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Monuments Man Triumphs at Paris-Roubaix

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Apr 12, 2015 – John Degenkolb completed a remarkable double by winning the Paris-Roubaix one-day cobbled classic race on Sunday. Having won another of cycling’s ‘Monument’ races last month, the Milan-San Remo, the 26-year-old German beat Czech Zdenek Stybar and Belgian Greg Van Avermaet in a sprint finish.

Degenkolb became only the second rider to win in San Remo and Roubaix in the same year after Ireland’s Sean Kelly in 1986. Having finished second last year in Roubaix, Degenkolb was a rider his rivals knew they had to drop before reaching the velodrome.

Van Avermaet and fellow Belgian Yves Lampaert tried to do exactly that 11km from home but Degenkolb bravely chased them down alone before four more riders latched onto the leading trio with 3km left. The seven arrived together in the velodrome and although Stybar tried to strike out for home early, there was an air of inevitability when Degenkolb easily breezed past him to win.

“Emotion is really the right word, it’s really something I can’t believe and imagine at the moment,” said Degenkolb.

“I have to search now for a place to put the cobblestone in my apartment, and this is not going to be easy! “It’s big and heavy, I need to find a stable bench for it.”

Degenkolb’s rise to the top has been three years in the making, since his breakout season in 2012. A versatile sprinter, equally adept in finishes with a slight incline as those on the flat, he won five stages at the Vuelta a Espana that year. Since then he has developed into a top classics rider as well, taking fifth at Milan-San Remo in 2012 and then winning Gent-Wevelgem last year before also coming second in Roubaix.

His San Remo-Roubaix double this year marks him out as one of the best classics riders of the current generation. “This double with San Remo and Roubaix is really meaning so much to me and I’m running out of words to describe it,” added Degenkolb.

“This is probably even more great because now the Classics season is over (for him) and I can really enjoy it, relax, lean back and now it will take a couple of days to really believe it. “Yeah, you are winner of Paris-Roubaix — amazing!”

Stybar had mixed feelings at the end after improving on sixth and then fifth-placed finishes in Roubaix the previous two years. For his Etixx-Quick Step team it was yet another second-placed finish in a cobbled classic to add to his at E3 Harelbeke and Niki Terpstra, the 2014 Roubaix winner, at Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

“I think we were very competitive in every race. What could we do better? I don’t know,” admitted the 29-year-old former cyclocross competitor. “When we see all the races back, we did our best every time. OK, we were second very often, but last week for Niki it was difficult to beat (Alexander) Kristoff and for me today it was difficult to beat Degenkolb.

“Of course the team is used to winning but when we look back and see all the guys, how strong they were and they did their best — I think we can’t complain too much.” However, Stybar emphasized that in cycling, no-one remembers the runners-up. “In cycling, it counts only to win. I hope to come next year and the year after and fight again for the win because that’s only what counts.”

Van Avermaet was putting on a brave face after once again finishing in the minor places in a major race. Last week he was also third in Flanders where he was second last year having come fourth in Roubaix in 2013. “It’s never the same as a win. I would give (all) my second, third and top 10 finishes away for a big win,” he moaned.

In his last race for Team Sky before refocusing on the track, reigning Olympic and world timetrial champion Bradley Wiggins finished in a group outside the top 10 but within a minute of the winner. Last week’s Tour of Flanders winner Alexander Kristoff came 10th while the winner in Roubaix 12 months ago Niki Terpstra came home in the same group as Wiggins.

– Fast Start-

After a fast start to proceedings that saw the riders cover more than 50km in the first hour, the 253km race was animated by a nine-man breakaway that formed around the 30km mark. Inside the first 100km the race lost one of the favourites as two-time Flanders winner Stijn Devolder crashed out.

He was followed by Wiggins’s teammate Geraint Thomas, who went down hard just after the tough Arenberg cobbled section — one of 27 such sectors covering almost 53km. Thomas never made it back to the rapidly thinning peloton as the Etixx-Quick Step team of Stybar and Terpstra upped the pace.

There was brief drama when a barrier at a railway crossing came down as the peloton was passing under it. One rider was clipped by a barrier and several more crossed after it was down, but by the time a TGV train passed, the remaining riders had been brought to a halt by a vigilant police motorcycle.

