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Sonny Colbrelli wins Paris-Roubaix in debut

118th Paris-Roubaix 2021 - Men's Eilte

ROUBAIX, FRANCE - OCTOBER 03: Sonny Colbrelli of Italy and Team Bahrain Victorious covered in mud celebrates winning in the Roubaix Velodrome - Vélodrome André Pétrieux during the 118th Paris-Roubaix 2021 - Men’s Eilte a 257,7km race from Compiègne to Roubaix / #ParisRoubaix / on October 03, 2021 in Roubaix, France. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

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ROUBAIX, France -- Italian rider Sonny Colbrelli won a rainy and mud-soaked Paris-Roubaix in 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.

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.”

The race had been scheduled for April 11 but was postponed until October because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It 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-kilometer trek (160-mile) is also known as the “Hell of the North,” because of its treacherous profile including more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) of cobblestones spread out over 29 sectors.

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.

“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.”