Paris-Roubaix: Mathieu van der Poel defends title with 60km solo exhibition

World champion goes long as Alpecin-Deceuninck play a blinder, with Jasper Philipsen mopping up for second place once again ahead of Mads Pedersen

Clock14:52, Sunday 7th April 2024
Mathieu van der Poel solos to victory at the 2024 Paris-Roubaix

© Getty Images

Mathieu van der Poel solos to victory at the 2024 Paris-Roubaix

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) continued his march into the history books, in the only way he knows how, with a 60km solo exhibition at Paris-Roubaix.

The world champion claimed his second victory in the Hell of the North, becoming the sixth man to win it in the rainbow jersey, and becoming the first since Fabian Cancellara in 2013 to do the Tour of Flanders – Paris-Roubaix double.

Van der Poel saw his own 45km solo from Flanders last weekend and raised it by 15, attacking out of a group of 25 on the three-star-rated cobbled sector at Orchies, the 17th of the 29 sectors of pavé that make up this brutal Classic. For a further piece of history, it was the longest solo here since Andrei Tchmil in 1994, and the fastest-ever edition full stop.

Van der Poel had already given it a nudge in the five-star Forest of Arenberg, where the controversial pre-sector chicane had little impact given the lead group was already down to 30-odd after a furious start, splits on the very first sectors, and crosswinds in between them. But when he shot out of the group on Orchies, he was immediately clear, and he sailed into the sunset.

He exited the sector with a lead of 10 seconds, doubled it from 20 to 40 on the next one, and then effectively sealed the race on the five-star cobbles of Mons-en-Pévèle, where his lead hit 90 seconds. With 45km remaining, his rivals were already looking at each other and allowing him to gain further ground - it was a race for second place.

That race for second place was won by his own teammate, Jasper Philipsen, making it a remarkable repeat of the 1-2 from 12 months ago. The Milan-San Remo champion was a constant thorn in the side of Van der Poel's rivals, and dispatched the biggest of them, Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) in the podium sprint on the outdoor Roubaix velodrome.

It was a three-man group that arrived some three minutes behind Van der Poel, Nils Politt (UAE Team Emirates) being the final rider, having split the chase group on the Mons-en-Pévèle sector but forced to go long and then bow his head to the faster Philipsen and Pedersen.

Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) trailed home in fifth, having been jettisoned from that group on the final key sector of the Carrefour de l'Arbre. His teammate, Laurence Pithie, had crashed out of the same group not long before, and was beaten into sixth place by none other than another Van der Poel teammate, Gianni Vermeersch.

"It's hard to believe," Van der Poel said. "I never could have dreamt of this as a child. I was super motivated for this year, I wanted to show the jerseys in a nice way but it goes beyond expectations. I'm a little lost for words but I'm just trying to enjoy this moment."

As for his long-range attack: "It was not really planned. I wanted to make the race hard from there on, because I know that's my strength. When I had a gap I knew it was mostly tailwind to the finish line. I had a really good day today. In Paris-Roubaix a puncture is never far away but I had quite a gap and the car was behind me, so I was confident and could enjoy the moment more than last week, because I was really on the limit last week, but I felt incredible and could enjoy the moment."

Not just a one-man show, but a true team victory

Van der Poel took his tally of Monuments to six, but it’s also worth noting that his team, Alpecin-Deceuninck, have now won all three Monuments so far this season - the first team to do that in modern cycling. In fact, for all Van der Poel’s solo dominance, this was as much a collective exhibition as an individual one.

It was the Belgian team that took command on the first two sectors and split things in the wind with barely 100km on the clock. They put five men into main group of 40, and put two – Van der Poel and Philipsen – in a brief four-man group after Arenberg, before their third danger man, Vermeersch, marked a long-range move from Küng and Politt ahead of Van der Poel’s decisive attack.

Marking was the name of the game once the world champion had flown the nest, with Vermeersch and Philipsen taking turns to swoop on every acceleration, sucking the life out of the chase and effectively deciding the race with 50km to go.

Not content to just sit on for the sprint, Philipsen traded blows with Pedersen on the cobbles, while Vermeersch remarkably found the strength to attack out of the second chasing group in the final 30km.

In the end, Van der Poel won at a canter, Philipsen had the armchair ride for second place, and Vermeersch made it three Alpecin-Deceuninck riders in the top six. It was total and utter domination.

"Again with the team," Van der Poel was keen to point out. "[We were] maybe even stronger than last year. I'm super proud of the boys and I'm very happy to finish it off."

