Boonen Wins Paris-Roubaix
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has won Paris-Roubaix for the second time. Boonen dusted Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) to win the Hell of the North in 5:58:42. Cancellara and Ballan finished second and third, respectively, at 0:01.
From the start, the racing was aggressive. A series of abortive sallies occurred before Alexander Serov (Tinkoff), Matthe Pronk (Cycle), and Jan Kuyckx (Landbouwkrediet) escaped at 88 km, 10 before the first section of pave. The trio's lead maxed out at 5:30, but the peloton cut it to 4:30 by the entrance to the Arenberg Forest.
High Road, Quick Step, and CSC set a blazing pace that split the peloton. The Arenberg Forest did its usual damage. Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) and Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) crashed during the approach and spend tens of km chasing. Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream), the 2004 Paris-Roubaix winner, suffered a mechanical. A chase group of 28 charged out of the Arenberg. Five Quick Steppers, five CSC men, and three riders each from High Road and Silence drove this group.
With 87 km left, the escapees led the chasers by 1:30. Attrition, however, took its toll on the break. Serov was dropped, and Kuyckx punctured. Pronk was reeled in with 72 km remaining.
Quick Step, CSC, High Road, and Silence continued to drive the group. The relatively easy sectors of pave allowed Flecha and Pozzato to join the lead group. With 53 km left, however, George Hincapie's (High Road) rear wheel broke just as eight riders escaped. They were Boonen and Stijn Devolder (both from Quick Step), defending champion Stuart O'Grady and 2006 champion Cancellara (both from CSC), Leif Hoste and Johan Vansummeren (both from Silence), Ballan, and Martijn Masskant (Slipstream).
With 48 km remaining, Devolder attacked. O'Grady covered the Belgian's move. With 40 km left, and with the two leaders 0:15 ahead of the chasers, Van Summeren towed the chase group to the pair.
Six km later, Cancellara attacked, and only Boonen and Ballan responded. With Cancellara and Boonen having teammates in the chase group, the trio was obviously not coming back. As they approached the Carrefour de l'Arbre, the last hard section of pave, all three riders knew that an attack would come from one of them.
Two years ago, Cancellara won Paris-Roubaix with an attack on the Carrefour de l'Arbre. He tried to make history repeat itself, but the Swiss could not escape his companions this time. The race would be decided in the Roubaix velodrome.
The trio entered the velodrome together. The three remained together until the last 200 m, when, on the final banking, Boonen powered away from Cancellara and Ballan to win by 20 m.
Boonen stated that he sensed that he would win when Cancellara failed to escape on the Carrefour de l'Arbre. "Everyone was waiting for the Carrefour de 'Arbre," he said, and when you make an attack on that section of cobblestones, you either win the race or lose the race. So when we were still together at the Carrefour de l'Arbre, Cancellara made an attack, but it wasn't very, very strong. Ballan also tried something, and after that, I made a much stronger tempo than the others." Boonen added that Cancellara told him after the race that he was cramping at the end.
The day's big surprise was Maaskrant. The Dutchman, who is in his first professional season, finished fourth at Paris-Roubaix after posting a 12th-place result at the Tour of Flanders. The Slipstream rider said that he withheld energy in the break to improve his position in the finale. He added that he knew the finale of Paris-Roubaix because he had ridden the under-23 version of the race three times and that that version has essentially the same finale as the big league event (although it is 100 km shorter than the elite Hell of the North).
Next Sunday, many of these same riders will fight out the Amstel Gold Race. Who will prevail? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out! Please support our advertisers.