World champion Peter Sagan claimed a debut victory at Paris-Roubaix with a phenomenal long-range attack more than 50km from the finish line.
After nearly six hours of racing, the Slovak entered the famous Roubaix Velodrome with fellow escapee Silvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale), waited until the final bend to launch his sprint, and comfortably held off his Swiss rival on the home straight.
After co-operating superbly to make it a two-man fight for the win, the pair shook hands while still rolling around the track, as 2018 Tour of Flanders winner Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) sealed third place behind them.
Sagan had launched the decisive move from an elite chase group with 53km remaining, bridging to the breakaway and eventually working in tandem with Diller, who produced a fearsomely strong ride to help keep the chasers at bay during a draining 257km race.
That chase group contained the likes of Terpstra, who won Paris-Roubaix in 2014, Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo). They tried to eat into the gap, after a few minutes of hesitation, but were eventually powerless to bring back riders of Sagan and Dillier's calibre.
Paris-Roubaix becomes Sagan's second career "Monument Classic" after he took the Tour of Flanders in 2016. Bernard Hinault was the last reigning world champion to win in 1981.
The early pace was fierce and several riders abandoned in a spate of early crashes, including Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and BMC Racing Team's Stefan Küng and Jurgen Roelandts.
The early breakaway had featured Roubaix debutant Marc Soler (Movistar Team) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), and it was gradually whittled down as the cobbles took their toll.
Quick-Step Floors produced concerted attacks through Zdeněk Štybar and Philippe Gilbert inside the final 100km as they sought to continue their Spring dominance.
After Sagan's attack there was some hesitation in the chase group, just as there had been at the Tour of Flanders when Terpstra attacked - but this time it was Sagan who had taken the initiative and produced what proved to be the decisive move.
Dillier and Wallays were joined at the front of the race by Sagan inside 50km to go.
Another crash brought down Luke Rowe (Team Sky) and Team Katusha Alpecin pair Alexander Kristoff and Tony Martin, ending their hopes of victory. Martin in particular had been animating the race.
The gap closed slightly but then grew again, and Dillier and Sagan's advantage was still a minute with two kilometres to go, and they had time to engage in a bit of cat-and-mouse in the velodrome.
Sagan patiently sat on Dillier's wheel and when he attacked around the final bend. Dillier responded but never looked likely to overhaul the Slovak. It was richly deserved victory for the triple world champion.
Sagan said: "It's amazing, I'm so tired after winning this race ... I just saved energy and did one step forward, I attacked, and I kept going until the finish. I'm very happy and I have to say thank you to all my team-mates because they did a great job."
In the post-race press conference Dillier said: "With Peter it’s like he’s the angel and the devil in the same person. I was happy he’s an angel, because he was working with me.
"He’s the devil because to go in a man-to-man sprint for the finish line, he’s hard to beat. So at the end I was really happy we worked well together, we respected each other, we did a nice sprint in the velodrome and he was better. So congratulations to him."
1 Peter Sagan BORA-hansgrohe 5hr 54'06"
2 Silvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale)
3 Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) +57"
4 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) +1'34"
5 Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)
6 Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale)
7 Nils Politt (Team Katusha-Alpecin) +2'31"
8 Taylor Phinney (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale)
9 Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors)
10 Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal)
Michael Goolaerts (Vérandas Willems–Crelan) was resuscitated after crashing on the cobbles with 148km remaining, and was flown to hospital in a serious condition. Tragically, the team announced on Sunday night that Goolaerts had passed away in hospital:
Our thoughts are with Michael’s family, friends and team.