A Paris-Roubaix Analysis
Tom Boonen's hot streak continued for another week and I can see why.
What more can be said about Tom Boonen that hasn't been said? Victories in E3 Prijs, Ghent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and now Paris-Roubaix proved he's a man for the Classics. There's even talk about him being the best ever classic rider in history. I think we're getting ahead of ourselves with that comparison, but regardless it does get the mind thinking.
Let's look at Boonen's win at E3. A finishing group of 45 riders charged down the two lane road and with just one teammate at the front Boonen launched from about the third position. Oscar Freire was nipping at the Belgian's heels, but it wasn't enough to beat him to the line. While not typically thought of as a bunch sprinter, he proved that he still has the fast-twitch muscles in those final 200 meters.
At Ghent-Wevelgem it was the same story - a bunch sprint with Boonen beating a lot of the one-day classic favorites such as the aforementioned Freire, as well as Peter Sagan, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Filippo Pozzato. And a lot like E3, he didn't have a leadout. In fact it was several riders taking a stab at trying to break away in the last kilometer, which made for a messy sprint at the end.
Interestingly, BMC's Alessandro Ballan attacked with less than a kilometer to go in what he must have known was a suicide move - which was foreshadowing for their next rendezvous in Flanders.
Boonen said in a post race interview that he wasn't the fastest sprinter, leaving that honor to Mark Cavendish of Team Sky, but he sure must be the craftiest.
Regardless of his show of strength many, myself included, thought RadioShack-Nissan's Fabian Cancellara was the man to beat at Flanders. My own personal reasoning was based more on a gut feeling than on actual empirical facts. I just thought there was no way he could continue to have such great form combined with good luck.
Cancellara also had an impressive early season. He had several top tens at both the Tour of Qatar and Oman. That was followed up by an impressive solo victory at Strade Bianche, a time trial win at Tirreno-Adriatico, and second place in Milan-San Remo.
Let's not forget that in 2010 he owned the triple: E3, Flanders and Roubaix - so yeah, he was a strong favorite. Bike supplier Trek publicly unveiled their "endurance category" bike - the Domane - in anticipation of a Flanders win. Cancellara had actually ridden this bike to victory in its first race, the Strade Bianche. New bike, a great display of form, and a five-star favorite from most journalists - what could go wrong?
With 60 kilometers remaining Fabs crashed out with the result a broken collarbone. And just like that Boonen became the man to beat in Roubaix. However, Boonen was still fighting for the win in Flanders and just like I mentioned earlier Ballan, for some reason, decided to launch several weak attacks, which Boonen easily covered. As we saw, Filippo Pozzato didn't respond to any of his countryman's