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Paris-Roubaix: Triumphs and heartbreaks

The Queen of the Classics. The Hell of the North. Many other superlatives could be used to describe the brutal character of Paris-Roubaix. Even though Milano – Sanremo is regarded as the most difficult Monument to win, Paris-Roubaix could arguably claim this title, given how many unpredictable factors can affect the outcome of the race. Getting caught up in a crash or having a puncture in a crucial stage of the race is not uncommon. Perhaps, it adds to the fascination that the race presents: it simply is not over until the velodrome.

The cobbles, the Trouée d’Arenberg, spectators lining up along the route, the velodrome and finally the emotions at the finish line, all of which define the most brutal of the Monuments as depicted by Andy Rogers.

The tears of joy and the heartbreaks

Each edition of the race has many narratives. Be it the victorious stories of the race frontrunners, or the true joy of many other riders when finishing the most brutal classic race. This year’s edition was no exception and once again delivered thrilling, emotional moments which both the fans and riders will remember.

One of the carrier stories which was set to write one of its final chapters at Roubaix was Peter Sagan’s last participation in the race. Nonetheless, it sadly was not to be a fairytale ending. The farewell of the 2018 winner unfortunately ended with a crash.

Within only two minutes or so, and with 15 km to go, the unpredictability and unforgiveness of the race showed in its full scale at the pavé sector of Carrefour de l’Arbre. First, John Degenkolb, the 2015 winner who was riding in perhaps his best form in years, collided with the Alpecin-Deceuninck duo of Mathieu van der Poel and Jasper Philipsen at the edge of the cobbled path. Right after that, Wout van Aert, who tried to pull away from the group in the chaotic moment, suffered a puncture. That left Mathieu van der Poel alone at the front of the race, as he was the only one who could follow van Aert’s attack.

Degenkolb could not hide his emotions of disappointment once crossing the finish line at the velodrome in Roubaix. Wout van Aert leaves the race with unfinished business, adding another podium into his collection, but with a gnawing feeling of what things could be like had it not been for that puncture.

The brutality of the both men’s and women’s races can be seen every time at the finish, even when the conditions are pleasant. Riders are left exhausted, covered in dust, iconically depicted in the famous old shower house at the velodrome.

We couldn’t help but notice how genuinely emotional the women felt at the finish compared to the men, even if finishing the race may mean the same to everyone. Perhaps given the different outcome of each race. On the one hand, the biggest stars who know what it feels like to win a Monument were the ones fighting for the victory. On the other hand, a breakaway which held on to its gap and surprised even the biggest race favorites. Alison Jackson sprinted to a sensational win that will go down in history, after working persistently and pulling the breakaway group many times during the race. The celebration dance, the tears of joy, singing the anthem at the podium. She didn’t hold back her excitement and it’s one of the reasons why many fans will remember this edition for a long time.

Translation: Javi Angulo
Photos: Andy Rogers