2016, a race that he did not finish. A year before that, he rode the under-23 Paris-Roubaix. On that occasion, he also failed to make the Roubaix velodrome after plenty of crashes, but he was hooked on the Hell of the North.
“I really like this race. I did it once as an under-23 and I crashed five times and then I said to my father, this is a race that I can do well at and I want to come back,” he explained. “Even in my first year with Katusha I didn’t finish but then the good results started to come with seventh place in 2018 and then today second. It means that this race is a good race for me and I’m really looking forward to next year.”
Back to this year and Politt and Gilbert soon had an unassailable lead, the QuickStep rider tried to shake Politt but he held firm. Once Gilbert realised that Politt was not going to be distanced, the pair worked well together until they came into the final two kilometres. By this point, Gilbert’s teammate Yves Lampaert was chasing them down and so Politt was forced to take the front.
“I wanted to start my sprint from the back but for sure Philippe had a good card to play that Yves Lampaert was coming from behind, so I had to go from the front,” Politt said. “He was one second faster than me because I also wanted to start my sprint and he was already by my side. In the end, I think Gilbert had the better punch for the sprint.
“Actually, I was thinking that Philippe would attack me with about three kilometres to go when it went a little bit up. I think that if I attacked Philippe, he is a strong rider and he will stay on my wheel for sure. I thought that the only chance to beat him would be in the sprint. He won, but it doesn’t matter because, second place, great.”
What Gilbert’s victory at Paris-Roubaix showed Politt was that he has time on his side. Politt only turned 25 last month while Gilbert is 36, so he has plenty of chances to come back and move one step further up the podium.
“He's 11 years older than me so that gives me 11 more opportunities here.”