The Tour de France returned to the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix and all Hell broke loose with GC drama and a breakaway win
Words: Will Strickson Photos: Pete Goding
It was a 157km affair from Lille to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut – but sadly just passing next to the famous Trouée d’Arenberg. there were 11 secteurs for riders to navigate with several races in one as riders who normally would stay well clear of cobbled classics had to face the music.
Unlike the past few days it was action from the jump, with mechanicals before the flag had even dropped and our day’s breakaway formed almost immediately, though a few more riders bridged across after our first three got away.
Magnus Cort, Neilson Powless, Taco van der Hoorn, Simon Clarke, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Alexis Gougeard were the group established. A strong group with bags of experience and two riders, in Powless and Boasson Hagen, that weren’t too far away on GC for a potential yellow jersey shift.
As the peloton hit the cobbles the gap began to close but the lads, although fracturing themselves and dropping Gougeard, held on.
Behind, every inch was fought over to lead the bunch into the pavé with accelerations made and brief attacks but nothing sticking. It was a case of who could stay with it rather than who could attack.
Wout van Aert had mechanical issues, Jonas Vingegaard had a mechanical issue and subsequently an enormous borrowed bike, and Primož Roglič was taken out by a stray hay bale that was knocked into the road by the camera motorbike.
It was a bad day for Jumbo-Visma who had riders rally to bring Vingegaard back, with Van Aert putting in a huge shift. They didn’t have enough men to save Roglič too and the Slovenian was forced to pop his own dislocated shoulder back in and fight on.
It ended up with the two big groups of Jumbo’s leaders chasing as Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven put in a powerful dig to establish a gap and Tadej Pogačar was the only one that could follow. What can’t he do?
The break – apart from Magnus Cort who couldn’t quite hold on – came to the final kilometre together 51 seconds ahead of Stuyven and Pogačar. Powless went long and got a gap, Boasson Hagen rolled back the years and went over the top but looked to have given it all too early. Van der Hoorn started the sprint proper with his classic head bobble. Clarke pulled alongside and forced the photo finish, just about winning it on the throw.
At the start of the year the 35-year-old Clarke was without a team and staring down retirement. Now he’s just won the biggest race of his career for an Israel-Premier Tech struggling for even a sniff. What a day.
In the end, Pogačar only gained 13 seconds on the main bunch, which may come in handy, but Roglič came home two minutes later and his Tour chances may be over once more. Vuelta 4 is on.
But you watched it because it was amazing so you knew that. Here are the photographic highlights of another historic day on the cobbles from Pete Goding.
Big props to our first successful breakaway of the Tour. Each one of them deserves high praise and would’ve been worth winners.
You have to feel for Roglič, he just has zero luck.
Just two cyclocross lads hanging out and that.
A photo finish after a stage like that is not fair, not everyone’s hearts can handle those kind of BPMs.
Signing Clarke may prove to be Israel-Premier Tech’s best ever piece of business
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