By Graham Healy
In the 1980s, the US TV channel CBS would show highlights of Paris-Roubaix and the video below is from their coverage of the 1988 race. Paris-Roubaix that year was unusual in that the early break that invariably goes clear managed to stay away until the end.
The 12-man break which went away in the first hour of racing included amongst others Allan Peiper of Panasonic, Thomas Wegmuller of Kas, Dirk Demol of ADR and of interest to American viewers, Roy Knickman of 7-Eleven. They worked well together and by the time they reached the first cobbled sector at Troisvilles, they had built up a lead of over 8 minutes.
Nobody in the peloton behind would take up the chase with pre-race favourites Sean Kelly, Eric Vanderaerden and Eddy Planckaert all having team mates in the lead group. Unfortunately for 22 year-old Knickman, he punctured in the Arenberg Forest and never got back up to the break. The group splintered in the forest and by the time they emerged, there were just seven riders in the lead group.
At this stage, the peloton were six minutes behind. Numerous riders crashed in the Arenberg splintering the peloton. Alfred Achermann of KAS was one of the riders to come off worst.
Sean Kelly eventually took up the chase along with some team mates and Laurent Fignon and Steve Bauer were also there in a select group of chasers. However, the Irishman received little help giving the initiative to the lead group. Guido Bontempi of Carrera tried to bridge across to the leaders, but is unable to make it.
At the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector, 14 kms from the finish, Demol and Wegmuller dropped the last of their breakaway companions. The duo would stay clear to the finish which that year was on Avenue des Nations-Unies in Roubaix rather than in the velodrome.
Unfortunately for Wegmuller, a plastic bag floating across the road on the streets of Roubaix got stuck in the Swiss rider’s rear derailleur and he was unable to change gears. Wegmuller tried to remove the bag but bits of plastic still remained in the mechanism. The KAS mechanic then tried to remove the plastic but some still remained.
In the group behind, Fignon went clear alone in a bid to make it across to the two leaders but his effort would fall short. Fignon did hang on for third place though. Up front, Weggmuller led out the sprint, but was easily beaten by Demol which would turn out to be the Belgian’s biggest ever win.