Sir Bradley Wiggins' Paris-Roubaix dream falls short as John Degenkolb sprints to victory
Briton finishes 18th in final race for Team Sky
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 21/04/15 4:48pm
Sir Bradley Wiggins' bid to win Paris-Roubaix in his final race for Team Sky fell short on Sunday as Germany's John Degenkolb sprinted to a deserved victory.
Wiggins formed part of an elite leading group going into the final 50km and twice put in significant attacks, but he missed the decisive move of the 253.5km cobbled classic and ended up finishing 31 seconds down in 18th place.
Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) also initially missed the winning attack, made by Yves Lampaert (Etixx – Quick-Step) and Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) with 12km to go, but he was one of five riders who caught back up and then easily prevailed a sprint for victory in the Roubaix Velodrome.
Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step) took second place and Van Avermaet third, while Luke Rowe was Team Sky and Britain’s highest finisher in eighth, 28 seconds down.
Team-mate Geraint Thomas’ challenge collapsed when he crashed heavily with 80km remaining. The Welshman was able to remount his bike but couldn't fully recover and later decided to abandon the race.
Wiggins will now leave Team Sky to join up with his eponymous new team, WIGGINS, ahead of his debut at the Tour de Yorkshire on May 1-3. An attempt to break the world hour record will follow in London in June, before the 34-year-old turns his attention towards bidding to end his career with team pursuit gold at the Olympic Games in Rio next year.
Degenkolb, meanwhile, became the first man since Ireland’s Sean Kelly in 1986 to win Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo in the same year and has now won two of the three Monument classics held so far this season.
He said: "This is the race I have always dreamed of to win. This is unbelievable. I can't get it right now. I had to work really hard for it. It's a long time ago, this combination of San Remo and Roubaix, and I am really happy and proud. It's amazing."
There was major drama early in the day, when the gates of a rail crossing began closing as the peloton passed through. Several riders risked life and limb to weave their way around the barriers with the oncoming train just seconds away, while others further back had no choice but to stop and wait.
The peloton quickly reformed after the incident and all of the pre-race favourites bar Thomas were together in a main group of contenders going into the final 45km, but then Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx – Quick-Step), team-mate of defending champion Niki Terpstra, attacked to put pressure on rivals teams.
Wiggins sat tight for 10km but then set off in pursuit with a searing attack that no one could follow and although it briefly looked like he and Vandenbergh could go it alone, other riders began tagging on and the move was eventually snuffed out.
The next – and decisive – attack came from Lampaert and only Van Avermaet decided to follow at first. Recognising the danger, Degenkolb belatedly set off in pursuit and eventually bridged across, and then four others later followed.
Wiggins had been too far back to join the chase and eventually launched a desperate lone attack in a bid to catch up with 3km to go, but he had left himself with too big a gap to close and eventually gave up.
The leading seven went into the Roubaix Velodrome together but Degenkolb, a sprinter by trade, had little trouble in winning by several bike lengths.
1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin, 5:49:51
2 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step, same time
3 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, st
4 Lars Boom (Ned) Astana, st
5 Martin Elmiger (Sui) IAM Cycling, st
6 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge, st
7 Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step, +7secs
8 Luke Rowe (GB) Team Sky, +28
9 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal, +29
10 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, +31
18 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky, st
DNF Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky