John Degenkolb took his second monument win of 2015 after sprinting to victory from a group of seven riders at the 2015 Paris-Roubaix.
The German had made a huge effort to bridge his way up to two leaders, Greg van Avermaet (BMC) and Yves Lampaert (Etixx – Quick-Step) who had made their move with around 11km (and two pavé sectors) to go.
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As expected, the pair were unwilling to work with the sprinter to bring him to the finish, allowing Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step) to ride up to join his teammate Lampaert, with Lars Boom (Astana), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge) and Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) also making the bridge with just a few kilometres remaining.
It was then onto the velodrome where Lampaert attempted to leadout the Czech champion Stybar, who on the final lap found himself on the front of the group. It was Degenkolb who then launched his sprint on the final bend, with neither Stybar nor Van Avermaet able to come round him, finishing second and third respectively.
The in form Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) rolled in 31 seconds back to finish tenth, three seconds off Team Sky and Britain’s best finisher Luke Rowe, who took eighth place.
Brits in the thick of the action
There was no fairytale ending for Sir Bradley Wiggins however, who after a huge build-up to Roubaix, which was to be his last race for Sky, finished in 18th place in the same group as Kristoff.
It wasn’t for lack of trying however, with Wiggins making an attack late in the day out of a big group containing the likes of Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Niki Terpstra (Etixx – Quick-Step), to try to bridge across to the leaders, but ran out of road with only 4km remaining.
The world time trial champion had been active earlier in the race as well, making an attack from the peloton on cobbles sector seven, the Templeuve, to bridge across to Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx – Quick-Step) who had made an earlier attack.
The pair couldn’t make it stick though, and were quickly brought back by the main bunch.
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) was unable to follow-up his excellent recent Classics form, abandoning the race sometime after a heavy fall which left the Welshman looking out of sorts.
Earlier in the day, Adam Blythe (Orica-GreenEdge) had got himself into a nine-man breakaway which eventually formed after a frantic first hour to racing which saw the riders average over 50kmph.
The break was finally caught with around 20km to go, though it had shed a number of its original riders, with Blythe eventually rolling across the line in 85th, 8-24 down on the winner.
But it was Degenkolb who took the spoils at the end of the day, becoming the first German to win Paris-Roubaix since the first edition in 1896, to add to his Milan-San Remo victory earlier this year.
Paris-Roubaix 2015, 253.5km:
1. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant Alpecin, in 5-49-51
2. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
4. Lars Boom (Ned) Astana
5. Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling
6. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge, all same time
7. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step, at 7 seconds
8. Luke Rowe (Gbr) Team Sky, at 28 seconds
9. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 31 seconds
10. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, st
18. Bradley Wiggins (Gbr) Team Sky, at 31 seconds
47. Ian Stannard (Gbr) Team Sky, at 3-29
69. Scott Thwaites (Gbr) Bora-Argon18, at 7-50
85. Adam Blythe (Gbr) Orica-GreenEdge, at 8-24