Philippe Gilbert won the 117th edition of Paris-Roubaix, outfoxing dark-horse contender Nils Politt on the banked corners of the Roubaix velodrome after racing for six hours across northern France. It was the fifth victory in one of the so-called “Monument” races for Gilbert, 36, who had previously won the Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and two editions of the Giro del Lombardia. (The only Monument remaining for the Belgian is the Milan-San Remo race, which was run last month.)
The beginning of the race saw an endless series of futile breakaway attempts as discrete bunches of riders separated and regrouped across the cobbles. The winning move came with 67 kilometers left to run, when Politt broke with tradition by striking out ahead while other riders took on food and water in a feed zone. (“You can’t do that!” Eurosport commentator and former Paris-Roubaix champion Sean Kelly muttered under his breath.) Gilbert rushed after him, while a smaller group including pre-race picks Peter Sagan, Wout Van Aert, Sep Van Marcke, and Gilbert teammate Yves Lampaert chased after Gilbert.
That group would roll together for the next hour, but the strain of 257 kilometers of racing and 29 sectors of brutal cobbles eventually whittled them down. First to go was Van Aert, who had already suffered mechanical problems and a crash and had ridden valiantly just to get back to the pack. Then Sagan, last year’s winner, began to flag, while Van Marcke was forced to stop for a bike change. That left Lampaert in the breach, with Gilbert and Politt 30 seconds up the road together.
With a kilometer left to run, the two leaders entered Roubaix’s famous velodrome together, raising a cheer from the crowds that had been awaiting their arrival for hours. Over the next lap and a half, Gilbert remained in second position, leaving Politt to spy nervously over his shoulder. Gilbert made his move on the final corner, taking the inside track and putting in an effort that Politt recognized, long before the line, would be the winning one.
The Day’s Winners
- Philippe Gilbert
- Nils Politt A strong contender, but he wasn’t on anyone’s short list to win
- Wout Van Aert If the one-day races offered the same “combativity prize” given out in the Grand Tours, Van Aert would be the deserving recipient for the way he rode back into the action after early troubles.
The Day’s Losers
- Peter Sagan The former world champion has fallen short all spring.
- Greg Van Avermaet Once again left behind by the winning break, once again left to organize a chase without much help
- Tiesj Benoot Left a lanky Belgian-sized hole in the rear window of the Jumbo Visma team car after a collision, had to leave the race
- Alexander Kristoff It always seems like Kristoff should be a shoe-in for this race, but he always underperforms there.
- Andre Greipel and Fernando Gaviria Two premier sprinters who didn’t even manage to finish the race