Paris-Roubaix is a race like no other, demanding more of the riders and their equipment than any other race on the road calendar. Here are the stories of the riders who had less than favourable days, but still reached the velodrome in Roubaix.
As the race got underway, there was a big battle for position into the first section of cobbles. Well, there were actually two big battles as an early split had formed two large pelotons.
At the end of the 4-star, 3.7km sector of Quiévy to Saint-Python, there were already riders making their way back from crashes that had happened in those fights for positions.
Poor old Jan Maas had already come down pretty hard on his right side. He was back on a working bike, but he had around 145km still to race. He would get to the velodrome, but he was outside the time limit (OTL) along with 3 others in a group 28:19 down on the winner.
The same sector saw this Movistar rider with a shifter in a very aero position.
Eluned King had a nightmare of a day in Saturday’s Paris-Roubaix Femmes. She crashed before the race had even reached the first cobblestones and ended up chasing all day. See that medical team in the top left? After completing the obligatory 2 laps of the velodrome, King would be paying them a long visit, having to be helped to the floor and leaving the track with her arm in a sling.
Ben Turner, the Ineos Grenadiers’ insanely strong first-year pro slid out on the gravelly exit of Champin-en-Pevele, ending up 11th.
Nils Politt wore the face that was repeated by every other rider over the weekend.
Oli Naesen had a long walk to end of a sector after a puncture. It's probably good that he didn't ride the unprotected carbon wheel on the cobbles. That doesn't usually end well.
Mathieu van der Poel wasn’t troubled by mechanicals or crashes, but he had a big case of what Sean Kelly would describe as the ‘heavy legs’. He cut an empty figure and after a quick nap on the grass, made a hasty exit towards the team bus.
His teammate, Belgian Tim Merlier, had a painful day, touching down in the dust and ripping up his elbow well enough to earn a trip to the local hospital.
Blank expressions and salt-covered jerseys were a common sight.
And if you thought all of that was bad, spare a thought for poor Lewis Askey. The Brit on FDJ came crashing down when a rider in front of him braked on a small patch of cobbles that were wet. Speaking to Rouleur while on his way home, Askey says that he thinks a spinning disc rotor was to blame for what was a huge cut to his left knee.
“I could see inside my leg, pretty far inside my leg, so I went back to the medic car and I just asked him for a big bandage to wrap around my knee to stop it bleeding out and not getting any dust in there. Fortunately, we were in one of the places where there was a couple of kilometres between the sectors so they had time to wrap it up nice and good before we hit the next sectors.”
“I managed to help bring the two groups back together, and in the Arenberg, I managed to do some good work for Stefan, to make sure he was in the right place at the right time. [The knee] was getting worse, but I still had a job to do so I was doing it, and I was still in the race so I had the adrenalin.”
“The last hour and a half was a real tough hour and a half. Realistically, the best thing to have done would have been to have stopped straight away, but at that point, I didn’t think it was going to be so bad. So I didn’t.
“By the time I’d realised, ow, this is actually really not good, I’d already put myself through too much pain to not finish it. If that makes sense.”
“I know, and the team know, that if I had not come down in that crash, if I had been one position further forward, I could have come away with an actual result at Roubaix. Not just a placing. I hadn’t put in any effort, I was feeling so good. I don’t know what it is about cobbles but there’s something with the way I pedal, the way my body is, that race really does suit me.
“I’m a little bit gutted, I did all the right things and didn’t get to have that real good result at the end of it, but at the same time there was nothing that I could have done differently.”
Professional bike riders are a different breed.
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.