Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) saw his hopes of winning an historic fifth Paris-Roubaix evaporate in the Roubaix velodrome as he was beaten on the line by fellow veteran Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge).
The 37-year-old Australian came from the day’s early break and remained in the elite five-man group who entered the velodrome, which included Ian Stannard (Team Sky), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo).
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As Boonen took the front in the velodrome, Stannard surged round the outside, but it was Hayman on the inside who marched through to take the win and become only the second Australian to win the famous cobbled Classic.
The race started at a frenetic pace, with the early break taking a while to get away; finally a large group, including Hayman, gained over two minutes.
But a crash on one of the early cobbled stages saw the main peloton split in two, with a group containing the likes of Vanmarcke, Stannard, Boonen and Tony Martin surged away from Fabian Cancellara, Peter Sagan and co.
Martin buried himself before the 100km-to-go mark, working so hard on the cobbled sector at Haveluy that he split his small group even further – distancing Vanmarcke.
After Martin sapped all of his energy in a 40km effort on the front, the LottoNL-Jumbo riders bridged back, while the trailing peloton couldn’t get within 30 seconds.
A crash by Cancellara ended any chance of a fairytale ending for the Swiss, and while Sagan somehow managed to avoid the crash his chances of getting back up to the front effectively ended.
Luke Rowe worked hard on the front in the final 30km, setting up an attack for teammate Stannard, who formed part of an elite five-man late break.
Hayman, who was riding his first cobbled race since breaking his arm at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Boasson Hagen, Boonen and Vanmarcke joined Stannard up the road, with the Belgian Vanmarcke putting an attack in on the Carrefour de l’Arbre.
He was finally dragged back with around 11km to go, when the attacks dropped off, with all five riders taking their turn on the front. Stannard had a go with six kilometres to go and gained a good 20 metres, but he wasn’t to be let go.
Boonen put in several big efforts in the final three kilometres, but Hayman caught his final one and sped past to gain the advantage. The pair entered the velodrome together and were joined by Vanmarcke, but games of cat and mouse allowed Stannard and Boasson Hagen to catch up.
Stannard surged round the outside, but Hayman had the advantage, taking the win on the line in dramatic circumstances to join Stuart O’Grady as the only winners from Down Under
Sagan finished 11th, 2-20 down on the winner, with Cancellara rolling over the line for the final time over three minutes down.
Ian Stannard equalled the best British performance at Paris-Roubaix, matching Barry Hoban in 1972 and Roger Hammond in 2004 by finishing third.
Paris-Roubaix, Compiegne – Roubaix (257.5km)
1. Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, 5-51-53
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx-QuickStep, st
3. Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky, st
4. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo), st
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, at 3s
6. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling, at 1-00
7. Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto-Soudal, st
8. Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) IAM Cycling, st
9. Imanol Erviti (Esp) Movistar, at 1-07
10. Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie, 2-20