WorldTour Wrap: Paris-Roubaix and the Mitten of Honour
Greg van Avermaet earns a post-race wash and Daniel Oss is the boss
The dust from this edition of the Paris-Roubaix will take some considerable time to settle, not least because so much of it is still stuck to the faces, up the nostrils and in the sweat-drenched hair of Edvard Theuns, Antoine Duchesne and Jos Van Emden.
This year’s Hell of the North saw a pretty dire runout for fan favourite Peter Sagan, while race winner Greg van Avermaet will have many reasons to be delighted; not least because he was wiped down post-race with the official Mitten of Honour.
The MoH is a Paris-Roubaix tradition that is less well-known, but no less venerable than the presentation of a whacking great brick to the winner, or having one’s name written in the showers.
Oss is boss
Conducted at the sort of speeds that seem impossible for us mere mortals to imagine, the first hundred kilometres of the 115th edition took less time than it takes Dr Richard Freeman to upload a Word document to Dropbox.
Despite the valiant efforts of brilliantly-monikered escape experts, Alexis Gougeard, Stijn Vandenbergh and Jelle Wallays, the blistering pace meant there was no real breakaway, leaving many asking whether you actually need a breakaway in a one-day race at all?
Eventually big old Daniel Oss, teammate of van Avermaet’s, lumbered off the front with Sagan, Maciej Bodnar and Jasper Stuyven. With 70km still to go, it seemed unlikely to be a race-defining move.
While the others in this quartet were soon swallowed back into the peloton, Oss endured and ended up spending a considerable amount of time on our screens as the sole leader. This can only be seen as a good thing given Oss has by far the most excellent barnet in the peloton – especially since Sagan’s had the chop a couple of weeks ago.
Speaking of the world champ, his run of cruddy luck continued at Roubaix when, after putting down some big watts to try and close the gap to Oss with 31km to go, he got a puncture, followed by a very slow wheel change.
He was passed then by the group he’d just attacked from, only managing to get back on after burning his few remaining matches. Poor old Peter, lets hope his recent run of unluck causes no damage to sales of surface-top cooker extractors.
Still, no matter how unlucky Sagan might feel he has been, that’s nothing compared to Italian pro Andrea Guardini who abandoned the race and set off to try and take the most direct route back to Roubaix.
Pointed to a shortcut by a helpful soigneur, Guardini unfortunately ended up riding on the French motorway hard shoulder and was subsequently picked up by the gendarmes. Some people will do anything to avoid some pavé.
When a splinter group of chasers (van Avermaet, Sebastian Langeveld, Stuyven, Jurgen Roelandts) did eventually reel him in for good, Oss’ reward for his hours of toil in the breakaway was to spend the next fifteen minutes or so pace-setting for his team leader. Lucky, lucky Daniel.
With a group of strong riders to work together, an advantage of 30 seconds over the group including Boonen (and later Sagan) would end up being enough to win the race.
No real concerted chase came from the pack behind, with Boonen seemingly happy to let teammate Stybar contest the victory – a true team player right until the end. Or perhaps Tommeke was just cooked and couldn’t muster a pursuit.
Van Avermaet, Langeveld and Stybar looked the strongest of the small bunch over the next secteurs of cobbles, and did manage to ditch Moscon and Stuyven – albeit temporarily.
There was – as there must always be at Roubaix – a bit of tactical silly buggers in the closing moments. This year they were largely led by Czech rider Zdenek Stybar who refused to do any turns on the front from about 6km to go. This is the kind of behaviour that will get you chucked out of your Saturday club run, so please don’t emulate it.
The trio were too far ahead to lose the race, but the horsing around led to the three becoming five again for the final dash down the velodrome straight. Van Avermaet took a deserved first win, Stybar second (but shoulda-woulda-coulda been first), with Langeveld holding off Moscon and Stuyven to round out the top five.
Van Avermaet has had a barnstorming year, which really began with a bitter disappointment in last year’s Tour of Flanders just over 12 months ago. Lets hope his bright form continues – and who knows, maybe someone other than Peter Sagan might even contest the maillot vert for the first time in half a decade this July?
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