Mathieu van der Poel secured a magnificent solo victory at the Paris-Roubaix classic, breaking away solo on a dangerous cobbled section.
The 28-year-old Alpecin-Deceuninck rider produced a string of aggressive attacks to shake off stubborn resistance before the decisive move on the epic 256.6km race was sparked by a spectacular fall.
This is Van der Poel’s fourth triumph in epic one-day races known as Monuments, following recent victories at Milan-SanRemo and a near miss at the Tour of Flanders.
Van der Poel’s teammate Jasper Philipsen finished 46sec behind him to beat fellow Belgian rider Wout van Aert into second at the Roubaix velodrome finish-line.
An early fall featuring three Ineos riders was pounced upon mercilessly by an elite clique that broke away until only seven top riders remained.
The action then exploded on the Carrefour de L’Arbre cobbled section with 20km to go when John Degenkolb fell sprawling on the ground, causing Van Aert to puncture. Van der Poel burst away and never looked back until he was close to the line.
“It’s impossible to do better than this,” said Van der Poel. “When I passed Van Aert, his face looked low, I didn’t know he had a puncture. But that’s Roubaix, you need good legs and good luck.”
Defending champion Dylan van Baarle was one of the many crash victims on the 54km of cobbles that were crumbling to dust, making the surface slippery in unseasonably warm conditions.
First raced 127 years ago, the race is now one of five races known as Monuments. Roubaix is a shared national experience in France with the sports daily L’Equipe dedicating a full ten pages of its Sunday edition to the contest, and local paper La Voix du Nord publishing a 28-page full-colour supplement to go with its headline “Easter is the Hell of the North”.