It’s 5:00 a.m. Do you know where your blogger is? I’m right here, I’m up, and I’ve got the 2022 Paris-Roubaix bike race on my screen. You’ll get a blow-by-blow of this race whether you’re tuning in later this morning, this evening, or in 2023 when you’re nursing nostalgia for the age when France was more than just a giant hole in the ground courtesy of Putin.
By the way, if you’re looking for nonbiased, totally fair journalism, look elsewhere. If I think a rider is doped, a dope, or just dopey, I go ahead and say so. That’s just how I roll.
As I join the action, the riders have 124 kilometers (77 miles) to go, my cat’s been fed, my coffee is hot, and Phil Liggett, the announcer, says the riders are “distracted.” I’m not sure what this means, but then I’m not really awake yet. It’ll all make sense soon … or not.
Some guy named Jens Reynders (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) has been off the front for a while and has about twenty seconds. I’ve never heard of him, but then a lot of favorites are missing from this race so who knows.
Back in the peloton, Filippo Ganna (Ineos Granadiers) takes a spill and now he’s putting his chain back on.
Will you look at that! It appears that Peacock, the sports network I have to pay money to just to watch a bike race here and there, is blocking me from taking screen snapshots. I hadn’t counted on this, nor on them no longer covering the Tour of Flanders. It’s apparently part of the “everything is going to shit” policy that the entire cycling media industry has adopted: GCN+ only shows a handful of races in this country, and I can’t read cyclingnews.com anymore because they want to charge me like five euros a month for access. Needless to say they’re dead to me.
Oh no! Reynders has a puncture! He tries to get a new wheel from neutral support, which used to be a 10-second affair before the bikes got so advanced they no longer have quick-release wheels so you actually need a freakin’ wrench.
Not a very good photo obviously but I’m forced to use an actual camera (well, a phone) pointed at my laptop screen, the way the kids do with Snapchat so they can make their online bullying and humiliation permanent. You know what, Peacock? You can suck mine.
So anyhow, Reynders gets a 40-second wheel change while the pack bears down upon him. Phil is so excited about the danger here that he may have wet himself. But the peloton gets past without incident.
And here’s a potentially important attack: it’s Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious), with three other dudes.
Mohoric made a big splash some weeks ago when he won Milan-San Remo with a thrilling, caution-to-the-wind descent of … god, whatever that last descent is. He was pushing it so far, his tires skittered along a couple times, and he went off the road and had to bunny-hop back onto the asphalt. Mohoric’s team is totally lubed, of course, but I can’t take that win away from him—he had huge balls that day.
I don’t get it: the print-screen button won’t get a still shot of the video footage, nor will the Windows Snipping Tool. But that can’t stop me from getting you this photo of Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos Granadiers) getting a bike change. Note the bottle he’s bringing over from his other bike. Why couldn’t they just have a ready-filled bottle already in the cage?
Ah, but look closely: there is a bottle already in the cage. What’s in his first bottle, that he’s so keen on keeping? Hmmm….
This breakaway is firming up, like a flourless chocolate cake. We’ve got Mohoric, Davide Ballerini (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Casper Pedersen (SM), Tom Devriendt (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) and Laurent Pichon (Arkea-Samsic). They’ve got 33 seconds on a chasing duo and they’re entering Secteur 20 of the cobbles.
So who’s the duo? Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Connor Swift (Arkea-Samsic). Phil says, “Twice today he’s missed the important sprints.” I have no idea who, or what, Phil is talking about. He may not either.
Politt and Swift are 36 seconds back, and the main chase another 30. Those are big gaps but there’s 100km to go. That’s pretty huge.
Phil says 8 or 9 years ago “they disqualified a number of riders” for going under the gate at a railroad crossing. This is untrue. The riders were handed a time penalty but weren’t disqualified. Phil’s salary is rightfully mine.
The lead group now has 51 seconds on the chasing duo, and 1:20 on the peloton, as they head into the Trouée d’Arenberg. Look at that, by the time I got my snapshot the gap went out another 3 seconds.
This is one of the most brutal sections. A rider in the break loses a bottle. And Ballerini punctures! D’oh!
Dang, the break just lost 20% of its engine with Ballerini out.
