Peter Sagan finds heaven in hell as world champion beats Silvan Dillier in two-up sprint to win Paris-Roubaix

Peter Sagan became the first world champion since Bernard Hinault in 1981 to win Paris-Roubaix following an awe-inspiring display of strength and panache in northern France on Sunday.

After going into the race off the back of a relatively disappointing classics season – Sagan added just Ghent-Wevelgem to his palmarès during the spring campaign – the Bora-Hansgrohe rider responded to criticism in some style on Sunday with a long-range attack reminiscent of Tom Boonen’s fourth and final win here in 2012.

With around 55 kilometres of the 257km race remaining and trailing a four-man group by 20sec, Sagan accelerated from a group containing a number of the pre-race favourites including defending champion Greg Van Avermaet and the in-form Niki Terpstra. Despite Sagan’s obvious threat there was no response, perhaps a sign of the Slovakian’s strength.

A serene looking Sagan, who until Sunday had just one monument of cycling – the Tour of Flanders – on his palmarès, drifted up the road towards the race leaders before further injections of pace saw the group whittled down to two.

Swiss national road race champion Silvan Dillier, in fact, stayed with Sagan all the way to the velodrome in the post-industrial town of Roubaix where he led the way onto the smooth concrete track after almost six hours in the saddle.

Despite the Swiss’s sterling effort, though, Dillier was unable to hold off Sagan once the world champion opened up his sprint and dived below the Ag2r-La Mondiale rider towards the line.

“Amazing. I’m so tired after this race. I avoided crashes, and, actually, I feel less tired than the previous years,” Sagan said afterwards.

“Thank you to all my team-mates. They did a great job, keeping everyone altogether. And in the end I made the winning move.”

Terpstra, who won the race in 2014, finished in third spot.

4:22PM

Sagan: I feel amazing

Peter Sagan has been speaking and thanked his team-mates. “Amazing,” he said he feels after today’s excellent victory.

“I stayed much better this year than in all the other years that I have finished Paris-Roubaix, where I was much more tired than today.

“I am very happy. I have to say thank you to all my team-mates because they did a great job. They kept the group all together from the start. I did my winning move with 50km to go and I’m very happy to come first. It’s an amazing feeling.”

.@PetoSagan enjoyed that ‘amazing’ win at #ParisRoubaix! pic.twitter.com/R2JPimuzhT

– Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) April 8, 2018

It’s fair enough to say the world champion appeared pretty chuffed.

4:17PM

Sagan wins his first Paris-Roubaix title

Cat and  mouse stuff on the track in the velodrome before world champion Peter Sagan opens up his sprint with around 200 metres to go. It will come as little surprise to discover that the Bora-Hansgrohe rider took line honours ahead of Swiss rider Silvan Dillier.

Supreme performance today from Sagan and an absolutely great effort from the Ag2r-La Mondiale rider who refused to hide when it would have been easy to shirk away from his responsibilities and sit on the Slovakian’s wheel. Niki Terpstra, by the way, finished third.

PETER SAGAN WINS PARIS-ROUBAIX 2018! 🌈🏆#ParisRoubaix pic.twitter.com/HtSr4FyrUw

– Paris-Roubaix (@Paris_Roubaix) April 8, 2018

4:14PM

Sagan and Dillier enter the velodrome

Here we go. Silvan Dillier leads onto the track with Peter Sagan perfectly position on his wheel.

Entrance on the Velodrome ! 🏟#ParisRoubaix pic.twitter.com/sNZUYwTetT

– Paris-Roubaix (@Paris_Roubaix) April 8, 2018

4:13PM

2km to go

The leading pair are around 1,500 metres from the velodrome now. Onto the final sector which is by far and away the easiest of the day …

4:10PM

4km to go 

Peter Sagan and Silvan Dillier are just 4km from the finish line and still working together. If Dillier wins he will become a national hero back home in Switzerland; if Sagan prevails he will become the first world champion since Bernard Hinault in 1981 to win Paris-Roubaix.

4:09PM

5km to go

Niki Terpstra is pressing down hard on his pedals and looking to split the chasing group. As it stands Terpstra’s group is racing for third spot on the podium, but who will be standing on the first and second steps?

4:05PM

Penultimate sector!

