PARIS-ROUBAIX’21: Colbrelli Conquers the Cobbles!


Race Report: At the end of a wet and muddy Paris-Roubaix, Bahrain Victorious’ Sonny Colbrelli was the fastest in the sprint ahead of Gianni Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). A tough winner of a tough race.

Sonny Colbrelli won an heroic edition of Paris-Roubaix. After more than 257 kilometres and many soaking wet cobblestones, he was the first to cross the finish line on the Roubaix cycling track after an exciting battle of three men. He beat Florian Vermeersch and Mathieu van der Poel.

roubaix21 men

Paris-Roubaix covers 257.7 kilometres, of which 55 kilometres are cobblestones – spread over thirty cobblestone sections. There are 500 metres more cobbles than two years ago. The route also has one cobblestone section more this year. After a neutralised zone of 7.2 kilometres, the race can really start. After 96.3 kilometres, the Troisvilles-Inchy sector is the first cobblestones of the day. But unlike in 2019, this section of 2.2 kilometres will be run in its entirety. The route then leaves the Biastre section, after which 29, 28 and 27 follow each other in rapid succession. At Saint-Python the route heads north to the short cobbled section of Haussy to Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon (26). The section from Vertain to Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon will be done in the opposite direction, meaning the riders will have to climb. Then the course goes a little more east, over Capelle-Ruesnes (24). This section was discovered in 2005, but has not been included in the Paris-Roubaix route since 2016. After this, the riders still have 30 kilometres to prepare for the passage of the Trouée d’Arenberg (19). Two 5-star sections which have so often been decisive in the race come next; Mons-en-Pévèle (11) and Carrefour de l’Arbre (4) sections. From there, the route heads over the last sections of the day, those of Gruson, Hem and Roubaix, to the prestigious finish on the Velodrome de Roubaix.

All cobblestone sections of Paris-Roubaix 2021:
30. Troisvilles à Inchy (161.4 km) 2,200m – ***
29. Viesly à Quiévy (154.9 km) 1,800m – ***
28. Quiévy à Saint-Python (152.3 km) 3,700m – ****
27. Saint-Python (147.6 km) 1,500m – **
26. Haussy à Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon (141.1 km) 800m – **
25. Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon à Vertain (136.8 km) 2,300m – ***
24. Capelle à Ruesnes (130.4 km) 1,700m – ***
23. Artres à Quérénaing (121.4 km) 1,300m – **
22. Quérénaing à Maing (119.6 km) 2,500m – ***
21. Maing à Monchaux-sur-Écaillon (116.5 km) 1,600m – ***
20. Haveluy à Wallers (103.5 km) 2,500m – ****
19. Trouée d’Arenberg (95.3 km) 2,300m – *****
18. Wallers à Hélesmes (89.3 km) 1,600m – ***
17. Hornaing à Wandignies (82.5 km) 3,700m – ****
16. Warlaing à Brillon (75 km) 2,400m – ***
15. Tilloy à Sars-et-Rosières (71.5 km) 2,400m – ****
14. Beuvry à Orchies (65.2 km) 1,400m – ***
13. Orchies (60.2 km) 1,700m – ***
12. Auchy à Bersée (54.1 km) 2,700m – ****
11. Mons-en-Pévèle (48.6 km) 3,000m – *****
10. Mérignies à Avelin (42.6 km) 700m – **
9. Pont-Thibault à Ennevelin (39.2 km) 1,400m – ***
8. Templeuve (L’Épinette) (33.8 km) 200m – *
8. Templeuve (Moulin-de-Vertain) (33.3 km) 500m – **
7. Cysoing à Bourghelles (26.9 km) 1,300m – ***
6. Bourghelles à Wannehain (24.4 km) 1,100m – ***
5. Camphin-en-Pévèle (19.9 km) 1,800m – ****
4. Carrefour de l’Arbre (17.2 km) 2,100m – *****
3. Gruson (14.9 km) 1,100m – **
2. Willems à Hem (8.2 km) 1,400m – ***
1. Roubaix (Espace Charles Crupelandt) (1.4 km) 300m – *

xpedo cxr pedalbanner with Brian McCullough

roubaix21 women

For the first time since the spring of 2019, Paris-Roubaix was on the calendar again, and what an edition. Rain was predicted and it came true. The riders started in a downpour, some trembling with fear, the other with a twinkle in their eye. After 50 kilometres, a serious leading group of 27 emerged with several top riders.

Special Roubaix jersey for the Delko team

A wet start in Compiegne

Among them Greg Van Avermaet, Davide Ballerini, Tim Declercq, Edoardo Affini, Timo Roosen, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Florian Vermeersch, Jasper Philipsen, Marco Haller, Gianni Moscon, Luke Rowe, Nils Eekhoff and Max Walscheid. They soon had a lead of more than 1 minute and had a lead of 1:40 at the first cobble section in Troisvilles. It was immediate chaos because of the soaking wet cobblestones. In all groups, riders were dropped due to bad luck, a flat tire or because of a puncture.

Jumbo-Visma also had a special jersey

Those slippy cobbles

After three sections, the peloton was already reduced to about 50 riders. Many top men were well in front to stay out of trouble. Mathieu van der Poel had to get off the bike after a mechanical, but he quickly returned. In the lead were Eekhoff, Vermeersch, Rowe and Walscheid who managed to pull away on the cobbles. At 140 kilometres from the finish, they were almost three minutes ahead of the favourites group. Rowe couldn’t keep up with the pace after that and Walscheid fell back, leaving Vermeersch and Eekhoff. The remainder of the leading group followed at about 45 seconds.

