Did a motorbike oil spill cause Fabian Cancellara’s Paris-Roubaix crash?

Locals attempted to clean up the spill from motorbikes that crashed on the Mons-en-Pévèle sector of the Paris-Roubaix course

When Fabian Cancellara hit the ground on the Mons-en-Pévèle (sector 10), it was the end of his hopes of taking a farewell victory at the Paris-Roubaix in his retirement year.

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Though the Trek-Segafredo rider had already been caught the wrong side of a split in the bunch earlier in the race, there was little he could do to come back from the heavy fall he took on the second of three five-star cobbled sectors on the route, eventually finishing over seven minutes behind winner Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge).


Locals attempt to clean up the oil spill with free newspapers (Credit: Matt Evans)

The Mons-en-Pévèle is a tough sector, hence its five-star rating, and on race-day it was covered in patches of mud. But now speculation has arisen as to whether Cancellara’s crash, which also saw a number of other riders crash out, was caused by an oil spillage from three motorbikes that crashed there shortly before the race passed through.

The incident took place around 3pm local time, roughly half-an-hour before the riders reached the sector, with what was described as “thick black engine oil” leaking out of the motorbikes onto the cobbles before they moved out of the way.


Niki Terpstra is treated for injuries after being brought down by Cancellara in the crash (Credit: Matt Evans)

Locals and fans attempted to clear up the oil before the race passed through, but only had free newspapers to try and do the job, which still left the surface potentially more treacherous for the riders.

“A tourist moto caravan crashed 50 yards from us,” Matt Evans, who was watching on the roadside, told Cycling Weekly.


The motorbikes are checked over (Credit: Matt Evans)

“One of them leaked thick black engine oil all over the cobbles before being carted off.

“The oil was the exact spot where Fabian Cancellara‘s wheel slipped out. They didn’t have anything to clear it up – they [the motorbike owners] pretty much left.

“It was the locals and fans that attempted to clean up using the free newspapers that had been dispersed by the caravan.”

Not only did Cancellara see his dreams of winning a fourth and final Roubaix slip away on the Mons-en-Pévèle in a crash, but he also managed to take a tumble on a lap of honour of the velodrome in front of his fan club, who were watching him bow out of his final Monument appearance.