Mathieu Van der Poel sets his legend in stones with Paris-Roubaix win
April 9 th 2023 - 17:22
Alpecin-Deceunick rode an excellent 2023 Paris-Roubaix to set up its leader Mathieu Van der Poel for a magnificent victory and his deluxe domestique Jasper Philipsen for a second place that rounded off the day for the Belgian team. The Carrefour de l’Arbre was decisive yet again in the Hell of the North, with a crash for John Degenkolb (Team DSM) and a flat tire for Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) putting Van der Poel in an ideal position for a deserved solo victory in the Vélodrome André Petrieux after being the most aggressive rider of the race by far. This is the Dutchman’s second Monument win of the season, following Milano-Sanremo, and his third-ever next to his two victories in the Tour of Flanders – a landmark triumph on what can already be defined as a legendary career. As for Van Aert, he took his second straight podium in Paris-Roubaix after crossing the finish line in third position.
175 riders took the start in the 120th edition of Paris-Roubaix at 11:26, off to ride 256,6 kilometres between Compiègne and the Vélodrome André Pétrieux in Roubaix with 29 cobbled sectors to be covered. The first hour of racing was as fast as its 51,5 kph average speed might indicate. It wasn’t until 82 kilometres into the race that Jonas Koch (Bora-Hansgrohe), Derek Gee (Israel-PremierTech), Sjoerd Bax (UAE Team Emirates) and Juri Hollman (Movistar Team) managed to create the day’s breakaway. Nils Eekhoff (Team DSM) nearly joined them with a counter-attack that fell short. Coming into the race’s first cobbled sector, Troisvilles to Inchy (km 96.3 — 2.2 km), the gap between the front group and the bunch was 1’25”.
Sad farewell for Peter Sagan
The pack came quite compact into the cobbles, and that provoked several crashes. Half a dozen cyclists who were riding in the first positions of the bunch hit the ground midway through the Viesly to Quiévy (km 102.8 — 1.8 km) cobbled sector. Amongst them were Soudal-Quick Step’s Davide Ballerini and TotalEnergies’ Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss. The Slovakian myth, who was racing his last-ever Paris-Roubaix before retiring next winter, was forced to pull out from the race. Meanwhile, the break kept a decent margin on the bunch – up to 1’50” as they entered Maing to Monchaux-sur-Écaillon (km 133 — 1.6 km).
Jumbo-Visma rocks the tree, Alpecin-Deceuninck picks up the apples
Going into the Haveluy to Wallers (km 153.1 — 2.5 km) cobbled sector, Jumbo-Visma took the reins of the bunch, with Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte taking turns to put some daylight between them and the rest of the field. John Degenkolb (Team DSM), Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) managed to get on their wheel as they caught breakaway riders Koch, Bax and Hollman, with Gee out of contention due to a mechanical. After the Trouée d'Arenberg (km 161.3 — 2.3 km), the front group was joined by Jasper Philipsen, Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Max Walscheid (Cofidis) and Laurenz Rex (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and lost Laporte due to a mechanical, creating a 13-strong unit with strength in numbers for Alpecin-Deceuninck.
Everything up for grabs in the Carrefour de l'Arbre
A race of attrition took place in the final 80 kilometres. Several attacks by Van der Poel created a selection of seven riders at the front after Mons-en-Pévèle (km 208 — 3 km), comprising Van Aert, Küng, Ganna, Pedersen, Degenkolb, Van der Poel himself and his teammate Philipsen. The group made it together to the Carrefour de l'Arbre (km 239.5 — 2.1 km) cobbled sector, where 8 out of the last 20 editions of Paris-Roubaix were settled. As it turned out to be the case, yet again, in 2023…
One crash, some confusion, a puncture… and Van der Poel takes off
With 16,5 kilometers to go, already in the Carrefour de l’Arbre, an unfortunate turn of events saw Degenkolb hit the ground after tapping into Van der Poel as he swerved out of Philipsen’s wheel. It was in the confusion caused by the crash that Van Aert tried to power away, only to find Van der Poel immediately catch his wheel and overtake him. As the Dutchman began to further accelerate, Van Aert suffered a puncture that put him out of contention. After the Gruson (km 242.3 — 1.1 km) cobbled sector, Van der Poel had a 20” gap on the reformed chase group that virtually sealed his win in the Vélodrome André Petrieux. Behind, Van Aert and Philipsen managed to drop the rest of the chasers to secure a podium place.