Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Paris-Roubaix Espoirs: Spengler stays upright in the muck and mire

To put it lightly, the 2015 Paris-Roubaix Espoirs was a total shitstorm that had riders crashing and flatting all over the place and many just struggled to get to the Roubaix velodrome. It was a race where just finishing could make a line on a rider's resume and saw early race favorite not even sniff the front of the field.

The race began under gloomy weather and the first abandon happened within the first 10 kilometers when Axel Guilcher (Sojasun Espoirs) crashed hard. Pierre Idjouadienne (CC Etupes) was the first attacker of the race but after a brief period solo, he was joined by Nico Denz (Chambery CF), Steven Lammertink (SEG Racing) and Cedric Defreyne (BCV Works-Soenens). Joan Tenbrock (Stolting) powered himself up to the breakaway and within 20 kilometers, he made it up to the quartet.

The problems behind had already begun. Riders such as Nathan Van Hooydonck, Oliveira Troia, Yannick Eckmann, Senne Leysen and many more has crashes and were forced to abandon. Rayane Bouhanni (AWT Greenway) had a hard fall and was forced out early on.

Bouhanni in the ditch (via directvelo)
Martijn Budding (Rabobank) and Ricardo Van Dongen (SEG Racing) joined up with the break but not before both Lammertink was distanced by a mechanical and Defreyne...well he couldn't hold the pace. The deck was constantly being shuffled but after the gap was perilously close, the break was neutralized with 69 kilometers to go.

The race itself was still a shit show. New Zealand U23 Champ Hamish Schreuers broke his wrist. Tao Geoghegan Hart crashed 4 times and Logan Owen had a hell of a day that didn't allow him to go for another Roubaix top 10. After the breakaway was caught, riders including Van Hooydonck, Enzo Wouters, Damien Touze, Rob Leemans and Ruben Pols all either crashed or suffered mechanicals. It was literally survive to advance.

While the skating show continued, Hugo Hofstetter (CC Etupes) got out front alone for a time. After roughly 10 kilometers of freedom, Hofstetter was caught but a breakaway of three emerged that would shape the race. Martin Grøn (Riwal) along with Bas Tietema & Lukas Spengler (Both BMC Development) got away together and over the next 15 kilometers, they got a gap of nearly one minute on the chasing peloton.

With 25 kilometers to go, former Ronde van Vlaanderen Juniors winner Jenthe Biermans (SEG Racing) got away from the peloton in search of the leading trio. While Biermans chased, the trio had exploded. Tietema and Grøn were involved in some sort of crash and Spengler was left along in the lead and was continuing to pound the pedals. While Biermans was getting closer, he too encountered a mechanical issue and was forced to drop back.

Then came Carrefour de l'Arbe where apparentl Thery Schir bridged up to Spengler but within kilometers, he was distanced off the back. It was the last time that anyone would see Spengler until the velodrome.


Behind, it was the Biermans who took a convincing sprint for 2nd place ahead of Hofstetter and former French junior champ Felix Pouilly. Big favorites Maxime Farazijn and Davide Martinelli came in 5th and 6th while other powerhouse riders such as Thery Schir, Stan Godrie and Bas Tietema all came inside the top 10.

Make no mistake, this was an insane day of racing. Kudos to all that were able to even make it to the line and those that even tried.

Other thoughts...

-BMC Development had a masterful race. They seemingly always had someone in a move or had numbers. They had 2 out of the three in the race defining move and even after a crash, they had numbers in the chasing group. They finished with 3 in top 10 and a beautiful win. Geert Van Bondt and his boys can read a race.

-In 7th place was Jimmy Duquennoy (Color Code). He gets the medal for being anonymous, surviving and getting a damn good result.

-Lukas Spengler is the first Swiss rider to ever with the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs and first Swiss rider to hit the podium since Laurent Beuret in 2008.

-Pierre Idjouadienne, the first attacker of the race, was the last rider to officially finish at 19'47" down on Spengler. I say officially since there were 11 riders out of the time cut that came across including strong riders such as Dan Eaton (USA), Corentin Ermenault (CC Nogent-sur-Oise) and Robert-Jon McCarthy (SEG Racing).

-Very good photos by Bede Geoghegan Hart from the race. Mainly focused on Axeon but some good race shots as well.

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