ROUBAIX, France — Dylan van Baarle timed his attack on the final cobblestone sections perfectly to win the Paris-Roubaix race for the first time.
The 29-year-old Dutchman, who rides for the Ineos Grenadiers team, won in 5 hours, 37 minutes after 257 kilometers (159 miles) of grueling racing. His average speed of 45.8 kilometers-per-hour (28.4 miles-per-hour) was a record.
Belgian Wout van Aert edged a tight sprint to finish second ahead of Swiss rider Stefan Kung in third – both 1 minute, 47 seconds behind Van Baarle.
Although he won the Dwars door Vlaanderen (Across Flanders) race last year, this was by far Van Baarle’s biggest victory and he milked the applause upon entering the Roubaix Velodrome alone.
The sunny conditions were far removed from last year’s mud-splattered and rain-soaked race held in October. Mathieu Van der Poel was third then, but the Belgian rider was ninth this time.
The race is one of cycling’s five high-profile classics, along with the Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia.
But it is known as the Queen of the Classics because it is the most prestigious one, and is also called the “Hell of the North,” because of its treacherous profile including more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) of cobblestones.
Several riders crashed or picked up punctures on the cobbles, which will feature again on this year’s Tour de France from July 1-24.
With 50 kilometers (31 miles) left, the front three of Frenchman Laurent Pichon, Slovenian Matej Mohoric and Belgian Tom Devriendt led by 50 seconds but the gap was closing quickly.
Pichon was dropped but Van Baarle and Belgian Yves Lampaert joined Mohoric and Devriendt.
Heading into the final cobblestone section, Van Baarle surged ahead on the tough Carrefour de l’Arbre section as the crowd roared.
Lampaert crashed heavily after catching the arm of a spectator on the side of the cobbles, but got back up to finish 10th.