Mathieu Van der Poel wins Paris-Roubaix for first time


ROUBAIX, France – Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel won the grueling Paris-Roubaix one-day classic for the first time to clinch his second “monument race” victory of the season after Milan-San Remo.

The 28-year-old Van der Poel profited from a puncture to his main rival Wout van Aert of Belgium about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the end.

He entered the Roubaix velodrome alone and had time to wave to the fans. Van der Poel finished 46 seconds ahead of Jasper Philipsen, his Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate, who beat Van Aert in a sprint to the line.

“Incredible how we rode as a team today. It’s not possible to do better than this,” Van der Poel said. “I think I had one of my best days on the bike.”

Several of the pre-race favorites were in a seven-rider breakaway group with Van Aert and Van der Poel that stayed together until late in the 256.6-kilometer (159-mile) trek from Compiègne to Roubaix.

Van der Poel knocked over John Degenkolb with 16 kilometers (10 miles) left as Degenkolb was trying to overtake on the outside on a cobblestone section.

Van Aert launched an attack but the Jumbo-Visma leader had a puncture on his rear tire and Van der Poel soon caught up and then pulled ahead.

“I knew he had a problem, but I didn’t know it was a flat tire,” Van der Poel said. “Otherwise maybe the two of us would have gone to the end.”

Roubaix is one of the five “monument races” in one-day cycling, along with the Tour of Flanders, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the Giro di Lombardia (Tour of Lombardy) and Milan-San Remo – won by Van der Poel last month.

He has also twice won Flanders in his career.

“I think I have done my best classic season ever and to finish like this is a dream,” he said. “(Roubaix) is such a hard race.”

Known as “L’Enfer du Nord” (The Hell of the North), Roubaix has 52 kilometers (32 miles) of treacherous cobblestone sections.

Two weeks after crashing out in his final Flanders, 2018 Roubaix champion Peter Sagan crashed out in his final participation in the race after going over a slippery cobble section and tumbling into the grass.

Two weeks ago, two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar won Flanders for the first time but the Slovenian did not take part in Roubaix.

Thomas sees Giro d’Italia lead cut slightly by Roglič; Buitrago wins Stage 19

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TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas maintained his bid to become the oldest Giro d’Italia champion although his lead was cut slightly by Primož Roglič during the toughest stage of the race.

Roglič crossed the summit finish of the so-called “Queen Stage” three seconds ahead of Thomas at the end of the race’s final mountain road leg.

There were no flat sections and five tough, classified climbs on the 114-mile route from Longarone to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which had gradients of up to 18%.

Stage 19 was won by Santiago Buitrago, who finished 51 seconds ahead of Derek Gee and 1 minute, 46 seconds ahead of Magnus Cort and Roglič, who just missed out on bonus seconds.

“I’m really happy with this victory. It was the most difficult moment of a difficult Giro for me personally,” said Buitrago, who rides for Bahrain Victorious. “I wanted to try and raise my arms before the end and coming here at Tre Cime di Lavaredo is amazing.

“This is the recompense for all the work that I’ve done. … There’s a lot of motivation for me and the whole team having seen the fruits of our labors.”

The 37-year-old Thomas, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, is 26 seconds ahead of Roglič going into what will be a decisive penultimate stage

Third-placed João Almeida lost more time and was 59 seconds behind Thomas.

Roglič changed his bicycle shortly before the start of the penultimate climb and he made his move inside the final kilometer. However, Thomas was able to stick to his wheel and the British cyclist made his own attack in the final 500 meters and looked to have slightly distanced his rival.

But Roglič came back and gained what could be a vital few seconds.

The winner will likely be decided in the mountain time trial that ends in a demanding climb up Monte Lussari, with an elevation of over 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

“Tomorrow we go full again,” Roglič said. “It’s good. We got a bit of legs back, so tomorrow we go full, eh?

“If I wouldn’t be confident then I don’t start. The best one at the end wins.”

The race ends in a mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, where Thomas could beat the age record held by Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Thomas celebrates 37th birthday by retaining Giro d’Italia lead; Roglic into 2nd

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VAL DI ZOLDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas celebrated his 37th birthday with another strong ride in the mountains to retain the pink jersey during Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia.

Thomas crossed immediately behind Primoz Roglic, who moved up from third place to second.

“The legs have been good,” Thomas said. “Need to enjoy these moments.”

Joao Almeida dropped from second to third overall after losing 21 seconds over the 100-mile route from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo, which included two first-category climbs followed by two second-category climbs in the finale – including an uphill finish.

Thomas – the 2018 Tour de France champion – leads Roglic by 29 seconds and Almeida by 39 seconds.

“It’s a pleasant day. I take time on Almeida and didn’t get dropped by Primoz,” Thomas said. “I felt pretty good, always under control but Primoz obviously went hard. It wasn’t easy. … I just want to be consistent until the end.”

Italian champion Filippo Zanna won the stage ahead of fellow breakaway rider Thibaut Pinot in a two-man sprint.

With only two more climbing stages remaining before the mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, Thomas is poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history – beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Chris Horner holds the record for oldest Grand Tour champion, set when he won the Spanish Vuelta in 2013 at 41.

However, Thomas will still be tested over the next two days.

Stage 19 is considered perhaps the race’s toughest, a 114-mile leg from Longarone to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo featuring five major climbs. Then there’s a mountain time trial.