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Boivin delivers Canada’s second-greatest Paris-Roubaix result, Colbrelli claims title

The Hell of the North run in the worst of conditions

Guillaume Boivin Photo by: Sirotti

That Guillaume Boivin put down the second greatest Paris-Roubaix performance by a Canadian on Sunday is a testament to his quality as a rider, but the fact that he did so in such horrendously treacherous conditions is a testament to his grit and tactical nous. Steve Bauer came runner-up in 1990. Boivin was ninth behind Sonny Colbrelli, who took his first career Monument by winning a three-up sprint at the conclusion of a wet, cold, muddy Hell of the North. Colbrelli is the first Italian to hoist the cobblestone trophy this century.

The Course

The men’s peloton had a taxing day ahead. Over 257 km it would face 30 sectors of cobbles, the first, three-star Sector 30: Troisvilles to Inchy, arriving at the 98-km mark. The four and five-star sectors, the hardest ones, would combine for a total of 21 km. The three five-star sectors are the Trouée d’Arenberg (at km 162, 2.3 km long), Mons-en-Pévèle (at km 209, 3 km long) and the often-decisive Carrefour de l’Arbre (at km 240, 2.1 km long). If Saturday’s Paris-Roubaix Femmes was anything to go by, there would be carnage on the slick pavé.

After a couple of failed attempts, a large, high-powered breakaway formed after about 40 km. Among the 30 already-soaked riders were three Ineos, three Jumbo-Visma, three Lotto-Soudal and two Deceuninck-Quick Step fellows. Bora-Hansgrohe, Astana-Premier Tech and Arkea-Samsic toiled to bring the fugitives back. There were crashes before the pavé.

By the first sector, Troisvilles to Inchy, the escapees’ gap was 2:00.

The big breakaway hits the first sector of cobbles with a 2:00 lead.

Attrition and punctures whittled down the numbers in the fugitive group. On Sector 27 four escapees broke free of the others and slithered through the next few sectors. The quartet survived the long, straight Trouée d’Arenberg intact but soon after submitted to the closest chase group. A trio edged away and from this new breakaway Gianni Moscon went solo.

Boivin made a herculean effort to bridge over from the peloton to move through the scattered chase groups. Soon he was in Chase 1. By now all the riders still on the road were caked with mud, their jerseys made indistinguishable by the French catarrh.

Gianni Moscon entered Mons-en-Pévèle solo. With 40 km and five sectors including Carrefour de l’Arbre to go, Moscon led Boivin, Boivin’s teammate Tom Van Asbroeck, Mathieu van der Poel, Colbrelli and Florian Vermeersch by 1:24 and Wout Van Aert’s eight-rider chase by 1:54.

A flat tire for Moscon before Carrefour de l’Arbre allowed Boivin’s group to draw closer, with van der Poel doing a lot of the engine work in the quintet. Moscon then crashed in three-star Sector 7, Cysoing to Bourghelles, but before the Boivin-van der Poel gang could nab him, the Canadian crashed.

Carrefour de l’Arbre to Roubaix

Moscon pulled out more time before the final five-star sector. Boivin couldn’t catch up and his teammate Van Asbroeck lost contact. Boivin settled in with the streamlined Van Aert chase.

Van der Poel pulled his trio over to the Ineos rider and a surge from Cobrelli dropped the other Italian in the Carrefour de l’Arbre. Only three sectors remained before the famed Roubaix velodrome.

On the way to Sector 3, Gruson, Vermeersch tried to shake the others. But the trio, all three Paris-Roubaix debutantes, stayed intact through Gruson and Sector 2. Were they going to settle it in the velodrome? They could all sprint.

Again Vermeersch tried to pry out daylight. No dice.

This is what the edge of your seat is for. Van der Poel led into the velodrome, with Colbrelli second wheel and Vermeersch third. The crowd went wild.

Colbrelli then dispatched his breakmates to win in high style. He has enjoyed a fine season, with points classification victories and stage victories in the Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné, the Italian national title, the overall WorldTour Benelux Tour title after taking a stage, the European road title and first place in the Memorial Marco Pantani. He was also tenth at Worlds.

A filthy Colbrelli outsprints his mud-splattered breakmates in Roubaix. Photo: Sirotti

Vermeersch was runner-up and van der Poel third.

The 2021 WorldTour concludes next Sunday with Il Lombardia.

2021 Paris-Roubaix
1) Sonny Colbrelli (Italy/Bahrain-Victorious) 6:01:57
2) Florian Vermeersch (Belgium/Lotto-Soudal) s.t.
3) Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherlands/Alpecin-Fenix) s.t.
9) Guillaume Boivin (Canada/Israel Start-up Nation) +1:16