Former winners Niki Terpstra and Greg Van Avermaet are leading the chase as Peter Sagan and Silvan Dillier approach the Willems to Hem sector of cobbles which although is just 1.4km in length, will feel like much much longer following a tough day in the saddle.

Sagan is doing his best to find a smooth surface and taking a few risks as he ducks and weaves past and around spectators and a few roadside obstructions. Heart in the mouth stuff from one of sport’s great entertainers.

4:02PM

10km to go

Just three more cobbled sectors remain now and the toughest of the day are behind the leaders. Peter Sagan and Silvan Dillier‘s lead has dropped to 47sec.

4:00PM

Sagan’s lead drops … slightly

The leading duo’s advantage on Niki Terpstra‘s chasing group has dropped to below a minute, but Peter Sagan and Silvan Dillier are working together. One would imagine if the two can hold on till the finishing line in the Roubaix Velodrome the world champion would fancy his chances in a sprint, but anything can happen in the final 12km. 

3:56PM

14km to go

Peter Sagan is pressing hard trying to shake off Silvan Dillier, but Ag2r-La Mondiale’s Swiss national road race champion is hanging in there.

Further back, Jens Debusschere has popped leaving just Niki Terpstra, Sep Vanmarcke, Greg Van Avermaet and Jasper Stuyven​ in pursuit.

3:54PM

Action stations on Carrefour de l’Arbre

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale) are now on the brutal Carrefour de l’Arbre sector while further back Niki Terpstra has put in a big effort at the head of the chasing pack.

3:52PM

17km to go

Taylor Phinney has taken things up on the front of the chasing group; Wout Van Aert has shipped a chain and one would imagine that’s his race done. Bad, bad luck that for one of the most exciting prospects in the sport.

3:50PM

18km to go

Race leaders Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale) are on the four-star Camphin-en-Pévèle section of cobbles and there has been very little movement further back. 

Once the chasing group hit Camphin-en-Pévèle, will anybody make a move? Can they do anything? Have they anything left in their legs? Stay tuned.

3:44PM

Sagan looking comfortable

Peter Sagan, who remember has never finished higher than sixth at Paris-Roubaix and has just one monument of cycling on his palmarès,  is looking relaxed, riding down the crown of the cobbles.

Mais quel numéro de Dillier quand même ! Le suisse tient puis relaye ! #ParisRoubaix pic.twitter.com/dSylII0TU4

– Le Gruppetto (@LeGruppetto) April 8, 2018

Silvan Dillier is chipping in with a turn and the leading duo’s advantage has again increased – 1min 26sec now.

3:40PM

Wallays legs turn to Jelle

Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) has lost contact with Peter Sagan and the leading group is down to two riders. The world champion is looking really strong here, but will losing a rider cost him over the final 25km? 

3:39PM

Sagan extends his lead

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) have hit the next sector of cobble and they have, in fact, put in a further couple of seconds on the chasing group featuring defending champion Greg Van Avermaet and 2014 winner Nike Terpstra.

3:36PM

Sagan taking risks

Peter Sagan, it must be said, is doing most of the work here in the leading three-man group. You would have thought the other two would be happy to chip in with a turn or two. 

Bizarrely, Sagan was just spotted with an allen key tightening a bolt on his stem. Looks a bit dangerous to me, that. By the way, there’s a team car riding alongside the world champion so a Bora-Hansgrohe mechanic could easily do this rather than risk Sagan’s race.

3:29PM

33km to go

There’s a very strong group of riders around 40sec behind Peter Sagan. Niki Terpstra, Taylor Phinney, Sep Vanmarcke, Greg Van Avermaet, Jens Debusschere, Jasper Stuyven​ and Wout Van Aert are all in pursuit, while Philippe Gilbert is in the third group around another 20sec down the road.

3:25PM

Three out in front

The leading group has now been reduced to just three riders  Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) – and their lead over the second group on the road is about a minute.

3:18PM

Quick-Step Floors causing damage

Niki Terpstra has just put in a big effort in the peloton and has caused some damage. Quick-Step Floors team-mate Philippe Gilbert is hanging onto his wheel while EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale duo Taylor Phinney and Sep Vanmarcke have managed to hold their pace.

Race leaders are now on sector 10:

3:13PM

Sagan extends his lead 

Peter Sagan’s advantage on the peloton has gone out to 55sec. That move of his from 55km out is starting to look a little like the attack from Tom Boonen who did a similar attack back in 2012. But can he hold on? Still anawful long way to go yet.

3:10PM

And we’re on Mons-en-Pévèle!

One of the toughest sections of the day now and the world champion is leading the way.

Back in the bunch a big crash has seen Alexander Kristoff, Tony Martin and Luke Rowe hit the deck. They may cross the line in the Roubaix Velodrome later, but their races are done.

3:07PM

Sagan catches race leaders

Following that injection of pace from the world champion, a group of four riders   Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Sven Erik Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) – now lead the race. The quartet have around 20sec on the peloton. Going to be interesting to see if anybody is going to work with the rainbow bands.

Next up will be the second five-star sector of the day, Mons-en-Pévèle.

3:01PM

Sagan goes – 54km to go

Three-time world champion Peter Sagan has attacked off the front of the peloton and nobody has flinched a muscle which could prove very costly later this afternoon. Could this be the decisive move of the race? Sagan’s team-mate Marcus Burghardt is sat on the front of the pack and, obviously, is not going to press down his pedals harder than necessary. 

2:59PM

Van Avermaet makes a move

Defending champion Greg Van Avermaet put in a short effort before the 2014 winner Niki Terpstra of Quick-Step Floors closes him down. Following a brief lull in proceedings, Van Avermaet attacks again causing a little thinning of the lead group.

2:57PM

56km to go

Marcus Burghardt, once again, is on the front and the German is followed closely by Luke Rowe. Once through a feed zone Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) attacked before that man Tony Martin chased him down.

2:53PM

58km to go

A number of riders in the peloton just sat up, appearing unprepared to take up the chase. Zdenek Stybar, meanwhile, is just hanging out up front. Presumably the Czech rider is out in front to act as the carrot for the Quick-Step Floors rival to chase. Time will tell.

2:50PM

60km to go

Daniel Oss has now gone off the front of the peloton. The Italian, though, was soon chased down.

🇫🇷 #ParisRoubaix @Daniel87Oss attacked from the bunch and tries to catch Stybar. #BORAhansgrohe pic.twitter.com/BTl0KebVBQ

– BORA – hansgrohe (@BORAhansgrohe) April 8, 2018

2:48PM

Stybar drops Soler 

Zdenek Stybar, unsurprisingly, rode Marc Soler off his wheel ahead of the next sector of cobbles.

The gap between the race leaders, which comprises just three riders  Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Sven Erik Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) – has dropped to 41sec.

2:43PM

All to play for

Tony Martin has again pushed himself to the front of the peloton and is looking strong. Whether or not he’s riding for himself today or for a Katusha-Alpecin team-mate remains to be seen.

The race leaders, Zdenek Stybar and the peloton are all within 50sec of each other so still a tight race.

2:38PM

70km to go

Marcus Burghardtis continuing to work on behalf of Peter Sagan on the front of the chasing group. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), who finished second at last weekend’s Tour of Flanders and won the U23 Paris-Roubaix race back in 2014, is riding third wheel of the peloton.

Zdenek Stybar, meanwhile, is ploughing on further up the road and has now caught Marc Soler who has been dropped by the race leaders. Stybar is around 47sec behind the race leaders and 30sec in front of the peloton.

2:32PM

All change!

Daniel Oss, the man-of-the-match during last year’s race on behalf of eventual winner Greg Van Avermaet, hes reined in that Philippe Gilbert and Mike Teunissen group before Zdenek Stybar, the Czech national road race champion who has finished in second place at Paris-Roubaix twice during his career, chipped off the front.

2:27PM

Over and out

Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) and Sebastian Langeveld (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale) have abandoned while I’m also hearing that Peter Sagan’s team-mate Andreas Schillinger may have also quit.

2:25PM

Démare struggling 

French national champion Arnaud Démare is struggling and is labouring at the back of a very elongated peloton. Not looking good for the FDJ team leader.

Nils Politt, by the way, has caught up with Mike Teunissen and Philippe Gilbert.

2:23PM

80km to go

Philippe Gilbert and Mike Teunissen have managed to catch the remnants of breakaway, around 30sec up the road from the peloton.

2:21PM

81km to go

Wout Van Aert, the three-time world cyclo-cross champion, appears unnerved by Philippe Gilbert‘s long-range effort and he is giving chase. Luke Rowe of Team Sky is on the young and hugely talented rider’s wheel.