A fast start and early cobblestone splits

The tone for the 121st Paris-Roubaix was set right from the start, as the peloton shot out of the traps, with the opening half an hour run off at nearly 55km/h as the battle for the breakaway began.

After 30km, a group of seven riders managed to go clear, containing the 2021 Tour of Flanders champion Kasper Asgreen (Soudal Quick-Step), along with Per Strand Hagenes (Visma), Marco Haller (Bora-Hansgrohe), Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X), Kamil Małecki (Q36.5), Liam Slock (Lotto Dstny) and Gleb Syritsa (Astana Qazaqstan).

The group eventually swelled to nine as Dušan Rajović (Bahrain Victorious) and Dries de Bondt (Decathlon-AG2R) joined after a long bridge that was aided by a big crash that slowed the peloton and eventually cut the chord with the break.

However, Alpecin-Deceuninck soon came forward to control and pegged the escapees at a measly 90 seconds, with the pace increasing ahead of the first cobbled sector - Sector 29 given they run in descending order – with 164km to go.

The damage began to be done right from the first cobblestones, as a mechanical took out key contender Christope Laporte (Visma-Lease a Bike). He would never see the front of the race again, and that was due to the pressure that was applied on the two following sectors. On Sector 28, Tim Wellens started to split the peloton, as Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) suffered a mechanical, and on Sector 27 – the first four-star sector at Quiévy-Saint Python – Alpecin-Deceuninck strung it out to a proper breaking point.

However, it was in the crosswinds following that sector where the peloton split into several echelons. Tom Pidcock flicked his elbow, a gap opened, and suddenly the Brit, his teammate Josh Tarling, and key favourite Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) were chopped off the front group of just 30 that sailed clear.

Pedersen smashed his way through Sector 26 to bring that 10-man group back, but Tarling suffered a mechanical that would eventually see him thrown out of the race, as he held onto his team car at speed to rejoin the main group, which, amid the madness, had just rounded on the day’s breakaway.

That lead group was dominated by Alpecin-Deceuninck, who had five men there including their two favourites, while Visma had three of their lesser lights, Pedersen had two teammates, FDJ had three with Küng and Pithie, and Wellens was there with Politt. Other key names included Pidcock and John Degenkolb (DSM). The only teams that missed it were Jayco-AlUla, Cofidis, Israel-Premier Tech, Bengal-WB, and Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise.

Arenberg an early indicator

As the gap to the second peloton expanded to an irretrievable 2:30, the leaders made their way towards Sector 19, the famous Arenberg Forest, made even more highly anticipated by the addition of a chicane to slow the entry.

There was a big acceleration, but the group contained only 30 riders, so the dangers were mitigated. In any case, Mads Pedersen won the fight for the pole position and began to string out the group on the five-star sector of brutally rough cobblestones.

When Van der Poel took over, the group shattered, with only Pedersen, Philipsen, and Mick van Dijke (Visma-Lease a Bike) able to follow, and even they were gapped by the world champion as they exited the sector.

There was the usual barrage of bad luck, with Degenkolb first forced to stop, and then Philipsen suffering a rear wheel flat, which took the sting out of the lead quartet and allowed the next group of 10 to get across.

Pedersen, Meeus, and Wellens punctured on the next sector, which initially spelled panic, but they were able to be dragged across by Pedersen’s teammates due to a slowing in the main group triggered by an attack - Küng and Politt going clear with Alpecin’s Gianni Vermeersch marking them.

Pidcock gave it a nudge on Sector 17 as the gap hit 40 seconds but that trio were eventually brought back after Sector 16, with 68km to go. The race then settled down slightly on the next two sectors, with a group of 25 forming ahead of Sector 13 with 60km to go.

The move is made

Sector 13, however, was when the race opened up again, as Vermeersch led them onto the three-star Orchies cobbles and led Van der Poel out, the world champion opening the taps in emphatic fashion. Immediately, he had a gap, and he exited the sector alone, with a 10-second lead.

17 were left, and the writing was on the wall when they all started looking at each other. A couple of accelerations were thrown in but they were marked out, and Van der Poel hit Sector 12 with 20 seconds in hand. By the end of it, it had doubled. Pedersen gave it a big push behind, but Philipsen and Vermeersch were glued to his wheel in a remarkable show of strength.

