The Hell of the North has undoubtedly never been so well suited to Paris-Roubaix (1.WT, 3/10), as the 118th edition contested this Sunday has severely tested the riders of Intermarché-Wanty Gobert, competing for the sixth time in the “queen of classics”. Even before entering the first of the thirty cobbled sections, Aimé De Gendt and Taco van der Hoorn were involved in crashes, as the rain fell on their way since the start in Compiègne.
Crashing in a roundabout with 200 kilometers to go and badly hurt, De Gendt was no longer able to reconnect with the peloton, while van der Hoorn regained his place thanks to the invaluable support of Kévin Van Melsen. Alongside the stage winner on the Giro, his team-mates Wesley Kreder and Baptiste Planckaert were also present in a strongly dislocated field after the first four sectors, then in pursuit of twenty-five men with a three-minute lead.
Unlucky Taco van der Hoorn suffered a second crash before sector 25, putting him out of contention. While holding his position in the peloton alongside Planckaert, Kreder was also sent to the floor by another rider, as they approached the Wallers sector, approximately 100 kilometers from the finish. Surviving the multiple incidents, Planckaert maintained his place in the group of favorites, still chasing two minutes from the breakaway.
Discovering Paris-Roubaix for the first time in his career at 33, Planckaert launched a counter-attack after the Trouée d’Arenberg and found himself in pursuit behind the front of the race, alongside four other riders including European champion Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain). The Belgian has long put up resistance on the muddy cobbles in this group, later joined by Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin). Courageously, Planckaert reached the Roubaix velodrome and completed his first participation in the Hell of the North in 19th position, six minutes behind Colbrelli.