Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet wins Paris-Roubaix 2017
Belgian outsprints Zdenek Stybar to claim first Monument win and crown outstanding cobbled Classics campaign
by Colin Henrys
Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) crowned an outstanding cobbled classics campaign by claiming his first ever Monument win at Paris-Roubaix.
Van Avermaet overcame a crash just before the Arenberg Forest to bridge back to the leading group, before forging clear with Zdenek Stybar (QuickStep Floors) and Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Drapac) on the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector.
And despite a chase from Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and Gianni Moscon (Team Sky) almost foiling the leading trio in the Roubaix Velodrome, after Stybar had repeatedly refused to take a turn on the front, Van Avermaet outsprinted the Czech rider to claim victory.
Coming just a week after finishing second at the Tour of Flanders, Van Avermaet’s victory added to successes at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem this spring, while the Olympic champion was also second at Strade Bianche.
And the Belgian said: “I went onto the track with the thought that I was going to win. I'm really happy to win my first Monument because I have had to wait a really long time to finally get on the big spot of the podium.
“I was really confident in my sprint because I have sprinted several times from a small group. At the end of a hard race I’m always one of the fastest guys.
“For me the Olympics will always be my greatest win but now it’s really nice to have a Monument too."
Boosted by a tailwind, the race was the fastest on record and it took until just before the first set of cobbles for anything resembling a break to forge clear.
Yannick Martinez (Delko Marseille Provence KTM), Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) and Mickael Delage (FDJ) were the men to earn a gap, but their advantage never amounted to anything significant.
The cobbles led to the usual thrills and spills in the peloton, with Oliver Naesen (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Yves Lampaert (QuickStep Floors) and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) among the big names to suffer an early spill.
It’s just on the pavé where it’s dangerous either, as Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) found out when he crashed during the frantic fight for position on the tarmac.
Those crashes caused splits in the bunch, with former winner Niki Terpstra (QuickStep Floors) already behind a split when he crashed out of the race on the Maing sector.
With Stijn Vandenbergh (Ag2r-La Mondiale) adding his firepower to the breakaway after a successful bid to bridge across, the gap to the front men was just short of a minute at the five-star-rated Arenberg Forest sector.
Further back, Van Avermaet had crashed and was being relayed back by his BMC Racing team-mates as QuickStep Floors hit the pace on the famously jagged cobbles.
Van Avermaet, joined by Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) who had suffered a puncture, did bridge back across, however, just as team-mate Daniel Oss joined world champion Peter Sagan, the Slovakian’s wing-man Maciej Bodnar and Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven in accelerating.
Sagan punctured and returned to the chasing pack with Bodnar, and it was the Slovakian’s aggression on the Mons-en-Pevele cobbles which forced a decisive split in that group.
Van Avermaet had Oss for company in the front group, before the Italian again jumped clear with nine cobbled sectors remaining, while Stybar and Tom Boonen, in his final professional race, were present for QuickStep Floors.
The dangerous group also contained former winner John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Lotto-Soudal’s Jurgen Roelandts, and it was the latter’s aggression which helped shape the winning move.
Langeveld joined the Belgian, while Van Avermaet, Stybar, Moscon and Stuyven bridged across – Sagan’s efforts hindered by another puncture, while Boonen was also caught the wrong side of the split.
Only Van Avermaet, Langeveld and Stybar remained clear after the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector, however, and – despite Stybar’s lack of turns on the front and the late rally by Moscon and Stuyven behind, it was to be those three on the podium.
Stybar led the sprint out, but Van Avermaet came round him on the final straight to claim an historic victory; on the day one of Belgium’s finest retired, the Olympic champion reminded his country’s fanatic cycling fans the future is still very bright indeed.
Paris-Roubaix 2017: result
1) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing – 5.41.07hrs
2) Zdenek Stybar (CZE) – QuickStep Floors – ST
3) Sebastian Langeveld (NED) – Cannondale-Drapac
4) Jasper Stuyven (BEL) – Trek-Segafredo
5) Gianni Moscon (ITA) – Team Sky
6) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ
7) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal
8) Edward Theuns (BEL) – Trek-Segafredo
9) Adrien Petit (FRA) – Direct Energie
10) John Degenkolb (GER) – Trek-Segafredo