Mathieu van der Poel scored emphatic solo victory Sunday at Paris-Roubaix and added another monument to his barnstormer classics palmarès.
Van der Poel blazed away from archrival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) when the Belgian punctured shortly after the two had attacked their way to the front on the cobbles of the Carrefour de l’Arbre.
And once Van der Poel had clear air, he never looked back. The Alpecin-Deceuninck ace launched the time trial of his life through the final 15km to extend his gap over a malfunctioning chase group filled with big hitters.
Van der Poel entered the historic Roubaix velodrome in splendid isolation before he sat up and savored the final meters.
“It’s incredible, it’s hard to describe. I think I did my best classics season ever, and this was my last race. To finish it like this, it’s a dream,” Van der Poel said at the finish line.
“I normally hate this race, but for sure I love it today,” he added with a smile.
Van Aert and Van der Poel’s teammate Jasper Philipsen led the chase, and it was sprint talent Philipsen that was fastest, securing an Alpecin-Deceuninck one-two.
Van Aert finished third for the second time in his 2023 monument season.
“It’s incredible, and how we rode as a team, with Jasper in second, it’s not possible to do better than this,” Van der Poel said. “I had one of my best days on the bike. I felt really strong.”
Van der Poel and his team animated the “Hell of the North” on Sunday. The Alpecin-Decuninck mob filled the front of the peloton, and put two riders into the day’s crucial split with Van der Poel.
The Dutch ace led the Alpecin team with typical offensive power, launching three attacks before and during the Mons-en-Pévèle, but he was unable to make the gap.
But it was Van Aert’s puncture at 15km from the finish that dictated the day.
The Belgian had briefly gapped Van der Poel over the Carrefour cobblestones before a flat tire put the Jumbo-Visma rider out of contention.
“It was unfortunate, because otherwise we could have gone together to the finish line,” Van der Poel said of his rival’s disaster-timed mechanical.
“But bad fortune is sometimes part of the race. You need a bit of luck and good legs, and I had both today.”
Victory on Sunday leaves Van der Poel with a total of four monument titles, including the 2023 Milan-San Remo and two from the Tour of Flanders.
The 28-year-old also claimed a little piece of history by becoming the fourth rider after Cyrille van Hauwaert, Sean Kelly and John Degenkolb to win San Remo and Roubaix in the same season.
Former Roubaix champion Degenkolb (DSM) saw his big chance to roll back the years end when he crashed out of a powerpacked group of seven on the Carrefour.
Another former winner of the race, Peter Sagan (Total Energies), had to abandon on just the second cobblestone sector after a heavy crash.
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