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Inside the 253 Kilometer Paris-Roubaix

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Apr 12, 2015 – John Degenkolb truly showed his classics prowess and tactical masterclass in this years 2015 Paris-Roubaix. Some of us just can’t get enough, and if you are one of us, then you will enjoy this Paris-Roubaix gallery courtesy of our photographer Kåre Dehlie Thorstad.

For the full story on Paris-Roubaix, Click Here. The highlights of the race below are courtesy of A.S.O.:

John Degenkolb (TGA) doubly made history when he became the first German since Josef Fischer in 1896 to win the Queen of Classics and the first man since Sean Kelly in 1986 to achieve the Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix double in the same year. A frustrated second in 2014, the Giant Alpecin team leader made the right move at the right time to finally outsprint the magnificent seven left in contention on the Roubaix velodrome and snatch his third major classic after Paris-Tours in 2013 and the Primavera earlier this season. Czech Zdenek Stybar rewarded a bold performance by the whole Etixx Quick Step team by taking second place ahead of Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet, third in the Tour of Flanders last week.

The day was also an emotional one for 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, who played an active role all day and finished 18th in his last road race under the Team Sky colors.

Nine on the move
After an initial move by five men, the lasting break of the day was launched after 34 kilometres by nine riders: Gregory Rast (FR), Adam Blythe (OGE), Alexis Gougeard (ALM), Sean De Bie (LTS), Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM), Pierre-Luc Perichon (BSE), Tim Declercq (TSV), Frederik Backaert (WGG) and Ralf Matzka (BOA), whose lead topped at 9:40 after 76 kilometers. The first cobbles of the day, that the peloton tackled some eight minutes behind the break, were already merciless to Belgium’s Stijn Devolder (TFR), who crashed in sector 26 between Visely and Quievy (km 105).

Railway crossing
Tailwind accounted for a fast pace at more than 45 kph and several crashes and punctures took place in the first cobbled sectors. Yoann Offredo (FDJ) was one of the unluckiest riders, puncturing three times and crashing once before half-race. Pre-race favorite Geraint Thomas (SKY) also flatted twice before crashing at kilometer 164, definitely ruining his victory chances. A freak incident took place at kilometre 162 as the peloton was heating up after the Arenberg Trench, tackled 5:50 after the break. The gate at a railway crossing went down, nearly hitting French champion Arnaud Demare and splitting the bunch. A race motorcycle neutralized the front part of the peloton and the pack regrouped.

Etixx Quick Step toughen the race
Etixx Quick Step riders, among them title-holder Niki Tersptra, raised the tempo in sector 16 as the break lost De Bie and Perichon after punctures. While Terpstra’s team-mates split the pack repeatedly, at first surprising Alexander Kristoff or Bradley Wiggins, they failed to drop any of their most serious rivals. Crashes and punctures took their toll, Frenchman Damien Gaudin and 2011 winner Johan Van Summeren (both ALM) losing ground like Italian Filippo Pozzato (LAM) and later French champion Arnaud Demare (FDJ).

Wiggins tries
The crucial Mons-en-Pevele sector saw Blythe and Matzka lay down the arms in the leading group with 45 kms to go. In the peloton, Stijn Vandenbergh (EQS) attacked, chasing on his own behind the escapees. Thirty three kilometers from the line, Bradley Wiggins surged to catch the Belgian, followed by Vandenbergh’s team-mate Zdenek Stybar and Belgian champion Jens Debusschere (LTS). It was a bold swan song for the 2012 Tour de France winner but the attempt was foiled again.

Several attempts
The four left in the break – Rast, Saramotins, Backaert and last man out Gougeard – were finally caught with 22 kms to go by the group still comprising all the main favourites. Peter Sagan, Sep Vanmarcke, Greg Van Avermaet, Jurgen Roelandts or Lars Boom were among the riders seen taking their chance, but they were reeled in one after the other. The decisive move finally took place with 12 kms left when Yves Lampaert (EQS) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) joined forces and went. Degenkolb, determined to avenge his disappointment a year ago, was the only one to react and he caught the two with seven kilometers to go.

Degenkolb stronger and faster
Knowing they hardly stood a chance in case of a sprint, the two Belgians refused to cooperate with the German and Stybar caught the three, quickly followed by Dutchman Lars Boom (AST), Swiss Martin Elmiger (IAM) and Belgian Jens Keukeleire (OGE). But Degenkolb was definitely stronger and faster and he launched the sprint from afar to avoid a repeat of last year’s finale, when he was beaten into second place by Niki Terpstra.