No wonder they call it ‘Hell of the North’! Paris-Roubaix descends into muddy chaos on the French cobblestones as Italian Sonny Colbrelli emerges from brutal conditions to win iconic 118th edition
- The 2021 Paris-Roubaix was run in brutal conditions on Sunday afternoon
- The 160 mile race on the cobbles of northern France was won by Sonny Colbrelli
- Riders were seen falling into ditches as even the TV motorbikes struggled
- It was one of the toughest editions in history and provided stunning images
The race nicknamed ‘Hell of the North’ lived up to its billing on Sunday. The first wet edition of Paris-Roubaix since 2002 produced carnage at every cobblestone.
Across six hours of racing on roads belonging to a different century in northern France, the TV motorbikes were unable to stay upright, let alone the riders.
Sonny Colbrelli – so caked in mud his European champions’ jersey was indistinguishable from his rivals’ – crossed the finish line arms aloft at the Roubaix Velodrome before collapsing onto the turf, wailing in joy and agony.
Sonny Colbrelli triumphed at the end of a savage edition of Paris-Roubaix on Sunday
The race hasn’t been run in the rain since 2002 and the weather made the cobbles muddy
TV motorbikes couldn’t even stay on the road as the slippy cobblestones caused havoc
Victory at one of the most brutal editions in cycling’s premier one-day race’s 118-year story earns the Italian champion a prominent place in the history books.
The Bahrain-Victorious star led home a trail of battered and bruised rivals, most of whom had hit the deck at some stage across the 160 miles and 29 cobbled sections.
The tales of woe from this day will take years to unpack. Frenchman Christophe Laporte was spotted using his shoe as a brake after the conditions had destroyed his bike.
As the grimy puddles dried up on the approach to Roubaix the mud became even more treacherous and Guillaume Boivin crashed out of the winning move. The Canadian champion was almost flattened by a TV motorbike seconds later, which slipped and fell trying to avoid him.
US rider Matteo Jorgenson was among the many competitors who had to crawl out of a ditch
European champion Colbrelli beat Florian Vermeersch and Mathieu van der Poel to victory
The hopes of former champions Peter Sagan and John Degenkolb were ruined by crashes too, with countless riders flying face-first into boggy ditches.
Ineos Grenadiers’ Gianni Moscon was leading the race in the late stages before he punctured, then crashed moments later on the cobbles. His lead was chopped down, allowing the Mathieu van der Poel-driven chasing group to catch.
The Dutchman’s pace whittled the group down to a trio, riding to the finish alongside Colbrelli and 22-year-old Belgian Florian Vermeersch.
As they swung onto the iconic Roubaix Velodrome to a deafening roar, Van der Poel remained the favourite but after Vermeersch launched his sprint early Colbrelli hauled ahead in the final metres.
Former Paris-Roubaix winner Greg van Avermaet was among those to crash on Sunday
The Arenberg Trench is the hardest section of the race and once again claimed its victims
Gianni Moscon lead late in the race but was struck down by a punctured tyre and a crash
Paris Roubaix has been on a two-and-a-half year hiatus after coronavirus caused the cancellation of the 2020 event, with this year’s race moved from its usual slot in April.
Just 24 hours before Colbrelli’s epic victory, the first women’s edition of the race saw British rider Lizzie Deignan triumph in drier, but still fiercely challenging conditions.
The former world champion from Yorkshire held on after attacking almost 50 miles from the finish, holding off the greatest of all time, Dutchwoman Marianne Vos.