World champion Peter Sagan says he reaped the rewards of arriving at Paris-Roubaix fresher than ever before, after the Bora-hansgrohe man claimed his first ever victory in the race.
Sagan outsprinted Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale) in the Roubaix Velodrome, after breaking free from the bunch with more than 50km still to race.
The result was overshadowed hours after the race finished, however, when it emerged Verandas Willems-Crelan rider Michael Goolaerts had died in hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest during the race.
“All the thoughts and prayers of the @BORAhansgrohe team and myself are with Michael Goolaerts," Sagan wrote. “Such sad news…"
Before the news on Goolaerts’ condition had become known, Sagan had paid tributes to his Bora-hansgrohe team-mates for setting up the second Monument win of his career after the 2015 Tour of Flanders.
“It’s amazing to win Paris-Roubaix," he said. “I’m so tired after this race but I have to say, this year I wasn’t involved in any crashes, I wasn’t feeling tired at the start and just tried to save energy.
“After I went on the attack I just kept going until the finish. I feel so much better than I have done in all the years I’ve ridden Paris-Roubaix – I was so much more tired then than I am today.
“Thank you to all my teammates, because they did such a great job – Daniel Oss, Marcus Burghardt and Maciej Bodnar, my brother Juraj and to Andreas Schillinger and Rüdi Selliger at the start, who kept the group all together.
“In the end, I made the winning move with around 50km to go and I’m very happy to have come in first. It’s an amazing feeling."
Sagan attacked with 54km still to race, chasing down the three remaining members of what had originally been a nine-man breakaway.
Crashes were frequent, as ever for Paris-Roubaix, with the speed high – not least in the run-in to the first cobbled sector at Troisvilles.
The first taste of cobbles in this year’s race saw a big crash in the peloton, which resulted in Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) abandoning shortly afterwards.
Defending champion Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) was one of several high-profile riders to lose touch with the peloton as a result, meanwhile.
The peloton was around 50-strong when they reached the iconic Arenberg Forest sector, with Sagan’s team-mate Burghardt driving the pace.
Philippe Gilbert (QuickStep Floors) attacked with Mike Teunissen (Team Sunweb) on the cobbles, but he their move was short-lived.
Zdenek Stybar (QuickStep Floors) was next to try a notable attack, by which point only Dillier, Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) and Sven Erik Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates) remained in the breakaway.
When Stybar was brought back, two accelerations from Van Avermaet – now back in the bunch – strung out the peloton but it was Sagan who seized the initiative with little more than 50km to race.
With the chase disjointed, his advantage quickly opened out and he picked off the escapees – leading through the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector with Dillier on his wheel.
Dillier led into the Velodrome, and took the high banking, but when Sagan opened out his sprint he was not going to be denied.
Tour of Flanders winner Niki Terpstra (QuickStep Floors) took third place, finishing just less than a minute later, while Van Avermaet led home what remained of the counter-attacking group at 1’34" in fourth place.
Paris-Roubaix 2018: result
1) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Bora-hansgrohe – 5.54.06hrs
2) Silvan Dillier (SUI) – Ag2r-La Mondiale – ST
3) Niki Terpstra (NED) – QuickStep Floors +57"
4) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing +1.34
5) Jasper Stuyven (BEL) – Trek-Segafredo – ST
6) Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) – Team EF-Drapac
7) Nils Politt (GER) – Katusha-Alpecin +2.31
8) Taylor Phinney (USA) – Team EF-Drapac – ST
9) Zdenek Stybar (CZE) – QuickStep Floors
10) Jens Debusschere (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal