Covered in mud and sweat, a debutant rider conquers the ‘Hell of the North’

Italian rider Sonny Colbrelli has won a rainy and mud-soaked Paris-Roubaix cycling race on his debut.

The 31-year-old Bahrain Victorious rider crossed the finish line ahead of Florian Vermeersch of Belgium (Lotto Soudal) and Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix).

He caught them in a three-way sprint at the Roubaix velodrome and all the riders were caked in dirt from head to toe. 

Sonny Colbrelli collapsed into tears after winning the Paris-Roubaix.(

Getty Images: Etienne Garnier


The race, which had been scheduled for April 11 but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, is one of cycling’s five high-profile classics, along with the Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia.

But it is known as the Queen of the Classics because it is the most prestigious of the five.

The grueling and dangerous 258-kilometre trek is also known as the Hell of the North because of its treacherous profile — including more than 50 kilometres of cobblestones spread out over 29 sectors.

Amaury Capiot and Connor Swift sit on their bikes while covered in mud and sweat
Riders slogged through the gruelling 258-kilometre race.(

Getty Images: Fred Mons


Colbrelli collapsed to the ground and was in tears after his victory.

“Unbelievable, my first Parigi (Paris)-Roubaix and I win. I’m very happy,” Colbrelli said.

“Today is a legendary Roubaix with the rain and the weather.”

Guillaume Boivin, covered in mud, is attended to by a doctor as he holds sits and holds his wrist
Guillaume Boivin is attended to by a medic after the race.(

Getty Images: Fred Mons


Three-time world road race champion Peter Sagan — who won the race in 2018 — and Mads Pedersen were among the riders to crash in particularly bad conditions following heavy rainfall for several days in the Paris region.

Wout Van Aert is covered in mud as he rides along a cobblestone path, followed by a number of other muddy riders
The Paris-Roubaix is known as the prestigious of cycling’s five classic races.(

Getty Images: Tim de Waele


“I was at the limit in the final,” Colbrelli said.

“It was super difficult because I had to pay attention for the crashes from the first sectors and then there’s always the stress to be in position in the cobbles.”


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