If we had to describe every single noteworthy moment in this year’s Paris-Roubaix (ISN’s first one ever), this race report would be a novel or a thriller. Therefore, we’re summing it up:
There were mud pools, treacherous cobbles, plenty of rain, unavoidable punctures, crashes, comebacks, attacks and counterattacks, and, most of all, an impressive Israel Start-Up Nation – from the gun.
They were hardly recognizable, barely distinguishable one from another, the competitors in Paris-Roubaix right after the first cobbled sector. Their faces expressed pain and suffering in their purest forms. Their kits, with the team colors covered in mud, were as brown as the farm fields they were riding through and their bikes were even dirtier, like pigs that had been playing in dirt pools. This Paris-Roubaix was worse than the regular ‘hell of the north’.
A fantastic Tom van Asbroeck was ISN’s top-finisher, ending up in eighth position. “This was the hardest day of my career, and that’s an understatement. In general, Paris-Roubaix is a very tough race, but with these conditions, it’s another level. The mud pools, the rain, and how treacherous the cobbles were, made it so incredibly hard,” he said after the finish.
Van Asbroeck made it into the early breakaway and turned out to be one of the strongest of the 31 riders in the front. The family man, with his face covered in mud, rode over the cobbles like the road was freshly paved.
Behind him, it was two strong oxen bringing Vanmarcke back to the group of the peloton before Trouée d’Arenberg (100 km to go in the race) after a mechanical. Their names: Guillaume Boivin and Jenthe Biermans.
The Canadian champion himself fought into a second group with big names on that same cobbled section, showing off the Canadian national jersey (or what was still visible of it) in an extraordinary way. Bad luck then stroke Biermans, as he was caught behind a crash at a crucial point in the race.
Vanmarcke himself experienced highs and lows throughout the day, easily capable of following dangerous moves but having to fight back after lots of bad luck.
“I am proud of the team. Personally, I am disappointed that I could not deliver what I wanted,” he said.
Only on Mons-en-Pévèle, one of the hardest sectors, and after having already spent over 150 kilometers in the break, Van Asbroeck had to let the very front of the race go.
On the approach to another very hard sector, the Carrefour de l’Arbre, it nearly all came together at the front of the race. Unfortunately, that’s where things took a turn for the worse for team ISN, who had two of the five riders at the front of the race.
Boivin slipped away and lost connection. Van Asbroeck dropped as well. They joined the chasing group, still being in the game for one of the most memorable results in their respective careers.
“When I dropped, I just could not push any harder. I was empty”, Van Asbroeck said.
Boivin: “I just slipped away on one of the sections. I kept fighting afterward because I had amazing legs the whole day. That was disappointing because I do not get the chance to fight for the victory in a monument.”
Van Asbroeck was our top finisher in eighth. Boivin finished ninth, with a seriously bruised wrist.
Sports Director Dirk Demol: “I am so proud. And flabbergasted at the same time. I don’t have words. I need to let this sink in.”
Later he said: “Fantastic, also particularly from the staff!”
Photos: Sjors Beukeboom, Kramon Velophoto, Bettini Photos
— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com