Degenkolb matches Kelly with rare Classic double
John Degenkolb emulated his hero Sean Kelly by completing a rare double yesterday as he outsprinted his rivals in the Roubaix Velodrome to win the Queen of Classics after triumphing in Milan-San Remo earlier this year.
The German became the first rider since Kelly in 1986 to win both Paris-Roubaix and the Primavera in the same year.
Degenkolb, who finished runner-up last year, launched the final sprint from far out to win ahead of Czech rider Zdenek Stybar, with Belgium's Greg Vam Aermet ending third.
"San Remo was already emotional but this is topping everything," Degenkolb said after the tough 253.5km trek through the World War I battlefields of northern France featuring 27 cobbled sections.
Degenkolb had said in his pre-race press conference that he wanted to match the achievement of Kelly almost 30 years ago.
"It would be pretty unbelievable and I'm really motivated to do this," he said. "I've heard that only Sean Kelly has done this before and he's one of my biggest idols, so I really hope I can repeat that."
After a nine-man breakaway built an eight-minute lead, an incident occurred after 162km when a gate at a railway crossing went down, nearly hitting French sprinter Arnaud Demare. But race officials neutralised the race to allow the trapped riders to cross the junction.
The remaining breakaway riders were caught with 22km to go by a group of favourites including Peter Sagan and Sep Vanmarcke and the decisive move came 12km from the finish when Yves Lampaert and Van Avermaet tried their luck.
Degenkolb and four others joined them in the finale and the German proved the strongest in the sprint.
Bradley Wiggins insisted he had no regrets after his bid for one last victory for Team Sky fell short after he rolled in in 18th.
Wiggins, who is quitting the team in order to ride for his own squad, 'Wiggins', before a return to the track ahead of the Rio Olympics, had wanted to sign off from what he called a "golden era" with a win in one of the sport's most prestigious races.
"I'm happy. I've had a good run, and being a classics rider has been like a new job for me over the last two years," Wiggins said. "Before the race I was trying really hard to not think about this being my last race for Team Sky. So many riders came up to me to wish me good luck and that was really nice.
"All these guys who you've been bashing heads with for years, never spoken to them, and they're coming up to congratulate me on my career."