It will be hard to beat the hot and dry Paris-Roubaix 2022, in our view the most exciting race of 2022 so far. INEOS made the race very hard from the beginning, putting pressure on big favourites Van Aert and Van der Poel, who were sleeping in the peloton, while the big split happened in the crosswinds. Everything came back together and in the end only the strongest riders made the split after Jumbo-Visma’s acceleration with just over 50km to go. Dylan van Baarle was once again left to bridge to a dangerous move, joining Mohoric and Lampaert then dropping them, giving INEOS the first Paris-Roubaix victory in the team’s history. This was also the fastest ever edition of the legendary race, where so many things happened that it is worth watching almost from the beginning.
It was a full-gas race practically from the start. With 210 kilometres to go, INEOS made the race difficult in the crosswinds, punishing many big favorites like Van der Poel, Van Aert, Asgreen and Pedersen. The big group was created with almost 100 riders. Something you rarely see in cycling. INEOS with all riders present was pacing hard and making life hard for Alpecin-Fenix and Groupama-FDJ in particular, gaining an 80-second lead before even the first cobble sector.
Unfortunately for INEOS, their pre-race team leader Filippo Ganna punctured. They had to choose to wait or continue to pace, but INEOS seemingly chose to wait for Ganna letting the second group with Van Aert and Van der Poel reduce the gap by 30-40 seconds. It was a little bit weird to see INEOS put so much trust in Ganna, who was riding his first cobble classic since 2019. He has participated in Paris-Roubaix twice, in 2018 (OTL) and 2019 (DNF). In 2016, Ganna won the u23 edition of the race. Bookmakers also were rating him very highly. After making the split in the crosswind he was the 2nd favourite to win in the markets, only behind Van der Poel.
The action did not end there as there was a big crash in the first group, involving INEOS riders Magnus Sheffield and Cameron Wurf. The crash slowed down the Van der Poel and Van Aert group who lost around 40 seconds because it was extremely hard to get through the mess. There was also a big crash in the 2nd group, which involved Denmark’s biggest stars Asgreen and Pedersen.
With Alpecin-Fenix pacing for Van der Poel, the second group was holding the gap to around one-minute. Paris-Roubaix is a perfect race for long-range attacks in-between cobbled sectors. The breakaway master Matej Mohorič knows this well and followed an attack in the first group, making a 5-man move, with Davide Ballerini, Casper Pedersen, Tom Devriendt and Laurent Pichon. Entering the hardest cobble segment of the race, La Trouée d’Arenberg, Mohorič already had almost a two minute gap over the favourites. Ballerini punctured on the Arenberg cobbles and Pedersen later dropped out, which thinned down this group to only three riders.
Van Aert entered the Arenberg sector as one of the first riders in the group behind, but suffered a badly timed mechanical. It took the Belgian two bike changes and almost 10 kilometres to catch the peloton after briefly borrowing Timo Roosen’s dutch national champion painted bike.
Mohorič’ odds to win looked great. At one point in the live betting his implied odds were around 60% for the win. INEOS was actively chasing in the peloton, but not enough hard to reduce the gap to Mohorič and Devriendt.
On the Orchies three star segment Jumbo-Visma took over with Nathan Van Hooydonck burning himself for Van Aert. The gap melted to one-minute in only 7 kilometres as Jumbo-Visma’s classics revelation Van Hooydonck launched the Belgian champion.
After the acceleration, only 12 riders were left in the elite group. Van der Poel, Van Keirsbulck, Van Aert, Kung, Turner, Van Baarle, Lampaert, Senechal, Stuyven, Petit, Trentin and Van der Hoorn. Quick-Step, INEOS, Alpecin-Fenix and Intermarche each had two riders in this group. Intermarche looked very good as they even had Devriendt with Mohorič in the lead. Mohorič needed to do the most work as he was the favourite and Devriendt had leverage with teammates Taco and Petit behind.
Van Baarle with 51 kilometres remaining showed that he had great legs and attacked on the Auchy à Bersée 4 star segment. It was a sign for something later. The chasing group was not cooperating well and Van Aert tested his rivals on Mons-en-Pévèle, another 5 star sector. With this move it was clear that Van Aert had the strongest legs, while Van der Poel was distanced and barely was holding on with Kung frequently being the rider to close down Van Aert’s attacks.