The breakaway, meanwhile, is about to reach sector 17.

2:13PM

Politt giving chase 

Nils Politt of Katusha-Alpecin has now gone off the front of the peloton and is in pursuit of Mike Teunissen and Philippe Gilbert who have put just over 10sec into the main group. Is Gilbert going for a long one here? Sure you know, but the 35-year-old Belgian has never won Paris-Roubaix. In fact, he has only raced it once back in 2007 when he finished 52nd but he has been in fine form this season and is on the record as saying this is his goal for the season. 

2:09PM

89km to go

Mike Teunissen (Sunweb) and Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step) are pushing on, time trial style, while further back Daniel Oss appears to be marking any moves on the front on behalf of Bora-Hansgrohe team-mate Peter Sagan. Everybody is now through Trouée d’Arenberg and the race appears to be on now.

2:06PM

Gilbert off the front!

Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step) and Mike Teunissen (Sunweb) have put space between themselves and the chasing group. Will be interesting to see if this move has any impact on the group behind.

2:04PM

Looking good for Bora-Hansgrohe

Marcus Burghardt, the German national road race champion, hit the start of Trouée d’Arenberg in prime position – on the front – and Bora-Hansgrohe team-mate Peter Sagan is glued to his wheel.

The leading group split into two before the end of that five-star stretch and they’re onto the smooth asphalt now.

2:01PM

Here we go …

I had the pleasure of standing at the entrance to the Trouée d’Arenberg sector of cobbles last year and got a close up look at the approach to one of the most feared stretches of road in this race. The riders hit the horrible looking cobbles at around 60km following a slight downhill – only around 1% in gradient, but enough to wind up the pace to a dangerous looking speed. 

The race leaders are pushing on across the five-star sector . The chasing group are around two minutes behind.

1:56PM

Edging towards the trench

The race leaders are heading towards the Trouée d’Arenberg, a sector where the race cannot be won but can certainly be lost.

Back in the chasing group there has been a crash with Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) hitting the deck at speed.

💥 Crash in Haveluy !#ParisRoubaix pic.twitter.com/f0HS5eh7IK

– Paris-Roubaix (@Paris_Roubaix) April 8, 2018

Mads Wurtz(Katusha-Alepecin) has abandoned following an earlier spill.

1:50PM

Goolaerts reportedly in critical state

Reports in Belgium are saying that Michael Goolaerts in fact had a cardiac arrest earlier following his crash. Doctors are now trying to stabilise the young Belgian.

Back on the road, the race leaders are onto sector 20 – with the first five-star sector of the day, Trouée d’Arenberg, up next.

1:43PM

107km to go

John Degenkolb, the winner of the 2015 edition of Paris-Roubaix, is chasing back on after the German had a puncture a few minutes ago. A few matches burned the for the Trek-Segafredo rider but he should be ok.

1:39PM

Briton wins Junior Roubaix!

Team Sky, Lotto-Soudal and Bora-Hansgrohe all have numbers near the front of the chasing group, but as you would expect race favourites Quick-Step Floors have two riders at the head of the group. There’s an awful long way to go yet though.

Meanwhile, a short while ago a young Briton by the name of Lewis Askey has just won Junior Roubaix.

Great news from the #Roubaix velodrome. @Team_BHC rider @LewisAskey wins Junior Roubaix. Could not be any happier for this young hard working man. pic.twitter.com/hTXK9RUPtN

– Magnus Backstedt (@Maggy_PR) April 8, 2018

1:33PM

115km to go

The riders are eating up the miles. Geoffrey Soupe is now leading the breakaway and they’re onto the Maing to Monchaux-sur-Ecaillon sector.

1:30PM

117km to go

The breakaway is already onto sector 22, while Quick-Step Floors remain in control on the front of the peloton.

The bearded Geoffrey Soupe of French ProContinental team Cofidis, Solutions Crédits is pushing on alongside WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic riders Jimmy Duquennoy and Ludovic Robeet.

1:23PM

Thomas abandons!

Following that earlier crash Geraint Thomas has abandoned today’s race while Michael Goolaerts (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan) has been taken to hospital following what looked like a very nasty crash earlier.

The breakaway’s advantage has dropped to a shade below four minutes.

