You have to feel very sorry for the other six riders in the winning break at Paris-Roubaix.
They’d all done a fantastic job in the race, avoiding crashes, riding smart, keeping up front, making or following the right moves.
Zdenek Stybar, Greg Van Avermaet, Lars Boom, Martin Elmiger and Jens Keukeleire — we salute you, well done, chapeau, you were fucked anyway.
They all knew that the other guy in the break, Milan-San Remo winner John Degenkolb, was by far the fastest man in the group and an almost sure winner in a sprint finish in the famed velodrome.
They might beat him to the showers at Roubaix but there was no way they were beating him to the finish line. After fighting their way over 27 sectors of cobblestones, they were doomed to defeat by the German fast-man.
It wasn’t even close. The look on Boom’s face as he rolled across the line said it all. Resignation, a sense of futility, eyes downcast, spirits lower. Van Avermaet was in tears, knowing he’d come so close once again — with perennial contenders Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara out of the race. How many chances will Van Avermaet get like that in his career?
Bradley Wiggins, who the Sporza commentators kept calling Mr. Cool and Fairyland, made his one beautiful surge and then was not seen again. Peter Sagan didn’t crack but his derailleur had troubles and his owner Oleg Tinkov had steam coming out of his ears.
Meanwhile Sep Vanmarcke rode a curious race, often near the front but not when the race exploded for good. Bad luck and flat tires or he has contracted the same malady that seems to inflict Sagan. Filippo Pozzato? Need we say more? The man continues to reinvent the word invisible. Niki Terpstra, oddly out of sorts and big gun Kristoff not up to par.
With Sagan and Kristoff out of the picture, the only fast-man to fear was Degenkolb. Nobody had any idea how to get rid of him and so on they rode, knowing the inevitable. There was no race controversy, no disagreements on who was the strongest man or second guessing strategy.
They all agreed the right man won Paris-Roubaix. A sprinter with two new monuments to his name. You won’t get an augment from Zdenek Stybar, Greg Van Avermaet, Lars Boom, Martin Elmiger and Jens Keukeleire. They saw that coming very fast.