ROUBAIX, France: Six months after finishing the Queen of the Classics outside the time limit, Dylan van Baarle won the Paris-Roubaix Monument on Sunday (Apr 17) to give the Ineos Grenadiers team their most prestigious victory in a one-day race.
The 29-year-old Dutchman, who was second in the Tour of Flanders two weeks ago, went solo 19km from the finish line on a key cobbled sector to prevail at a record average speed of 45.79kph.
Belgium's Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), back to competitive racing after two weeks off due to COVID-19, took second place, one minute 47 seconds behind, after outsprinting Swiss Stefan Kueng (Groupama-FDJ) in the Roubaix velodrome.
"I could not believe it when I went onto the velodrome. I looked on the other side to see if there were other guys but it was just me," Van Baarle, his face covered in a mix of sweat and dust, said after a 257.2-km effort.
"I had never experienced being the first guy on the velodrome. Last year I was out of the time limit but this year it was different.
"I had goose bumps when I saw (team manager) Dave (Brailsford) celebrating at the finish line, it looked like he was alone in the velodrome."
Favourite Mathieu van der Poel was never really in the mix and finished a disappointing ninth, more than two minutes behind his compatriot, the first Dutch rider to win Paris-Roubaix since Niki Terpstra in 2014.
Ineos Grenadiers blew up the race with 210km to go, splitting the bunch in crosswinds and leaving the likes of Van Aert and Van der Poel chasing.
"It was not planned at all but it turned out like this. We were from the gun super focused. That’s what we wanted, we didn’t want to chase, we wanted to be on the front foot and that’s what we did," said Van Baarle, who was one of many riders to have a puncture on the 54.8km of cobbled sectors.
"From that moment I knew we would have a good chance because we spent less energy than anyone else."
Kueng said "the way the race unfolded" and "massive improvement on material" explained the average speed of the race.
Van Baarle caught up with a leading trio of Slovenia's Matej Mohoric, Belgians Yves Lampaert and Tom Devriendt with 25km to go.
He waited for his moment, six kilometres further down the road, to accelerate on the cobbled sector of Camphin en Pevele and only Mohoric seemed able to follow.
Yet the Bahrain Victorious rider, who had been impressive up to then, lost touch with Van Baarle, who shook his head in disbelief as he hit the wooden boards of the velodrome for the last 750 metres.
It capped a remarkable start to the season by Ineos Grenadiers, a week after Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski won the Amstel Gold Race.
The British outfit have 18 wins this year.