Back in the main bunch, Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) is just kind of hanging on the back, clearly suffering. Not sure what his problem is.
The announcers keep talking about Mohoric as though he were solo. Granted, he’s doing more than his share of the work, but he’s not doing all of it. He probably could, though. As you’ll surely recall, in Stage 7 of last year’s Tour de France he dragged the breakaway along for dozens of miles before soloing away to win, with no apparent effort. His Bahrain Victorious team had similarly not-normal successes in the Giro and the Criterium du Dauphiné that year.
Politt has been dropped by Swift, who has caught Ballerini.
Okay, they’re it looks like van Aert just had a flat or something because he’s dropped that last group and is chasing solo to get back to the main peloton.
Last year’s winner, Sonny Colbrelli, isn’t here to defend his title because after a race some weeks ago, right after crossing the finish line, he had a frickin’ heart attack! Medics saved his life but the poor dude has a pacemaker now and may never race again. Former winner Peter Sagan is out, too, having been sick all year (or is he just sick of racing?).
Van Aert drives the pace at the front of what’s actually the fourth group, being like a dozen seconds behind the main peloton.
These guys are about two minutes behind the leading … shoot, what’s the equivalent of “trio” but for four? Ha! A bit of luck, somebody has fallen out of it, so I can call it a trio. It’s just Mohoric, Pichon, and Devriendt at the front now.
Is it wrong to wish it were raining on these guys? That made last year’s race so exciting. Wouldn’t it be cool if the organizers sent airplanes up to do cloud-seeding? And then sent those planes over to northern California to end the drought we’ve been having? And then sent those same planes over to strafe the headquarters of NBC to punish them for blocking my screen grabs?
Pichon grabs a bottle. Look at how ugly those helmets are. And Devriendt’s uniform is pretty dorky … that neon green is so ‘80s.
There’s only one American in this race: Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Granadiers), who won the Brabantse Pijl quite recently (Wednesday, I think). He’s just a pup, at only 19, but he totally soloed, like a boss. He’ll be working for his teammates, particularly leaders Ganna and Michal Kwiatkowski.
Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) has a mechanical. He’s a strong favorite for today (or at least was—let’s see how he recovers from this).
We haven’t seen much from last year’s runner-up, Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), nor from the third-place finisher, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). Phil is saying the leaders are setting a record pace, which is good because it’s Easter and my mom is down visiting. I don’t want to hold up breakfast here.
Wow, the riders just had to suddenly steer around what appears to be a diaper in the roadway! It’s too bad for the cursed Peacock snapshot-blocking or I could have grabbed a photo to show you. You’ll just have to take my word for it. How did that diaper get there? Did a disgruntled mother throw it out into the roadway? Or a mischievous older sibling? Or am I hallucinating? (No, I haven’t had that much coffee.)
Mohoric gets a bottle. It’s got a gel attached to it. He struggles to get the gel into his jersey pocket—the first time he’s visibly struggled today. Look at this guy … he doesn’t even look like he’s going hard.
Phil has just uttered the phrase “Adri van Aert.” This is a very interesting goof, even for Phil. He evidently conflated the names “Adri van der Poel” and “Wout van Aert,” which seems an easy enough mistake to make except that the van der Poel in this race is of course Mathieu, who is the son of Adri, who retired a couple decades ago. Perhaps this is why it takes Phil several seconds to grasp that he’s misspoken, and to correct himself. In his defense, he’s like 90 years old and has probably announced thousands of races.
Speaking of very old people, I wonder if we’ll see anything out of Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal) today. He won a few years back, but last year just looked tired all day. Gilbert did his first Paris-Roubaix in 2007, and he’s 39 years old … kind of long in the tooth for a classics rider. The oldest winner of this race was Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, who won in 1993 at age 38.
Weird, Mohoric seems to suddenly be getting dropped! Okay, he claws his way back.
Mohoric still doesn’t seem to be suffering but maybe he just has a good poker face. Now he’s stretching his back, or perhaps trying to hump his handlebar stem. It’s not always easy to tell which, though riders in breakaways don’t generally hump their stems unless they’re just insanely horny. I wish I could get snapshots of all this. Grabbing the phone camera just takes too long.
