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Van der Poel crushes rivals on Paris-Roubaix cobbles

Mathieu van der Poel triumphed on the cobbles for a second straight year Sunday after a solo 60-kilometre breakaway to win the Paris-Roubaix race known as ‘the Hell of the North’.

The 29-year-old Dutch world champion won the Tour of Flanders a week ago and crossed the line almost three minutes ahead of the nearest chasers after the brutal 260km run including 57km of cobbles.

“This goes way beyond my expectations, there will be a big party tonight,” he said at the line.

“I was at the limit at Flanders but here I really enjoyed the final kilometres,” said van der Poel who was cheered by vast crowds over the final 50km.

Already one of cycling’s best-paid riders, Van der Poel wins 30,000 euros (32,500 dollars) for his efforts and will have his name engraved on a plaque at the outdoor showers where riders usually wash off splatters of mud.

Van der Poel’s teammate Jasper Philipsen was second and Dane Mads Pedersen was third as they contested a three-way sprint with Nils Politt of UAE at the line.

The decisive moment came on cobbles with Van der Poel shifting from 40kph to 60kph in almost the blink of an eye, devastating the lead group of around 12 riders which featured Briton Tom Pidcock.

Pidcock had lost key support when teammate Josh Tarling was  thrown off the race for holding on to a team car when trying to catch up with the lead group following a puncture.

The hefty cobbles that make up the surface of around 57km of the route, in 29 sections, cause countless punctures, broken wheels and falls.

The 175-rider peloton burst away from the Compiegne start line 80km outside Paris headed north despite a recent spate nasty crashes.

Organisers had introduced a las- minute safety measure after Jonas Vingegaard, Wout van Aert and Jay Vine all suffered serious injuries in recent cycling falls.

As the race approached the Arenberg coal-mine the cycling world held its breath as the peloton approached the controversial safety chicane designed to slow the pack.

The move was unpopular with the riders, but it did the trick, with no fallers.

This ultra-long ‘Queen of the Classics’ usually features miles of mud as well as the millions of cobbles, but on Sunday it was raced in bright sunshine through the glimmering green fields bordering Belgium.

Some 106 bikes were inspected at Compiegne ahead of the race in the fight against electronic fraud, with eight bikes subjected to x-rays.

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