Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) won Paris-Roubaix after attacking alone on the cobbles of Camphin-en-Pévèle with 18km remaining. The Dutchman came home 1:47 clear of Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who outsprinted Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) to second place.
Van Baarle was full value for his victory, given that his Ineos team split the race in crosswinds early in the race and he looked to anticipate the pre-race favourites with a canny attack at Mons-en-Pévèle with 45km to go, eventually being joined by a reduced group of contenders.
On the later section of Cysoing, Van Baarle would join Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious), Yves Lampaert (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and the surprising Tom Devriendt (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) at the head of the race, while Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel chased behind.
Van Baarle then had the strength to forge clear alone at Camphin-en-Pévèle, dropping Mohorič and Lampaert, and he extended his advantage all the way to the velodrome.
The fastest-ever edition of Paris-Roubaix was run off an average speed of 45.8 kph, and the racing ignited long before the first cobblestones when Ineos Grenadiers split the race in crosswinds after 35km.
Van Aert and Van der Poel were among the men caught out there, and although they would eventually close their one-minute gap to the front, it set the tone for the remainder of the day. "We didn’t want to chase, we wanted to be on the front foot and that’s what we did," said Van Baarle.
This year's Paris-Roubaix came a week later than usual, but anticipation was the leifmotif of the day. After Ineos split the race before the cobbles, Mohorič opted to go on the offensive long before the traditional watershed of the Arenberg Forest, sparking a dangerous move with 113km still to race.
With 60km remaining, the Slovenian had Laurent Pichon and Devriendt for company, and two minutes in hand on the rest of the favourites. That move was gradually pinned back as Jumbo-Visma took up the reins for Van Aert, and a puncture would see Mohorič back with the favourites.
It was a breathless edition of Paris-Roubaix, with the narrative changing from sector to sector, but Ineos’ strength in numbers was a constant. And, in the finale, Van Baarle’s power and nous carried the day.
"It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t believe it when I went on the velodrome, you know. I looked at the other side to see if there were some other guys. When the team car came up next to me with Servais [Knaven]. then I really started believing in it. It’s been crazy," Van Baarle said.
"I mean, it’s a Monument, so of course, I wanted to win a Monument. To be second in Flanders and then to win Roubaix, I’m lost for words."
The drama didn't stop all the way to Roubaix, with Yves Lampaert crashing out of the hunt for a podium spot when he crashed into a spectator on the roadside on the final cobbled sector at Hem.
How it unfolded
The 119th edition of Paris-Roubaix would take the 175-man peloton the usual 257km route from Compiègne, 60km north-east of Paris, to the Vélodrome André Pétrieux in Roubaix. Along the way they'd tackle 54.8km of cobbles across 30 sectors, including the fearsome five-star sectors at the Trouée d'Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle, and the Carrefour de l'Arbre.
As expected, the attacks flew from the very start as riders including Manuele Boaro (Astana Qazaqstan), Daniel Oss (TotalEnergies), Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), and a host of ProTeam riders attempted to make the break of the day.
The first 35 kilometres passed with no breakaway move, though, thanks to the fast pace set from the off. It wasn't much longer before the first big move of the day came, though, as the crosswinds hit, and the peloton was split in two as Ineos Grenadiers pushed on at the front.
Shockingly, major favourites such as Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), and Kasper Asgreen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) all missed the split after they were caught out of position.
Meanwhile, the full Ineos squad making the cut along with major names Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl's Zdenek Stybar, Yves Lampaert and Florian Sénéchal. The gap between the front split, made up of around 70 riders, and the chasers quickly grew up to a minute as the contenders caught out manned the panic stations behind.
The move persevered through the opening cobbled sectors of the race, while several big names fell into trouble on the pavé. Asgreen and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) were involved in a crash at the first sector, Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) fell victim to a puncture and a mechanical, while Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal) and Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) also punctured.
More splits at the front followed, as former champion Niki Terpstra (TotalEnergies), jumped away solo on sector 27 at Saint-Python, with the Van der Poel chase group still a minute down. The Dutchman's attack drew out a group of 18 before things came together 20 minutes later.
A brief down period at the head of the race saw a five-man group including Mohorič, Davide Ballerini (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Casper Pedersen (Team DSM), Tom Devriendt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), and Laurent Pichon (Arkéa-Samsic) jump away on a sector of tarmac 113km from the finish.
Ballerini was unlucky to puncture before the quintet reached the Arenberg, though, leaving four up front with a sizeable advantage of 1:45 heading onto the mythical cobbles. There, Van der Poel and Van Aert finally made contact with the front split before the Belgian suffered an untimely mechanical before chasing on once again.
After the dust settled on the 2.3km sector, Mohorič's group lay 1:20 up on Ballerini and Connor Swift (Arkéa-Samsic), who had made a move before the forest, while the main peloton containing many of the main contenders were a further 40 seconds back.
The situation, for the first time during the day, calmed down during the kilometres following the five-star sector. Mohorič's group shed Pedersen to leave three men in the lead, with the Dane, Ballerini, and Swift swallowed up by the peloton at 67km to go, with the enlarged group now lying 2:10 from the front.
Jumbo-Visma, now intact in the main peloton, led the way into the pair of three-star cobbled sectors before and after the town or Orchies, slicing 30 seconds from the gap to the Mohorič group in short order and splitting the peloton once again.
Big hitters including Van Aert, Van der Poel, Küng, Lampaert, Sénéchal, Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), the Ineos pair of Ben Turner and Dylan van Baarle and Intermarché-Wanty Gobert duo Adrien Petit and Taco van der Hoorn made the cut.
In the process of the move, the elite group closed to within a minute of the lead before Van Baarle made a solo move at Auchy-lez-Orchies. By the end of Mons-en-Pévèle, 45km out, Van Baarle was 30 seconds off the lead, though he had Van Aert, Van der Poel, and Küng breathing down his neck after an attack by the Belgian.
The trio joined up with Pichon and Van Baarle with 40km to go, while Petit, Stuyven, Turner, and Lampaert came across to make it nine men in the chase behind Mohorič and Devreindt. Soon after, Van Aert was forced to make another leg-sapping chase following a puncture before the Pont-Thibault sector, while Mohorič punctured straight afterwards, making it a 10-man group behind now-sole leader Devreindt.
The Belgian's solo time out front came to an end with 28km to go as Mohorič rejoined him with an attack before sector 7 at Cysoing, with Lampaert along for the ride and Van Baarle also making it across with a big effort on the cobbles.
Forty seconds separated the lead quartet and the chase, led by Van Aert, Küng, and Van der Poel, while Stuyven seized a chance to accelerate away on the next sector at Bourghelles. Van Aert and Küng quickly followed once they hit the tarmac, leaving Van der Poel to chase.
Stuyven was unfortunate to suffer a mechanical before Camphin-en-Pévèle, dropping out of the chase, which at that point lay 30 seconds down on the leaders. Van der Poel's group, meanwhile, was a full minute back.
The four-star sector saw Van Baarle accelerate at the front, dropping the hardy Devreindt, while his Ineos teammate Turner slid out on a cobbled corner. Heading onto the decisive final sector at Carrefour de l'Arbre, Van Baarle pushed on alone a few seconds up on Mohorič and Lampaert, while the Van Aert chase group was 30 seconds down.
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.