Five things we learned from Paris-Roubaix

The final analysis from a great day of racing

Sagan wins in style

Peter Sagan took a memorable victory on the Roubaix velodrome (Credit: Yuzuru Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Peter Sagan’s career is already full of memorable, picture perfect moments, but the sight of him crossing line in the Roubaix velodrome in his rainbow jersey - to become the first world champion to win Paris-Roubaix since Bernard Hinault in 1981 - might just be the greatest so far.

Better yet, he won in style. The greatest Classics riders of the past decade all have at least one huge long-range win that stands out in their palmarès. Fabian Cancellara won from over 50km out to win the 2010 Paris-Roubaix; Tom Boonen, in what felt like a "anything you can do, I can do better" ride did so from a similar distance to win the 2012 edition; and last year Philippe Gilbert’s renaissance peaked when he won the Tour of Flanders from a 55km breakaway.

>>> Peter Sagan takes spectacular Paris-Roubaix victory after huge 54km attack

There was more suspense in Sagan’s win, with the presence of Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale) ensuring victory was not guaranteed right until the finish line, but his ride will nevertheless be remembered as similarly glorious.

Heading into the race, Sagan was in the unusual position of not being an outright favourite for the win - his form this spring hasn’t been the best, and his record at Paris-Roubaix is surprisingly poor, with a career-high finish of sixth.

Perhaps that’s why the other favourites, who are usually so prompt in shutting down any moves Sagan attempts to make, were more hesitant than usual when he slipped off the front? Either way, by the time the world champion had built a significant gap, there was an inevitability about what would happen.

Silvan Dillier - the race's surprise package

Silvan Dillier took an impressive and unexpected second place (Credit: Yuzuru Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

Peter Sagan often complains that everyone always rides against and not with him, but today found an accommodating partner in Silvan Dillier.

The Swiss national champion was the last survivor of the day’s break, that had been dropped one-by-one once Sagan bridged up to them. It seemed inevitable that he’d be dropped at some point, probably over one of the harder cobbled sections, yet somehow the 27-year old hung on to contest the finish.

His behaviour towards the finale suggested that he was happy enough to have made it that far. Even with the finish approaching and the chasers at a safe distance behind, he continued to take turns, and even lead out the sprint upon entering the velodrome, when he might have been better off just sitting on Sagan’s wheel.

Still, his unwillingness to play games is understandable given just how huge a result second place at Paris-Roubaix is, especially for a relatively little-known rider, not to mention the unlikelihood of him beating Sagan in a sprint in any circumstances.

Watch: Paris-Roubaix 2018 highlights

Quick-Step’s bubble bursts

Philippe Gilbert was aggressive but faded in the final 50km (Credit: Yuzuru Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Quick-Step Floors have been unable to do any wrong all spring, but their tactics did not go so according to plan at Paris-Roubaix.

There were the usual early attacks - Philippe Gilbert at the Arenberg Forest, and, when he was caught 75km from the finish, Zdenek Stybar for 15 fruitless kilometres. But this time they were both shut down by a committed peloton, with Trek-Segafredo and Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe in particular determined not to let them get away.

The real moment they lost the race was during a lull at around 55km from the finish. In previous races this spring, it’s been moments like this when a Quick-Step Floors rider has made the winning move, but this time it was first Van Avermaet (unsuccessfully) and then Sagan (successfully) who used the slowed down pace to jump out of the bunch.

From the moment Sagan escaped with no rider - Quick-Step Floors or otherwise - on his wheel, they were playing catch-up, with key cards Gilbert and Stybar already fatigued from their earlier attacks.

Terpstra took on the chase manfully, taking to the front on many of the important sections of pavé, and seemed to be the strongest of the chasers - an impression that was confirmed when he broke clear from the others to seal the third spot on the podium.

Team Sky’s race again marred by crashes

Ian Stannard was present at the front of the race but ended up as a DNF (Credit: Yuzuru Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Another day full of bad luck rounded-off what has been a disappointing classics campaign.

Things got off to a bad start when Geraint Thomas - riding his first and only Classic of the season - abandoned after crashing out on the very first cobbled section.

Luke Rowe later followed him when he fell on the run-in to the Mons-en-Pévèle, along with Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin).

That still left Dylan Van Baarle, Ian Stannard and Gianni Moscon, but none - despite being spotted occasionally at the business end of the race - were able to make an impression.

There was however good news elsewhere for British fans to celebrate, as 16-year old Lewis Askey won the Paris-Roubaix Juniors.

End to disappointing spring for Belgium

Greg Van Avermaet was unable to successfully defend his Paris-Roubaix title (Credit: Yuzuru Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

As has been the case throughout this spring campaign, there was a keen Belgian presence in the decisive selections of Paris-Roubaix. However, once again none of their ilk were quite strong enough to win.

The four-man chase that formed behind Sagan on the Carrefour de l’Arbre included three Belgians, all of whom have have been familiar names all spring - Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo). However, the catch was not made, leaving all four empty handed.

Of all the WorldTour-ranked northern Classics this year, only one has been won by a Belgian - Yves Lampaert at the Dwars Door Vlaanderen.

That’s in stark contrast to last year, when Van Avermaet alone swept up four wins to the delight of his home nation, with Philippe Gilbert and again Lampaert also chipping in.

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Stephen Puddicombe is a freelance journalist for Cycling Weekly, who regularly contributes to our World Tour racing coverage with race reports, news stories, interviews and features. Outside of cycling, he also enjoys writing about film and TV - but you won't find much of that content embedded into his CW articles.