Poggio. That’s the name of the descent Mohoric soloed on in Milan-San Remo. It took me this long to remember. I think I got up too early.
So, back in the peloton Nathan Van Hooydonck (Team Jumbo-Visma) puts the hammer down on the front as his teammate van Aert yells from behind, “Faster, you fool!” (Presumably.)
Now van Aert takes a monster pull and just like that, the gap to the leaders shrinks by like 30 seconds.
Wow, the pace making has forced a bit of a split and the front group is much reduced. Not sure van der Poel is even in there. Okay, there he is. I’d recognize that helmet anywhere.
And what’s this? A crash! A rider has unwisely decided to do the rest of the race on foot, and in abandoning his bike left it lying in the road for somebody else to run into! How many times has his mother told him not to do that?! He’s like one of my damn kids!
It looks like the upshot of that mishap is that this Alpecin-Fenix rider has gone out the back, so van der Poel no longer has a teammate in his group. Dumb luck, that.
Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Granadiers) has dropped the chase group and tries to bridge across to the leaders. This forces van der Poel to ride hard at the front.
Pichon is dropped! A rider after my own heart (and legs) because that’s exactly the kind of thing I would do. (If I could even make it into the race, which of course I couldn’t.)
Van Aert attacks his group! Huge gaps appear instantly!
Van der Poel and Kung are the only ones who can match van Aert.
The gap to the leading duo is only 38 seconds now, with 43 km still to go.
The chasing van Aert trio has caught van Baarle and Pichon. Now, if they all work together, blah blah blah, etc.
“Van Aert is now like a man possessed,” Phil says, proving what that fossilized rocker, Keith Richards, said about ageing celebrities and how they eventually become caricatures of themselves.
D’oh! Van Aert punctures! What a bummer for him!
It’s a quick bike change, but still. Very bad news for the giant Belgian. He chases back like a motherfrockle. He’s got a dozen seconds to make up, by my rough count.
And suddenly something happens to Mohoric! Who can say what! There are just gasps from Phil and Bob, and the camera is suddenly pointing at the sky. Maybe the cameraman had a seizure. But suddenly Devriendt’s all by himself, not really pedaling that hard, looking vaguely confused, like he’s thinking, “Wait, what wasn’t in the script. Who am I supposed to draft now?”
Van Aert is back in the lead group now.
They suck up Mohoric and now have like ten guys. Devriendt is doomed, of course.
Ben Swift (Ineos Granadiers) takes a short pull at the front … his first of the entire day. Perhaps he knows van der Poel isn’t in this group, and wants to keep it that way.
Devriendt is totally fried, and pedaling squares.
Crazy! Mohoric freakin’ attacks! He takes some other dude with him and now they’ve got Devriendt.
The other guy is Yves Lampaert (QuickStep – Alpha Vinyl).
Van Baarle attacks from the chase group to go after the Mohoric trio.
And Van Baarle has caught them.
Just look at how fat Lampaert’s handlebar tape is. Fricking crazy. Maybe he’s got carpal tunnel or something.
My dad used to retape his handlebars without removing the old tape, ever. The bars just got fatter and fatter. It was pretty bad.
Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) drills it up the side of the chase group and takes off … also his first time facing the wind today.
Stuyven has a pretty big gap. Van Aert takes off after him, Kung in tow.
This duo catches Stuyven and now the trio has a decent gap on the rest of the chasers. Now a few more make contact. Van der Poel is just sitting at the back of his group, letting the race get away from him. He must be hurting.
Now Stuyvens has a puncture, and has to chase solo after a bike change!
Stuyvens looks pretty strong as he chases the Van Aert group.
“And now Stuyvens has another bike change!” Phil cries. Uh, Phil, that’s called an “instant replay.” Sheesh.
Kung drills it on the front. He’s so large, the other riders are completely eclipsed so it looks like he’s solo.
And now Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers) crashes, and the rider behind tries to kick him in the back as he comes by!
Hmmm. Perhaps that was just swinging his leg for balance, actually.
Meanwhile, van Baarle has attacked the leaders and is now solo.
Ignore that 1.1 km to go indication in the photo above. That must be how much of this cobblestone section is left. They have at least 15 km to go in the race.