1:18PM

Stybar drops back

Zdenek Stybar, the Czech national road race champion who has finished in second place at Paris-Roubaix twice during his career, was just spotted working his way through the team cars after suffering a mechanical. 

The race leaders are now onto the next section of cobble, the relatively easy 1,200 metre stretch between Verchain and Maugré.

1:10PM

Moscon down!

Gianni Moscon, everybody’s favourite Italian rider, has hit the deck but the Team Sky rider is back up on his bike.  The 23-year-old of course had a brilliant race last year when he finished in fifth spot and genuinely looked like a future Paris-Roubaix winner. 

Oliver Naesen is being shephered back on to the back of the Quick-Step Floors group by pair of Ag2r-La Mondiale team-mates. Arnaud Démare is also about to rejoin the chasing group.

1:06PM

133km to go

Tony Martin is back on the front of the chasing group and they’re eating up the road and now onto the next section of cobbles. The cobbles look like they are starting to dry up a little now. 

1:04PM

Démare and Naesen delayed

Arnaud Démare, the French national champion and a rider who has been in great form this season, has just stopped for a wheel change. The Groupama-FDJ rider waited until the cobbled section had ended before getting the change, presumably hoping he will be able to chase back on easier on the smooth asphalt road. Another national champion, Oliver Naesen of Belgium, also stopped briefly to get a wheel from a Ag2r-La Mondiale team mechanic.

A Bora-Hansgrohe rider has crashed, not too sure if it was Daniel Oss or not. It wasn’t the world champion though that’s for sure.

12:57PM

Van Avermaet is back on

The defending champion has managed to catch up with the chasing group –  I’m calling this the Quick-Step group for now –  as has Alexander Kristoff as they pass over the longest cobbled section of the day.

12:54PM

Cort Nielsen abandons!

Magnus Cort Nielsen of the Astana team has been forced to abandon. Not too sure why, but assuming he was caight up in that earlier crash.

12:53PM

Quick-Step Floors in control

Alexander Kristoff, who will have started today as UAE Team Emirates’s main man, is labouring. The European road race champion was caught up with that earlier crash, as was Marcel Kittel.

Quick-Step Floors, meanwhile, are still leading the peloton with Six Day sepecialist Iljo Keisse pulling hard.

12:45PM

Martin pushing on 

Tony Martin has taken things up on the front of the second group, the one with all the race favourites, and is looking strong. The German time trial specialist has threatened to do something on the cobbles for a few years now, but has yet to deliver. Is today the day?

The race leaders are onto the next section of cobbles with their advantage now down to 5min 27sec:

12:42PM

Doubting Thomas

It would appear that Geraint Thomas, one of three Welsh riders in the Team Sky line-up today, has hit the deck.

12:40PM

Van Avermaet loses ground

Defending champion Greg Van Avermaet was one of the riders who was caught behind that crash on the opening sector of cobbles. Obviously you will be aware that the Belgian was forced to chase last year after he was caught behind a crash in the approach to the Trouée d’Arenberg, but he was in much, much better form 12 month’s ago. Also, he had Italian rider Daniel Oss riding on his behalf at the front. Oss, of course, has subsequently joined up with Peter Sagan and Bora-Hansgrohe and could prove to be an invaluable ally to the Slovakian world champion here today.

12:36PM

154km to go

Quick-Step Floors have around five riders on the front of the peloton. I’m not 100 per cent sure who was caught out by that split caused by the crash. Whoever was caught out may catch up, but they will use up an awful lot of energy in doing so. 

12:33PM

The race is on

The race leaders are already onto the next sector of cobbles. Their advantage over the peloton has dropped to 6min 30sec.

12:32PM

Crash!

Just a few hundred meters into the opening section of cobbles and a big crash caused a split in the bunch. And that’s why all of the main contenders put themselves near the front.

12:30PM

Peloton hits Troisvilles

The peloton hit Troisvilles and a number of the top teams  – Groupama-FDJ, Quick-Step, Bora-Hansgrohe and Team Sky – are all near the front.

12:23PM

162km to go: Sector 29 – Troisvilles to Inchy

The breakaway has reached the first sector of cobbles and they are still looking a little muddy in places.

12:22PM

Ask a stupid question

Three-time world champion Peter Sagan was just asked what he wants today …

Sagan, telling like it is. #parisroubaix pic.twitter.com/4woV6SNcDP

– Daniel Lloyd (@daniellloyd1) April 8, 2018

Worth remembering here today that despite starting as the bookmakers’ favourite, Sagan has just one monument of cycling – Tour of Flanders – on his palmarès while he has never finished higher than sixth.

