Boonen A Three-Time Winner of Paris-Roubaix
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has joined Octave Lapize, Gaston Rebry, Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser, and Johan Museeuw as a three-time winner of Paris-Roubaix. The Belgian surged away from five companions in the last 20 km to win the 259-km Hell of the North in 6:15:53. Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) finished second at 0:47, and Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) outsprinted Leif Hoste (Silence) for third at 1:17.
After an overnight rain, 187 starters set out for Compiegne in cool but muggy conditions to meet cobbles that were probably not as slick as if they would have been without the rain. Forty-two km into the race, 11 men sallied off of the front. They were Kasper Klostergard (Saxo Bank), Angelo Furlan (Lampre), Steven Cozza (Garmin), Greg Henderson (Columbia), Maarten Wynants (Quick Step), Yoann Offredo and Wesley Sulzberger (both from Francaise des Jeux), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), 2001 Paris-Roubaix winner Servais Knaven (Milram), Steve Chainel (Bouygues Telecom), and Andreas Klier (Cervelo). The break led the bunch by three minutes at the beginning of the first section of pave at Troisville (98 km) and by four minutes at 118 km. Silence and Saxo Bank led the pursuit, and the escapees' advantage was two minutes at the entrance to the Arenberg Forest.
The Arenberg did its usual damage. A crash took down Martijn Maaskant (Garmin), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), and Sebastien Hinault (Ag2r). Hinault abandoned.
The attrition continued when the riders left the Arenberg. Tour of Flanders winner Stijn Devolders (Quick Step) had a mechanical problem, and George Hincapie (Columbia) punctured. With 71 km left, the break was one minute ahead of a chase group containing Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, and Devolder (all from Quick Step); Fabian Cancellara, Matti Breschel, and Kurt-Asle Arvesen (all from Saxo Bank); Hincapie; Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank); Tom Veelers (Skil); 1997 Paris-Roubaix winner Frederic Guesdon (Francaise des Jeux); and Hoste.
Saxo Bank drove the chase group, which split in two. Hincapie and Quinziato got back on just as the chasers reached sector 13 of pave (194 km). Boonen attacked, and Cancellara, Flecha, Pozzato, Quinziato, Johan Van Summeren (Silence), and Hushovd followed him. Behind this group, a race motorbike crashed and injured nine spectators.
A few riders got back on, but with 61 km remaining, Boonen attacked. His move was covered, and Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo), Klostergard, Flecha, Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step), and Quinziato attacked. Eight km later, Boonen bridged up to the break, taking Pozzato and Hushovd with him.
Boonen attacked yet again, and with 45 km left, he was in a lead group consisting of himself, Flecha, Hoste, Van Summeren, Pozzato, and Hushovd. Behind, Saxo Bank drove the chase, which was 0:25 behind the leading sextet. Hincapie's group was at 0:55. That was as close as either group got.
Boonen had broken a spoke, and with 29 km left, he stopped to change bikes and got back on. On the Carrefour de l'Arbre, the race's last hard sector of pave, Hushovd attacked. Flecha took a left-hand turn too hard and crashed, taking down Van Summeren. Hoste was forced to stop, and Pozzato narrowly avoided the mishap.
Hushovd crashed on a left-hand turn, and Boonen was alone in the lead. Pozzato pursued the Belgian, while Hushovd, Hoste, and Van Summeren joined forces to chase. At the beginning of the penultimate section of cobbles (251 km), Boonen led Pozzato by 0:16.
With five km left, Pozzato was still within striking distance of Boonen. He was only 0:19 behind the Quick Stepper. The Italian ran out of gas, however, and lost ground not only to Boonen but also to Hushovd and Hoste.
Paris-Roubaix is, even more than most races, a test of perseverance. A winner must overcome inevitable punctures, mechanical problems, and crashes on the cobbles as well as fatigue and the competition. Boonen had enough bad luck to warrant settling for less than first place, but his will to win kept him going.
"This was the hardest of my three to win," said the Quick Stepper. "I had a crash early, and it was very hard to come back...and then I rode with a broken wheel for 30 km before I decided to change it. To come across the line was like a dream come true. There is no better way to win Roubaix."
"I am happy to be on the podium in this race, but it's hard that I had the crash on this important point and you never know in a sprint", a disappointed Thor Hushovd said at the finish. "Because of the crash I couldn't win and my arm is still impeded from another crash last week in the Ronde van Vlaanderen.”
The Classics season will continue with many of the riders who rode Paris-Roubaix. How will they fare in La Fleche Wallonne, the Amstel Gold Race, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!