ROUBAIX, France (AP) — John Degenkolb achieved a rare double Sunday as he outsprinted his rivals in the Roubaix Velodrome to win the Queen of Classics after triumphing in Milan-San Remo earlier this year.
The German became the first rider since Sean Kelly in 1986 to win both Paris-Roubaix and the Primavera in the same year.
Degenkolb, who finished runner-up last year, launched the final sprint from far out to win ahead of Czech rider Zdenek Stybar, with Belgium’s Greg Vam Aermet ending third.
“San Remo was already emotional but this is topping everything,” Degenkolb said after the tough 253.5-kilometer (157.5-mile) trek through the World War I battlefields of northern France featuring 27 cobbled sections. “This is the race I always dreamt of winning,”
After a nine-man breakaway built an eight-minute lead, an incident occurred after 162 kilometers when a gate at a railway crossing went down, nearly hitting French sprinter Arnaud Demare and splitting the peloton. But race officials neutralized the race to allow the trapped riders to cross the junction.
The remaining breakaway riders were caught with 22 kilometers to go by a group of favorites including Peter Sagan and Sep Vanmarcke and the decisive move came 12 kilometers from the finish when Yves Lampaert and Van Avermaet tried their luck.
Degenkolb joined them in the finale but the Belgian pair failed to collaborate and Stybar, Lars Boom, Martin Elminger and Jens Keukeleire were able to join them before Degenkolb proved the strongest in the sprint.
“When you’re probably the fastest man, nobody wants to work with you,” said Degenkolb. “I decided to go by myself. It was the right decision at the right moment.”
Former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who competed in his final big road race before focusing on the track ahead of the 2016 Olympics, finished in 18th place.