And they are off

A very wet Wout

Behind; with 130 kilometres to go, the elite group completely disintegrated, including Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and also Michal Kwiatkowski and the riders of Deceuninck – Quick-Step. On the cobbled section of Haveluy, the pace picked up again; the favourites group was reduced to about 15 riders just before the Wallers. Chaos reigned supreme on the very tough five-star section. Van der Poel took the lead and Van Aert was lucky to stay upright after a crash right in front of him, but the Belgian champion had to chase. Kwiatkowski and Pedersen went down because Rowe came to a complete standstill with bad luck and couldn’t get out of the way.

Where else but on the front – Tim Declercq

One word – Grim

At the end of Wallers, Van Aert, together with Sep Vanmarcke and Zdenek Stybar, were about 20 seconds behind the group with Van der Poel and Colbrelli, but Van Aert rejoined. At that time there was still 87 kilometres to Roubaix. Vermeersch and Eekhoff’s escape was stranded just before the Hornaing section. They were caught by the remnants of the early break, including Van Avermaet, Philipsen, Roosen and Moscon, while the favourites followed at just under 1 minute. In between there was a foursome with Colbrelli.

Nils Eekhoff (DSM) went for the long break

The chase group behind Eekhoff and Vermeersch

At the front it was Moscon, Bissegger, Walscheid, Philipsen, Stannard and Van Asbroeck who rode away. Van der Poel had to change bikes 75 kilometres from the finish, but he was back in the group in no time and then attacked on the Tilley section. Lampaert, Stybar and Haussler were able to follow, but he shook them all off. He rode away for 30 seconds and joined the chasing group containing Colbrelli. Around Orchies it was Moscon, the tireless Vermeersch and Van Asbroeck who dropped their fellow escapees.

Eekhoff leading Vermeersch

A hard day for everyone

With more than 50 kilometres to go, the race was reasonably clear: The leading trio had a 45 second lead on the Van der Poel group and 1:40 on the Van Aert group. On the long stretch to Bersée Moscon went solo, while Van der Poel also accelerated at the same point. The Italian had a 1:10 lead over Van der Poel at Mons-en-Pévèle, while van Aert followed at 2 minutes. With a larger lead Moscon came off the very tough section and was getting further away from the competition. There, Van der Poel, Colbrelli and Boivin joined Vermeersch and Van Asbroeck.

Florian Vermeersch and Nils Eekhoff gave it their best shot

The first wet Roubaix for all the riders

Between kilometres 30 and 25 from the finish, the course took a completely different turn. First Moscon had a puncture and he had to change bikes, after which he crashed on the wet part of Cysoing. The Van der Poel group were then at 10 seconds. At the four-star Camphin-en-Pévèle, it was slipping and sliding again: Boivin and a camera motorbike crashed.

It has been a long season for Van Aert

Van der Poel was looking strong

Vermeersch, Van der Poel and Colbrelli stayed upright and had Moscon in sight at the end of the section. After that it was all hands on deck for Carrefour de l’Arbre. That was the moment for Van der Poel to make a move, he caught Moscon 16 kilometres from the finish. Colbrelli accelerated, but he couldn’t get Van der Poel and Vermeersch off his wheel. It was too fast for Moscon.

Van der Poel managed to keep out of trouble

Moscon was looking good until a puncture and a crash

The three front ridders, all three debutants in Paris-Roubaix, kept a close eye on each other and kept the pace high. What remained in the last 10 kilometres were the Willems-Hem (1.4 km, ***) and Espace Charles Crupelandt (0.3 km, *) sections. Vermeersch tried to jump away 3 kilometres from the end, but Colbrelli countered his attack.

Van der Poel pulled the race back

The win was going to come from one of the three: Van der Poel, Colbrelli and Vermeerch

The sprint goes to Colbrelli

Van der Poel then didn’t let the pace drop, after which he turned onto the velodrome in the lead. Vermeersch started the sprint in the last bend of the famous track, but he was beaten by Colbrelli in a painful sprint. The Italian was in ecstasy and could not believe his fortune. Behind him, Vermeersch was second, ahead of a tired Van der Poel.

The big win to top a great season for Colbrelli

7th for Van Aert

An very emotional Sonny Colbrelli

2021 Paris-Roubaix winner, Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious): “It’s unbelievable. It’s my first Paris-Roubaix, and I’m winning. I’m really happy. This day is legendary, with all that rain from the start and our attack with 90 kilometres to go, after Arenberg. After that I only followed Mathieu van der Poel in the final. In the end I did a very good sprint, and I am very happy. Gianni (Moscon) started early. He is super strong, but he was already 200 kilometres on the attack. And behind that we worked well together. In the sprint I mainly followed Van der Poel, but Lotto Soudal’s (Vermeersch) started at 200 metres. I then placed the jump for the win at 25 metres before the finish. This is a dream come true. My biggest dream is the Tour of Flanders, but the second is Paris-Roubaix. It was super difficult today, with the crashes, the stress and the positioning… This is my year. I am really happy.”

Maybe a bit heavy for the mantlepiece

Paris-Roubaix Result:
1. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious in 6:01:57
2. Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal
3. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix
4. Gianni Moscon (Ita) INEOS Grenadiers at 0:44
5. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick Step at 1:16
6. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
7. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
8. Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-Up Nation
9. Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation
10. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
11. Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-Nippo
12. Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Qhubeka NextHash at 3:17
13. Anthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies
14. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates at 4:40
16. Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education-Nippo at 4:45
17. Marco Haller (Aut) Bahrain Victorious at 6:21
18. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Arkea-Samsic
19. Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
20. Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
21. Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
22. Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
23. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation
24. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) DSM at 6:26
25. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo.

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