Back on the tarmac, there was more of the same. Repeated accelerations came from Van Dijke but no one was going anywhere with the Alpecin duo in that mood, and once again the pace ebbed to a crawl, which allowed the gap to balloon out to 90 seconds ahead of the important five-star Sector 11 of Mons-en-Pévèle, Sector 11.

By this point, the main group had dwindled to around 15 riders, but there was a true selection when Politt smashed on the pedals, taking with him Pedersen, Pithie, and Küng but also, more frustratingly, Philipsen.

They pegged the gap at around two minutes but showed no real signs of getting anywhere close to Van der Poel, and certainly not when Pithie crashed out of the group on Sector 7. In a further indication of the Alpecin dominance, the Kiwi was joined by Vermeersch, who had attacked out of the third group on the road.

The final five-star sector of the Carrefour de l’Arbre came with 17.5km to go. Usually, the sector is pivotal in the outcome but this time it was reduced to a procession. Van der Poel was nearly three minutes up the road and was making no mistakes, his lines and his form near-perfect.

Behind, Pedersen began to take command once again, but he was surprised when Philipsen – not content to sit on and use his sprint in the velodrome – piled on the pressure and briefly gapped the rest in what must have been a demoralising moment. That acceleration did for Küng, who was forced to relent and give up on the podium dream.

The run-in to Roubaix was marked by one two-star sector and then the ceremonial final one-star sector ahead of the entry to the velodrome. Van der Poel was already celebrating well in advance, and the one-and-a-half laps of the track were a chance for him to soak in the atmosphere as his achievement sank in.

Three minutes later, the chasing trio arrived. All Politt could do was go long, and all Pedersen could do was give it his best, but Philipsen was the freshest and the fastest, comfortably easing in front of Pedersen to make it a dream repeat of last year for Alpecin-Deceuninck.

Race Results

1

nl flag

VAN DER POEL Mathieu

Alpecin-Deceuninck

5H 25' 58"

2

be flag

PHILIPSEN Jasper

Alpecin-Deceuninck

+ 3' 00"

3

dk flag

PEDERSEN Mads

Lidl-Trek

"

4

de flag

POLITT Nils

UAE Team Emirates

"

5

ch flag

KÜNG Stefan

Groupama-FDJ

+ 3' 15"

6

be flag

VERMEERSCH Gianni

Alpecin-Deceuninck

+ 3' 47"

7

nz flag

PITHIE Laurence

Groupama-FDJ

+ 3' 48"

8

be flag

MEEUS Jordi

BORA-hansgrohe

+ 4' 47"

9

no flag

WÆRENSKJOLD Søren

Uno-X Mobility

"

10

ee flag

MIHKELS Madis

Intermarché-Wanty

"

Provided by FirstCycling

Major Races

See All

29 Jun - 21 Jul

fr flag

Tour de France

2.UWT

12 Aug - 18 Aug

fr flag

Tour de France Femmes

2.WWT

4 May - 26 May

it flag

Giro d'Italia

2.UWT

28 Apr - 5 May

es flag

Vuelta España Femenina

2.WWT

Provided by FirstCycling

Related Content

Link to Giro d'Italia stage 16: Victory number five for Tadej Pogačar on shortened day
Tadej Pogačar holds up five digits - one for every stage win at this Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia stage 16: Victory number five for Tadej Pogačar on shortened day

Geraint Thomas slips a place as Dani Martínez hops back into second, but the pink jersey shows again that he's in a league of his own

Clock
Link to Giro d'Italia stage 15: Tadej Pogačar soars to queen stage victory
Tadej Pogačar celebrates victory on stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia stage 15: Tadej Pogačar soars to queen stage victory

Pink jersey in a league of his own as he collects fourth stage win and puts minutes into the rest of the GC field

Clock
Link to Vuelta a Burgos stage 4: Demi Vollering seals GC title with solo victory
Demi Vollering in the leader's jersey at the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas

Vuelta a Burgos stage 4: Demi Vollering seals GC title with solo victory

Dutchwoman unstoppable en route to third WorldTour stage race success of May

Clock
Link to Giro d'Italia stage 14: Filippo Ganna storms to victory on second time trial
Filippo Ganna wins the second Giro d'Italia time trial stage

Giro d'Italia stage 14: Filippo Ganna storms to victory on second time trial

Italian national champion gets long-awaited victory and holds off race leader Tadej Pogačar in Lombardy

Clock
Subscribe to the GCN Newsletter

Get the latest, most entertaining and best informed news, reviews, challenges, insights, analysis, competitions and offers - straight to your inbox