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Van Baarle is amazed by the coup: Germans suffer in the “Hell of the North”

Van Baarle is amazed by the coup
Germans suffer in the “Hell of the North”

The top German drivers John Degenkolb and Nils Politt just missed their personal goals at Paris-Roubaix. But that also applies to the favourites. Because at the end of the fastest edition in the history of the glorious classic, an outsider tip wins.

Sweaty, dirty and at the end of his tether, John Degenkolb fell onto the grass in the heart of the famous Roubaix velodrome and had to blow hard first. At the end of the fastest Paris-Roubaix in history, the 2015 winner finished 18th in the stats, which put him mildly as he hunted down the dusty cobblestone tracks of northern France. “I didn’t even stop to pee. It was full throttle from start to finish,” the 33-year-old told CyclingMagazine. “I’m not giving up the dream of being up front here again. I just love this race.”

Happy but marked: Dylan van Baarle.

(Photo: IMAGO/Belga)

In the end, Dylan van Baarle was in front. And although the Dutchman had already finished second in the Tour of Flanders, he was still more of an outsider tip. Ultimately, van Baarle completed what his team Ineos-Grenadiers had already initiated 209 kilometers from the finish in the “Hell of the North”, which was driven at an average speed of 45.792 km/h. There, the British team tore up the field on a wind crest and lost numerous favorites.

Degenkolb also found himself behind. “It was annoying. It took a lot of strength not to be there. You couldn’t do much more than keep calm. And of course that got the helpers up because everyone had to drive,” said Degenkolb. Only after the notorious sector in the forest of Arenberg a good 90 kilometers from the finish did Degenkolb find himself in the front positions. Nils Politt from Cologne, second in the Queen of Classics in 2019, was at the front right from the start. “I felt good and drove carefully,” said the 28-year-old. “Before Arenberg I drove off again to avoid the stress. That worked out well, I was among the favourites.”

“I was alone. That was crazy”

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John Degenkolb loves racing, even if the coup didn’t work out again.

(Photo: IMAGO/frontalvision.com)

Politt was annoyed that he only finished 22nd in his palmares. But it also shows that every position is important on the 30 cobblestone sectors stretching over 55 kilometers. “When Wout van Aert drove off, Greg van Avermaet left a gap and the group was gone. Two positions further up and I would have been there. My legs were still good. It’s annoying to lose a race like that,” said Politt . In the end, second-placed van Aert also felt he was a loser. Shortly after his corona illness, including a week’s isolation, the Belgian champions were still deep-stacked before the start. In the race he was clearly the strongest driver, repeatedly attacking and closing gaps. But he also missed van Baarle’s decisive start just before the brutal five-star Carrefour de l’Arbre sector.

“I couldn’t believe it when I rode into the velodrome alone. I looked to see where the others were. But I was alone. That was crazy,” said van Baarle after the 254.5-kilometer ride. In the 2021 edition he still fell outside the time limit, and he will remember the current one as the greatest success of his career. And when by no means all the drivers had crossed the finish line, overjoyed van Baarle lifted the massive cobblestone. In the end, all drivers were level again, regardless of whether they were winners, second or last. As usual, people met in the old concrete showers in the belly of the velodrome and washed the Sunday dirt off their bodies. Also sword butt. The veteran now wants to recover a little and then shine in his “home race” Frankfurt-Eschborn.

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