ROUBAIX, France – Veteran cyclist Philippe Gilbert beat German rider Nils Politt right at the end of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix race to win it for the first time.
Gilbert strategically placed himself behind the 24-year-old Politt, and then attacked him down the left to win by about a length after nearly six hours of riding. Belgian rider Yves Lampaert finished in third.
The race is one of cycling’s five high-profile classics, along with the Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia. The 36-year-old Gilbert, a former world road race champion, has won all except Milan-San Remo.
“I still have this dream to win all them. Little by little I’m getting there,” an elated Gilbert said afterward. “Politt’s very courageous. In the end the best rider won, and thankfully it was me.”
Last year’s Paris-Roubaix winner Peter Sagan joined Gilbert and Politt near the front with about 20 kilometers left. But Sagan dropped off, leaving Gilbert and Politt to contest victory as they reached the Roubaix velodrome in northern France.
Paris-Roubaix is known as the Queen of the Classics because it is the most prestigious of the five, which are otherwise known as “monuments” of cycling.
But the grueling and dangerous 160-mile trek is also known as the “Hell of the North,” because of its treacherous profile including more than 31 miles of cobblestones spread out over 29 sectors.
“A lot of people said cobblestones aren’t for me. But I’ve won Tour of Flanders and now I’ve won here,” Gilbert said. “I rode a good race tactically.”
Belgian cyclist Tiesj Benoot crashed into the back of a Jumbo-Visma team car near the end of Sunday’s race, smashing the back window completely. He was taken to hospital but his injuries were not immediately known.
Last year’s Paris-Roubaix was overshadowed by the death of Belgian rider Michael Goolaerts, following a crash.
In the junior men’s race that was nearly 69 miles long, Durango’s Quinn Simmons placed 20th. The 17-year-old was seventh at Roubaix a year earlier despite a crash and a flate tire. This year, he was frustrated by his result, especially coming off a win a the Gent-Wevelgem junior race in Belgium two weeks earlier.
“When people lose sight of the overall goal you get beat,” Simmons said in a post to Instagram. “Days like today show you who your true friends are. No stone for me but I will keep coming back until I get one. Hopefully the next time I’m here will be with the big boys.
The race juniors was won by Hidde van Veenendaal in 2:44:29. Simmons finished in the group 17 seconds behind the winning time. France’s Hugo Toumire was second, and Lars Boven of the Netherlands finished third.
Simmons said his equipment and legs were good this year.
“Today wasn’t the day,” he said in another Instagram post. “Good legs, good equipment, and good preparation can only get you so far. Spent the last 2 years preparing for this day so it hurts. Some would say ‘that’s bike racing,’ but it’s a lot more (than) that.”
Simmons, the reigning junior road race national champion, will compete at nationals again this year and will now turn his big focus to the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in September in Yorkshire, England.
The Durango Herald contributed to this report.