Paris-Roubaix 2014: a look back

Niki Terpstra, winner of Paris-Roubaix 2014 (tdwsport.com)

Another great edition of the biggest classic of them all, and it was Niki Terpstra of Omega Pharma-Quick Step who took his first victory in Roubaix. Here’s a look back at yesterday’s events. 

The first section of the race was, as ever, uneventful. A break got away and at one point was ten minutes up the road. No big or even middle-sized names though, with Kenny De Haes and David Boucher the most recognisable riders in the group.

As the peloton rolled over the early cobbles, so too came the inevitable punctures. Three-time winner Tom Boonen was the most notable victim, while Arnaud Démare punctured multiple times. The gap to the fragments leaders was coming down steadily, and was at around 6 minutes when Alex Kristoff and Peter Sagan were involved in a crash 10km before the famous Trouée d’Arenberg.

The peloton in the Arenberg Forest (tdwsport.com)

Wanty’s Björn Leukemans led the peloton into the forest, while 4 minutes up ahead Koretzky, De Haes and Boucher all flatted on the famous cobbles. It was not to be Kristoff’s day as he too punctured. Later, the Katusha rider punctured yet again and was truly out of contention.

Thor Hushovd tried to make a move on Sector 16 at Hornaing, and again at Sector 15 Warlaing-Brillon. Omega Pharma-Quick Step was quick to close him down, though. The Belgian squad were pushing the pace with Fabian Cancellara stuck in a chasing group after being held up by teammate Hayden Roulston’s crash.

A few kilometres later, a select group sprung off the front at Tilloy-Sars-et-Rosières. Martin Tjalingii, Mathieu Ladagnous and Geraint Thomas led the way, with Bert De Backer and Yannick Martinez also part of the attack. If that wasn’t a sign that the real racing had begun, then Tom Boonen’s counter-attack with 65km remaining surely was. Trek, BMC and Belkin were left behind with no representatives, and it was the latter two teams who took up the chase.

Tom Boonen, Paris-Roubaix 2014 (tdwsport.com)

Boonen was trying hard to push the pace of the group, and he was shown gesticulating at his breakmates, seemingly unhappy with their contribution to the workload. Boonen repeatedly attacked, shedding several riders from the break and also riders (including the valuable teammates of his rivals) from the chasing peloton.

The small group (Boonen, Thomas, Martinez, De Backer) dangled in front of the peloton, close enough for Hushovd to bridge across and strengthen it up. With around 40km to go the gap was at its largest, as it nudged past 50 seconds. A move from behind did come eventually, and it was on the Pont-Thibaut sector that Sep Vanmarcke zoomed away. Cancellara was immediately on his wheel, while Sep’s teammate Lars Boom was close behind.

It seemed as if the gap had halved in a matter of seconds, and Vanmarcke’s attack had shattered what was left of the peloton. Sagan was next to make a move, with Belkin’s Wynants following him as he snuck out of the reduced group in between cobbled sectors. The duo caught Boonen’s group before the famous Camphin-en-Pévèle sector.

Sep Vanmarcke & Fabian Cancellara, Paris-Roubaix 2014 (tdwsport.com)

Vanmarcke had two men up the road but he attacked along with Cancellara on Camphin-en-Pévèle. They quickly caught the leaders and brought Zdeněk Štybar and John Degenkolb with them. On the often-decisive Carrefour de l’Arbre it was this group, along with Sagan, who emerged in the lead. Boonen, Terpstra, De Backer, Langeveld,Wiggins and Thomas formed the chase group, but it looked for all the world like the winner of the race would come from the leading five.

Would it come down to a sprint? Sagan and Degenkolb looked to be in great shape for the win if only everyone would work together. However, this was not to be the case – as everyone dawdled the second group caught them and the final 11 was formed with less than 10 kilometres (and only two relatively easy cobbled sectors) to go.

With three Omega Pharma-Quick Step riders in the group, it looked like they held all the cards and team boss Patrick Lefevere must have been cobbling together tactical plans in the team car. The riders were busy watching each other when his man Niki Terpstra who made a move with 7km to go. Boonen and Štybar could relax (well, sorta) and wait to see if anyone else could organise a chase.

This didn’t happen, and the Dutchman’s gap grew to the point of no return. He rode into the velodrome alone – Niki Terpstra was the winner of Paris-Roubaix 2014.

The podium, Paris-Roubaix 2014 (ASO)

Conclusion

A fantastic race with an unexpected winner – similar to 2011 in that regard. Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s tactics proved to be perfect as they were strongly represented at the end and brought home Patrick Lefevere’s tenth victory at the race as team boss.

Team leader Tom Boonen’s move looked crazy at the time, especially with such a big peloton still remaining, but in hindsight it seems a very clever move. You have to wonder whether Boonen was over-confident or whether his attack was simply a tactical manoeuvre, but either way it worked in the end.

Terpstra’s win caps off a great Spring – he won the Tour of Qatar and Dwars door Vlaanderen, while also picking up top 5s at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke, Driedaagse De Panne, as well as a sixth place at De Ronde last week. He was a great outside bet for the win (my pre-race tip was ‘assorted Quick Step rider’).

BMC reverted to their by-now default role of classics failures. They were very visible up until the decisive moves came, while the team’s great hope Taylor Phinney was rarely spotted. Team Sky had a good race by their standards, with Brad Wiggins proving a lot of doubters wrong. John Degenkolb celebrated as he crossed the line, and after his win at Gent-Wevelgem, this Spring has seen a real coming of age classics-wise for the young German. Finally, it was a race to forget for France – the home nation had nobody in the top ten.

1 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 6:09:01  
2 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 0:00:20  
3 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing    
4 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team    
5 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team    
6 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale    
7 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky    
8 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Garmin Sharp    
9 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky    
10 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team    
11 Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Giant-Shimano 0:00:26  
12 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:00:47  
13 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky    
14 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
15 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Wanty – Groupe Gobert    
16 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team    
17 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team    
18 Jos van Emden (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team    
19 Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC Racing Team 0:01:05  
20 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
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One thought on “Paris-Roubaix 2014: a look back

  1. Heck of a race! They didn’t show it here in America until Monday night, but since it was also the first night of Passover, I DVR’ed it and didn’t get to see it until late Tuesday night (I deserve a cobblestone trophy just for avoiding spoilers!) My take is that Boonen and OmegaPharma-Quickstep was less concerned about Boonen winning the race than with making Cancellara lose it. With Cancellara losing the race, the record still stands at four apiece for Boonen and DeVlameck, and essentially, a record held only by Belgians and not by two Belgians and a Swiss. Boonen and his team didn’t race for Boonen so much as they did for Belgian pride, and in the end, achieved their goal and paid off the effort nicely by letting their Dutch rider take the win.

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