One of the most exciting days on the calendar came to an end with a big surprise. Dutch rider Dylan Van Baarle won the 2022 edition of the Paris Roubaix, after a solo attack roughly 20km from the finish. Looks like no one saw the way he won the Dwars door Vlaanderen last year and underestimated him yet again. Van Baarle had the luxury of not being a marked man and was probably the strongest individual on the race. He tried before around 50km from the finish to escape the group of favorites but that time he was brought back. Approximately between 30-20km to the finish he attacked again, caught up to the font group and left them behind on his way to win Paris Roubaix.
He didn’t face much resistance on his journey, either due to inability from the pack behind him, or simply because he was the strongest of them all. The fact of the matter is: at 29 years of age, Dylan Van Baarle wins the most important race of his career, giving Ineos the first Paris Roubaix of their history.
I had no idea the Dutchman had this in him. He had never even finished in the top-10 before and, despite his form throughout the past calendar year, the Hell of the North is very different than the races he broke out in. Up until yesterday, he seemed to be a rider whose characteristics were much more tailored to Flanders than Roubaix. Who knows now? Van Baarle just rode away from everybody and put nearly two minutes into every favorite in a space of less than 30km. It’s not even like they didn’t know he was going to do it because he had tried earlier and been brought back. Just overall an incredibly strong victory from Van Baarle.
Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers)
What’s next for him? Will he take the next step or fade into obscurity like Mathew Hayman? I think I wrote this year that I never thought he had the time (career wise) to win a race like the Paris Roubaix. Van Baarle was already 29 years old and had largely been a domestique for most of his career. The 2021 Dwars victory could be chalked up to a lesser field due to it being used as preparation for the Tour of Flanders. The silver medals in the Worlds and the 2022 Tour of Flanders could similarly be “dismissed” because, in my opinion, he was never really in contention for victory. In a way, he benefitted from the ways those races develop to grab 2nd place in both.
Yesterday’s victory is impossible to “dismiss”. Especially after 2021’s edition, when the winner milked their opponents’ wheels on his way to victory, seeing Van Baarle’s display was incredibly impressive. It certainly was as impressive a Paris Roubaix victory as I’ve ever seen. And I’m as confused as ever too because such a performance is usually put forth by a very special top rider which Van Baarle is not. Or was not.
I still don’t believe he will become a team leader in the twilight of his career and, as bad as it sounds, I think this will remain a fluke victory for the Dutchman. However, little by little, he is building a sensational career especially for someone that spent the first 10 years of his career as a domestique.
Wout Van Aert (Jumbo Visma)
Difficult to ask somebody like him for more in this race. After the adversity he faced in terms of illness leading up to the race and the punctures in crucial moments, a 2nd place is what was possible, rather than what he wanted. It’s his first podium place in Roubaix. Of many, surely. This race is simply too unpredictable for the favorites to win consistently. Which makes what Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara did 10 years ago even more impressive. Given what happened to the Belgian champion in the weeks leading up to this race a 2nd place is a great result, albeit a forgettable one in such a great career.
Mathieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin Fenix)
Not much to say really. The Dutchman himself admitted he didn’t have the legs to win Roubaix yesterday. Happens.
Tom Devriendt (Intermarché Wanty Gobert)
Much like Alexander Kamp of Trek Segafredo in the Amstel (5th), Devriendt was the surprise of this year’s Paris Roubaix, finishing the epic French race in 4th place. The Belgian rider has some good results in stages and one-day races, especially in sprint finishes. His best results were a stage victory in the 2019 Tour of Austria and the Omloop van het Houtland Lichtervelde, a Belgian one-day race taking place during the Autumn. But nothing in a race of the caliber of the Paris Roubaix. This 4th place is likely a career defining result for the 30 year old Belgian.
Stefan Kung (Groupama FDJ)
The versatile Swiss rider continued his and Groupama’s great classics’ season with another podium place in the biggest one-day race of the year. His teammate Valentin Madouas wasn’t able to do better than 34th, but the Swiss time trial specialist proved that he’s able to follow Fabian Cancellara’s footsteps and become a contender for Roubaix. The regulatity of Stefan Kung is ridiculous, with five top-10 finishes in six WT level classics since late March (the exception was the Gent Wevelgem). The Fleche Wallonne and the Liege Bastogne Liege (presumably) don’t favor the Swiss’ characteristics but neither did the Amstel and he finished 8th.