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.