Paris – Roubaix: Sean Kelly

Paris – Roubaix, 1986. On the 13th of April it was raining. The roads in the north of France were slippery and muddy. In Compiègne, 179 riders took off for the 84th edition of Paris – Roubaix. Favorites for the win were Bauer, Van der Poel, LeMond, Moser and Kelly. For the first time in fourty years the race would not finish in the Velodrome of Roubaix. Instead it would finish in the town of Roubaix. The reason given for this decision had to do with sponsoring and the fact that the organisation thought that the Velodrome wasn’t suitable anymore. It was raining all day and a lot of riders dropped out of the race. With 18 kilometres to go there was still a big group together at the front of the race. This group consisted of thirty riders, all favorites were among them. Suddenly Greg LeMond was standing still on the side of the road, holding up his hand. There was a mechanical problem with his bike. He had to wait long for his team car. He was determined to get back to the front. But it already was too late. Sean Kelly noticed that LeMond was gone. It was the perfect moment for the Irishman to place an attack. Three other riders could follow. Rudy Dhaenens, Ferdi van den Haute and Adri van der Poel. Greg LeMond was not far behind, until more bad luck crossed his way. A closed level crossing. A train was approaching. The four leaders of the race got through, but LeMond had to wait and lost even more seconds. The four leaders were now entering the streets of Roubaix. They were preparing for a sprint.  Van den Haute made the mistake to start the sprint too early. He was hoping that the other three were too tired. He was wrong. Van der Poel got him back, but Sean Kelly was the strongest of all.  He went past van der Poel and won the ‘hell of the North’ for the second time in his career. Kelly made himself pretty clear after the race. He stated that “Paris – Roubaix is a horrible race to ride, but the most beautiful one to win”. And so it was, a beautiful win.

 

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