Stuyven has caught the chase group, sort of … all that’s left of it is van der Poel, apparently. Or maybe that’s backwards, I guess he was still ahead and only van der Poel caught him. And now drops him.
Note the Ukranian flags in that photo.
“These riders are just riding on pure strength now,” Phil says. What else would they be riding on? Electricity?
I guess I should mention that van Baarle’s lead has been growing. I’ve been in denial, I’ll confess, because obviously I don’t like Ineos.
Kung had a problem and had to chase down van Aert, but now he comes back to the front, always willing to help chase.
Van Baarle looks like he’s really suffering. He’s got a good 40 seconds on the Mohoric/Lampaert group, which isn’t making much progress because Lampaert is just sucking wheel.
“Mohoric has pretty well sowed his onions,” Phil says. Does this make sense to anybody in any universe? Is that a thing? “Sowing his onions?” No. I looked it up. Only hit is a how-to video on growveg.com.
Mohoric flicks his elbow. Lampaert waddles slowly to the front and takes a totally weak pull.
It’s not looking good for anybody but Van Baarle. He’s got almost a minute, with only 7 km to go, and I think all the cobbled sections are done.
And now a truly bizarre spectacle! Lampaert suddenly feels incredibly horny and tries to hump his stem! Why do these riders do this? Too much testosterone?
Sure enough, that strange behavior proves disastrous as Lampaert goes down hard! (Get it?)
That will certainly cost Lampaert the podium. Will somebody find this man a girlfriend, please?
The chase group has gone flaccid. They have caught Mohoric, but have no hope of reeling in van Baarle. They’re biding their time, waiting for the sprint for second now. Look at van Aert, looking back like, “Hey, is anyone else gonna come help?”
Van der Poel just doesn’t seem to have it today. He’s done essentially nothing but get dropped. He leads a small group now but is just going through the motions.
And now van Baarle reaches the velodrome and takes 1.5 hot laps, all by himself with a huge lead.
Van Baarle has the win. He goes for the “I can’t believe it” victory salute.
The so-called chase group eventually reaches the velodrome. Mohoric unwisely leads things out.
And Kung launches an early move, surely aware he could never beat van Aert in a match sprint!
But van Aert fairly easily grabs Kung’s wheel…
Van Aert comes by to take second, Kung rounding out the podium.
Look at Devriendt throwing his bike there, as if he could make up a whole bike length that way. Ya gotta have heart!
Here’s your top ten.
These guys finished like half an hour ahead of schedule, so I want to thank them, and their team doctors, for that.
Now they’re interviewing van Baarle.
INTERVIEWER: You did it. You won Paris-Roubaix.
VAN BAARLE: Yes. It appears so. It’s crazy.
INTERVIEWER: This is the race that you wanted to win, is that correct?
VAN BAARLE: I am fairly sure that everybody wanted to win. And actually there are lots of races I wanted to win, but yes, your statement is accurate.
INTERVIEWER: Your whole Ineos team was on the front today, was that planned?
VAN BAARLE: Not at all. We didn’t want to chase everyone. But we did want to be in the front foot.
INTERVIEWER: I think you mean “on the front foot.” But even that isn’t just right. I don’t think “front foot” is a thing. Only “back foot.” As in, not being on it.
VAN BAARLE: You will have to excuse me, English is not my first language.
INTERVIEWER: Say, that reminds me. Is it true that one Dutch slang term for vagina literally translates “front butt”?
VAN BAARLE: Yes, that’s true, although it’s not the most common term used. But, um … what were we talking about?
INTERVIEWER: I can’t recall. Anyway, nice talking to you.
VAN BAARLE: …
Now it’s time for the podium ceremony. The winner’s trophy, a giant cobblestone, emerges slowly on a motorized pedestal, which is an even dorkier effect than it sounds. Van Baarle hoists the stone above his head fairly easily as the entire crowd holds its breath, wondering if he can do it.
The winner should really wear his helmet on the podium. I mean, what if he lost his grip on that stone? It would totally hit him on the head.
Well, that’s it for today. Check back here next month for the Giro d’Italia, because that’s on another network and I think I’ll be able to provide hi-res photos. Sheesh.
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