Van Baarle (30) won Paris-Roubaix last year, then still employed by Ineos Grenadiers. Shortly after the Molenberg, he came first with three other riders, including the Frenchman Mathis Le Berre who accompanied him the longest. On the penultimate climb, the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen, Van Baarle finds himself alone in the lead. A group of four riders formed behind him, who could not close the gap.
Van Baarle’s French teammate Christophe Laporte, like De Lie, part of the quartet who failed to close the gap to the leader in the last 10 kilometers, finished third. From the rushing peloton, Norwegian Alexander Kristoff crossed the finish line in fourth place.
The course over twelve hills and nine cobbled sections lost Briton Ben Turner early on due to a fall. The Ineos Grenadiers pilot was one of the favorites. He no longer saw how behind a first group of seven in the lead, a certain number of riders were escaping from the peloton, including no less than six Jumbos. It wasn’t the decisive attack, but it forced the other teams to chase.
The last leading runners were caught in Molenberg. Laporte, De Lie and Belgian Tim Wellens came out on top. It was just the prelude to a serious attack from Van Baarle, who dragged Belgian Florian Vermeersch, Italian Jonathan Milan and Le Berre, 21, the only survivor of the early breakaway.
Vermeersch and Milan had already had to let go towards the Wall and it had also happened for Le Berre on the slope. Van Baarle was followed by four men, who approached the Bosberg within 15 seconds. Laporte obviously didn’t do a yard of header work and then saw his teammate disappear from view again.