Five of the original nine escapees survived until about 25km left with Frenchman Alexis Gougeard the last to succumb at the 21km to go marker. By then the race was really on and Wiggins had tried his luck to go alone 33km from the finish but three riders joined him and all were brought back around the time the breakaway was caught.

Several other favorites including Belgians Sep Vanmarcke, who finished 11th, and Jurgen Roelandts, who came home 21st, tried to strike out alone but their attacks were short-lived. The unheralded Lampaert made the decisive move and only Van Avermaet could join him. Degenkolb sensed the danger and launched a counter-attack, quickly closing the gap. Once he was part of a small leading group, Degenkolb appeared a near certain victor and Van Avermaet, so often a bridesmaid in these major races, was left in tears at the end after yet another near miss.

-Train stops Peloton-

Several riders had a near miss crossing a railway line after the safety barriers had come down during Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix one-day classic cycle race. A TGV (high speed train) passed a few seconds later, although by that point a police motorcycle was controlling the pass and had stopped the remnants of the peloton.

One rider from the Belgian Lotto team was clipped by a barrier which came down as the peloton was passing, about 87 kilometers from the end of the prestigious Hell of the North cobbled classic. Several riders decided to cross anyway before the train came, against race rules, before a policeman stopped the rest.

Once the train had passed they continued normally and rejoined the riders ahead, who had been slowed down by race organizers to wait for those delayed. “It wasn’t possible for the leading riders to stop sufficiently safely,” said Guy Dobbelaere, president of the jury of race commissioners.

“The peloton was 10 meters away when the barrier started to close. “By neutralizing the race for a few moments to not penalize those who stopped, we respected the spirit of the rule. “In theory, those who pass when the barrier is down are thrown out of the race.

“This time, that would have been unjust in respect of those riders who weren’t identified.”

Back in 2006, three riders who were chasing a lone breakaway by eventual winner Fabian Cancellara were disqualified after crossing a railway line after the barrier was down. Belgians Peter Van Petegem and Leif Hoste, as well as Vladimir Gusev from Russia, were fighting for the minor placings behind the Swiss star. But that time, the barrier was already down when they arrived, around 10km from the end.

Factfile of 2015 Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb:

Full name: John Degenkolb
Date of birth: January 7, 1989
Place of birth: Gera, Germany
Height: 1m 80cm (5ft 11in)
Weight: 77kg (170lb)
Nationality: German

Teams: HTC-Highroad (2011), Giant-Alpecin (2012-)

Main victories:
Grand Tours: Vuelta a Espana (2012 – 5 stages; 2014 – points jersey winner
and 4 stages), Giro d’Italia (2013 – 1 stage)
One-day Classics: Gent-Wevelgem (2014), Milan-San Remo (2015),
Paris-Roubaix (2015)
Stage races: Tour de Picardie (2012)
One-day races: Vattenfall Cyclassics (2013), Paris-Tour (2013)

Final 10 Kilometers

Train crossing disrupts Peloton

1. John Degenkolb (GER/GIA) 5hr 49min 51sec
2. Zdenek Stybar (CZE/ETI) same time
3. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) s.t.
4. Lars Boom (NED/AST) s.t.
5. Martin Elmiger (SUI/IAM) s.t
6. Jens Keuleleire (BEL/ORI) s.t.
7. Yves Lampaert (BEL/ETI) s.t.
8. Luke Rowe (GBR/SKY) at 28sec
9. Jens Debusschere (BEL/LOT) 29
10. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/KAT) 31
11. Sep Vanmarcke (BEL/LNL) 31
12. Bert De Backer (BEL/GIA) 31
13. Aleksejs Saramotins (LAT/IAM) 31
14. Borut Bozic (SLO/AST) 31
15. Niki Terpstra (NED/ETI) 31
16. Andreas Schillinger (GER/BOA) 31
17. Florian Sénéchal (FRA/COF) 31
18. Bradley Wiggins (GBR/SKY) 31
19. Bjorn Leukemans (BEL/WGG) 31
20. Gregory Rast (SUI/TRE) 31
21. Jürgen Roelandts (BEL/LOT) 31
22. Marco Marcato (ITA/WGG) 31
23. Peter Sagan (SVK/TIN) 31, 24. Laurens De Vreese (BEL/AST) 1:38
25. Frederik Backaert (BEL/WGG) 1:38
26. Alexis Gougeard (FRA/ALM) 1:38