No shock winner in Paris-Roubaix.

Underdog scores third place

Underdog scores third place

Watched the last 50k of Paris Roubaix Sunday morning in California.

Watched Peter Sagan endure his second flat and kiss his PR dream away. Saw Tom Boonen stuck in a big group with no interest or energy to close the gap to the leaders. His PR dream also went away, no fairy tale, no Hollywood ending.

There there was the exhausted cat and mouse game happening up the road. While Greg Van Avermaet yelled at Zdenek Stybar to take turns on the front, you could’t argue with the Czech’s race strategy. It was standard poceedure and time-honored calculus. Stybar had every right to sit on Van Avermaets wheel with his famous teammate and four-time winner Tom Boonen just 40 seconds back.

If fact, you had to be a bit impressed by his confident refusal. You do the work, Greg, I got my man Tommeke in back, just waiting for you to fade a bit or crash so he can win a record-breaking fifth victoy in the Hell of the North. Would have been a Hell of a story, too.

Once it became clear that Van Avermaet, Stybar and Langeveld were all soon to be on the podium, the situation changed and we started rooting heaviliy against Stybar. In fact, we went into full O’Grady-Van Summeren-Hayman mode, pulling for the major underdog Langeveld.

While it seemed highly unlikely, we hoped that the Cannondale rider might somehow catch out his two more talented adversaries on one of the last cobblestone sections. Barring that scenario, we silently pleaded with him to avoid spending even five seconds on the front, saving every watt he had left in his body for the final spin around the velodrome. We wanted the shocker upset, the neon green surprise, a darkhorse winner two years in a row.

In the end, the strongest rider won against the most calculating rider and the just-thrilled-to-be-on-podium rider. Van Avermaet took a thoroughly deserved victory over Stybar and Langeveld — who was also lucky to hold off the last second arrival of Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo) and Gianni Moscon (SKY).

Stybar played his game well but in the end, he pounded the top of his handlebars with more force than we’ve seen in a while. Losing Paris-Roubaix will do that to you.

 

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