Van Aert with Kung and Van der Poel caught Van Baarle and Pichon from the first group and were slowly closing the gap to Mohorič and Devriendt. But then, as usually happens in Paris-Roubaix, Van Aert punctured for at least the second time. Fortunately for Van Aert, a few moments later the same thing happened to Mohorič in the front group, leaving Devriendt alone at the front and less need for urgent pacing in the second group of favourites.
No one was pacing hard in the second group, which made Van Aert’s life easier. Mohorič also joined the group after the puncture as well as Van Aert returning as easily as he could have hoped. The tactical games started as it was 10 riders with Devriendt alone at the front and many riders without a sprint to rely on. Kung, who helped a lot in chasing, attacked as he cannot win a sprint. Van Aert was controlling everything and after that even tried to attack himself multiple times, but no one was letting him go, as he is Van Aert.
After unsuccessful attempts, the group slowed down. It looked like it would be a classic race, where Van der Poel and Van Aert would cancel each other out, while a non-favourite would win with a solo attack. That started to happen as Mohorič with Lampaert attacked. Ben Turner started to chase after them, but when no one was willing to help him, INEOS countered with Van Baarle, while Van Aert was at the front of the group watching back at others to chase.
Mohorič reunited with Devriendt, who was riding alone for 15 kilometres and the front four quickly took a 40-second gap. Meanwhile, in the dysfunctional chasing group, Stuyven attacked as he had saved something in his legs and only Van Aert and Kung were able to follow, which meant that Van der Poel was done. He already had spent a lot of energy chasing and today was not his day. It looked like Van Aert & company might catch the leaders, but Stuyven punctured at the worst moment, reducing the chase group’s prospects. Trek-Segafredo’s Pirelli tires were not reliable in the men’s and women’s races as many of their team riders punctured.
Van Baarle made his race-winning move on the Camphin-en-Pévèle 4-star sector, riding away from a spent Mohorič and Lampaert. No one was going to catch the Dutchman, who was riding after his biggest win of his career. Everyone else was fighting for minor places. Lampaert and Mohorič were for a podium, but then an unexpected happened and Lampaert, while riding on the asphalted gutter, was caught by an irresponsible spectator and crashed, ending his fight for a podium.
Van Baarle soloed into the Roubaix velodrome. He won the race by 107 seconds, the biggest margin since Fabian Cancellara’s 2010 win, when his margin was 120 seconds. Right after the finish Van Baarle hugged the boss of INEOS Dave Brailsford. Van Baarle’s current contract with the team will end this year. There were rumours that he might join Jumbo-Visma, but he has certainly increased his negotiating leverage with both teams after today’s result. The Dutchman’s consistency has been incredible in the last few big races. He finished 2nd in Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2022 and World Championships in 2021. The previous biggest victory of Van Baarle’s career was Dwars door Vlaanderen last year. I
Van Aert caught Mohorič and Devriendt and won the sprint for 2nd place. Another silver medal in Wout van Aert’s collection, after finishing 2nd in Tokyo Olympic Road Race, World Championships ITT and Road Race in 2020 and Ronde van Vlaanderen 2020. Van Aert was probably the strongest rider, despite missing Ronde van Vlaanderen two weeks ago due to a Covid infection. Next week he will be riding Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It is still crazy to think that he has not won Paris-Roubaix or Ronde van Vlaanderen at age 27. Always something is missing for the Belgian at the end of the big races, where everyone is riding against him because he is Wout van Aert as well as frequent ill-timed mechanical.
It was also the fastest Paris-Roubaix ever. Van Baarle completed the 257.2 kilometres long course in 5 hours and 37 minutes with an average speed of 45.792 km/h.
We must note another great performance by Intermache-Wanty-Gobert. Six riders from the team finished in Top 25 – Devriendt (4th), Petit (6th), Kristoff (12th), Van der Hoorn (16th), Pasqualon (19th) and Planckaert (23rd). They earned a total of 593 UCI points in Paris-Roubaix alone. Their relegation situation looks very safe after a great performance in the cobble races.