Meanwhile Stefan Küng has just abandoned the race which will be bad news for the Swiss rider’s BMC Racing team-mate. One of Movistar’s many Spanish riders Carlos Barbero has just stacked after appearing to lose his front wheel. The 26-year-old flew over his handlebars before planting his head into the grass verge. That’s definitely going to smart later on today.

12:12PM

Who’s your pick?

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed I haven’t provided a list of possible winners today, but luckily race organisers have done so in this here video …

However, here’s a list of riders from each team who I think will fancy their chances today. When more than one rider is listed, I’ve bolded up my favourite for the win:

Ag2r-La Mondiale: Oliver Naesen (Bel).

Astana: Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den).

Bahrain-Merida: Heinrich Haussler (Aus).

BMC Racing: Greg Van Avermaet (Bel).

Bora-Hansgrohe: Peter Sagan (Svk).

Dimension Data: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor).

EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale: Sep Vanmarcke (Bel).

Groupama-FDJ: Arnaud Démare (Fra).

Katusha-Alpecin: Tony Martin (Ger).

Lotto-Soudal: Jens Keukeleire (Bel).

Lotto NL-Jumbo: Dylan Groenewegen (Hol).

Mitchelton-Scott: Mathew Hayman (Aus).

Movistar: None.

Quick-Step Floors: Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Iljo Keisse (Bel), Yves Lampaert (Bel), Florian Sénéchal (Fra), Zdenek Stybar (Cze), Niki Terpstra (Hol).

Team Sky: Gianni Moscon (Ita), Luke Rowe (GB), Ian Stannard (GB), Geraint Thomas (GB), Dylan van Baarle (Hol).

Sunweb: Edward Theuns (Bel).

Trek-Segafredo: John Degenkolb (Ger), Mads Pedersen (Den), Jasper Stuyven (Bel), Boy van Poppel (Hol).

UAE Team Emirates: Alexander Kristoff (Nor).

Delko Marseille Provence KTM: Yannick Martinez (Fra).

Direct Énergie: Damien Gaudin (Fra).

11:54AM

Paris Roubaix for dummies …

Nice little bit of animation here produced by race organisers ASO.

11:51AM

185km to go

The breakaway has increased its lead to 7min 27sec and they are now under 30km to the opening sector of cobbles, the 2,200 metre three-star stretch from Troisvilles to Inchy. By the way, there are just three five-star sections today – Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and  Carrefour de l’Arbre – where the race will be decided.

Because there is nothing like it.pic.twitter.com/dXE4Y264du

– Brian Nygaard (@nygaardbn) April 8, 2018

11:36AM

And then there were nine – 200km to go

Gatis Smukuli (Delko Marseille Provence KTM), Geoffrey Soupe (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits) and Jay Thomson (Dimension Data) have all bridged the gap to the race leaders who now lead the peloton by over four minutes.

11:27AM

Slippery when wet

A number of tweets are coming through showing pictures of the cobbled sections the riders will have to race over later today. Despite the rather pleasant looking race conditions today, it looks like those stones have not yet dried up.

Troisvilles. Slippery and slimy at start of sector: I nearly fell over! pic.twitter.com/mAd5jHspFw

– Andy McGrath (@Andymcgra) April 8, 2018

The six-man breakaway group has pulled out its lead on the peloton to 1min 50sec, while Gatis Smukuli (Delko Marseille Provence KTM​) is around 20sec behind the leaders. It has been a very fast start to the day, with around 55km covered in the opening 67minutes.

11:23AM

Should I stay or should I go?

Gatis Smukuli, the Latvian Delko Marseille Provence KTM​ rider, is stuck in no man’s land in pursuit of the breakaway. 

Back behind the bunch, Jack Bauer was just spotted dropping back to the doctor’s car to get patched up after the Mitchelton-Scott rider suffered a spill.

11:19AM

Six appeal

That group at the front has swelled to six now – Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Jimmy Duquennoy  (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic), Sven Erik Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates), Ludovic Robeet (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic), Marc Soler (Movistar) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) with the peloton trailing by around 20sec.

11:14AM

Soler’s day in the sun!

