John Degenkolb’s Paris-Roubaix win came thanks to a combination of luck, tactics and speed – a perfect mixture on Sunday in northern France.
The 26-year-old of Germany’s team Giant-Alpecin rode solo to the lead duo of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Yves Lampaert (Etixx-Quick Step) with 6km to race and after the group grew in numbers, sprinted to the win. It was his second monument of the 2015 season after winning Milan-San Remo on March 22.
>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<
“There was not a moment of trouble. I did not have a mechanical problem. Today was the first day I didn’t have a problem, no crashes or punctures,” Degenkolb said.
“We had to work hard for this, you have to be perfect on the bike, your legs must be good. It’s a long period from Milan-San Remo to Roubaix. Now two monuments, what the fuck!”
Degenkolb stayed nestled in the lead groups while others attacked (Bradley Wiggins, Zdenek Stybar, Stijn Vandenbergh) and others crashed or had mechanicals (Geraint Thomas, Peter Sagan).
Viewers saw flashes of his black jersey or those of his teammates, but not as frequently as the colours of Etixx – Quick-Step, Lotto-Soudal or Team Sky. He only came to the fore in the final 10km.
The bolt of Degenkolb lighting struck twice: once when he attacked and chased solo to join the lead pair at six kilometres, and the second time for the sprint win ahead of Etixx’s Czech champion, Stybar.
“We spoke about it, looked at the race last year, I watched it many times, what I could do better,” Degenkolb added.
“The whole team was there, the situation was under control. If I would have waited, and not gone, probably my result would not have been better than last year [second place – ed.].
“I knew I had to react to every move, that was the key to success. I decided all or nothing over those 10 kilometres. I had to invest a lot of energy to be in the situation to sprint for the victory. Finally, in the last five kilometres, Greg and I were pulling alone, and Stybar was coming from back…
“The sprint was something special, if you’ve never done it before, you have no idea. You try to accelerate, try to go out of saddle, then you realise you legs are likely gummy.”
Degenkolb became only the third cyclist in history to win Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix in the same year following Irishman Sean Kelly in 1986 and Belgian Cyrille van Hauwaert in 1908.
Sean Kelly’s guide to riding the cobbles