Back in the peloton the big teams appear to have blocked the head of the race. Marc Soler, the young Spaniard who is riding his first Paris-Roubaix, has bridged to gap to the breakaway. The 24-year-old has had a great year so far, but nobody in their right mind would imagine the Movistar rider will do anything here today. 

11:09AM

Break about to stick?

A pair of riders – Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) and Ludovic Robeet (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic) – went off the front while a three-man team are now in pursuit of the duo. Wallays and Robeet are working well together, but one imagines their group will swell to five soon.

10:50AM

Lone leader – 233km to go

Brice Feilluof Fortuneo-Samsic has attacked off the front and although a couple of riders appear to be in pursuit, the 32-year-old is taking all the air time right now for his ProContinental team.

10:48AM

The gang of four

Hello, what’s this? Alexandre Pichot (Direct Énergie),Dries De Bondt (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan), Johann Van Zyl (Dimension Data) and Brenton Jones (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) went off the front and briefly looks set to be the day’s early break, though they were soon reeled back in.

10:42AM

Can you dig it?

Meiyin Wang, the only Chinese rider in this year’s race, chipped off the front and the Bahrain-Merida man was quickly joined by UAE Team Emirates, Cofidis, Solutions Crédits and Dimension Data. The move, though, was negated by the peloton. I imagine there will be quite a lot of this sort of muscle-flexing until a move sticks. By the way, for those who don’t watch too many of the cobbled classics but instead save their bike race watching for the Tour de France and are more used to watching a breakaway forming early on before being caught in the final 10km, that’s now how Paris-Roubaix works. Positioning for riders today is absolutely crucial, especially when going into the cobbled sectors, while avoiding the many crashes – or getting stuck behind a rider with a mechanical – can either make or break a team’s day. Having a team-mate in a group up the road can prove invaluable too: it can mean a team leader does less work in a chase. Additionally, if a team leader needs a wheel –  with the narrow roads, or tracks, it is virtually impossible to get assistance from a team car – he can simply drop back to help out. Of course, having a rider in the lead group while all ayes are on the man in the chase also gives the team more options for the race win, which is why a team like Quick-Step Floors are so  dangerous today.

10:32AM

Early digs

An unidentified rider from WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic clipped off the front, but was soon reined back in. After a few moments of peace and tranquility Frenchman Geoffrey Soupe of the Cofidis, Solutions Crédits team put in a small effort, but was soon chased down. The peloton, which comprises 175 riders from 25 different teams, is strung out in a long line.

10:22AM

And they’re off!

The flag has been dropped and the 116th edition of Paris-Roubaix is under way.

10:17AM

Calm before the storm … 

Hello again, the riders are now out on the road tapping away through the neutral zone en route to kilometre zero. 

Following the horrible looking conditions in northern France last week that saw the treacherous cobbles covered in water and mud from the fields the old tracks weave through, riders will have been relieved this morning when they looked out of their hotel windows: there is blue sky up above and the weather report says it will be a fairly warm and dry day.

This, by the way, is the route the race will take today …

There are 29 sections of cobbles, the first one coming around 100km into the race. Confusingly, the first sector is No 29 and then final one, the easiest of the day, No 1. Each cobbled stretch is graded in accordance with how difficult it is with five being the hardest, one the least troublesome. Throughout the day I’ll keep you updated with the details of each sector. 

8:36AM

Bonjour!

Morning everybody and welcome to our live rolling blog from today’s Paris-Roubaix.

Some argue that last weekend’s Tour of Flanders is the best one-day race on the cycling calendar, while others will state the case for Milan-Sanremo, Strade Bianche or even Il Lombardia. For me, though, if there were only one race I could watch all season this would be the one.

At 257 kilometres it is long and with 29 sections of cobblestones covering a distance of 54.5km, roughly a fifth of the total distance raced, it is a race that could only have ever been conceived of in 1896. The health and safety suits – even the French ones – would have heart attacks if the concept of Paris-Roubaix was handed to them in 2018.

Today’s going to be a long day in the saddle for the riders and they will be setting off at around 10am – confusingly race organisers have published two different start times, but I’m fairly certain if you come back here at around 10am we should have some live updates for you.

In the meantime, why don’t you go make yourself a brew and have a browse through our package of big-race preview conten …

I‘ll be back at about 10am. See y’all in a while. 

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