Boonen Wins Paris-Roubaix
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has won Paris-Roubaix. The Belgian took a three-up sprint in the Roubaix velodrome to win the 259-km Hell of the North in 6:29:38. George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) finished second, and Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) finished third.
The race began in overcast conditions. After a number of abortive sallies during the race?s first half hour, Sebastian Chavanel (Bouygues Telekom), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros), David Herrero (Euskaltel), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis), Florent Brard and Stephane Berges (both from Agritubel), and Erwin Thijs (Mr. Bookmaker) escaped. The octet led by 11:00 at the beginning of the first of 26 sections of pave at Troisville (97.5 km).
The pave wreaked its usual mayhem. A crash took down Tom Steels (Davitamon), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) and 1993 champion Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon). Eventually, Davis, Van Petegem and Steels abandoned, and 1997 winner Frederic Guesdon (Ag2r) had to change bikes. Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet) hit the dirt; and 1999 winner Andrea Tafi (Saunier Duval), Jimmy Engoulvent (Cofidis), and Hincapie punctured.
At 154 km, the break, minus Herrero and Chavanel, led the bunch by 5:45. Fassa Bortolo led the pursuit over many of the early stretches of pave, but T-Mobile took over on the eleventh sector. Two sectors later, with rain beginning to fall, Quick Step took over.
Filippo Pozzato forced the pace with Boonen on his wheel. Hincapie, Lars Michaelsen (CSC), and defending champion Magnus Backstedt were in the thick of things, and Fabian Cancellara and Juan Antonio Flecha (both from Fassa Bortolo) joined the group, which trailed the leading sextet by about five and a half minutes with 80 km left.
Twenty km later, the Boonen group was within 1:30 of the lead group, which consisted of Thijs, Brard, and Berges. A 30-man peloton was another 2:00 back. Boonen was driving the group.
With 50 km left, the Boonen group joined the early break. Six km later, Flecha and Michaelsen were driving the group through the 11th pave sector when Cancellara punctured. Flecha stopped working, but he need not have bothered doing so. His companions took up the slack and left Cancellara rider to his fate.
Gradually, riders were shed. With 40 km left, five men were in the lead: Boonen, Hincapie, Michaelsen, Flecha, and Backstedt. Six chasers were at 1:00, and the peloton was about 3:00 back.
With 25 km left, Boonen, Backstedt, and Hincapie tested each other on the 21st sector. Everyone except Michaelsen responded easily to the acceleration. Nine km later, on the Carrefour de l?Arbre, Michaelsen and Backstedt were dropped. The podium was set, but the places were not.
During the final kilometers, Boonen and Flecha did most of the work. Hincapie led the trio into the Roubaix velodrome, and Flecha took over the lead at the beginning of the last lap. Hincapie took the lead and eased off. With 250 m remaining, Flecha jumped, but Boonen went high off of the banking from third wheel to win.
According to Lars Michaelsen, the race was easy to read. ?I could see where the race was going to be decided the first time and went immediately after Quick Step when they took off,? he said. ?I felt like I was riding really well, and my intuitions before the race proved correct. When Flecha increased the tempo at Carrefour de l?Arbre, I was perhaps a bit unfocused, but I was at my limit and got dropped. I?ve been fifth place before, but I?m really satisfied. I could have dreamed of finishing higher up, but there is no way I could have beaten Boonen today.?
Michael Barry (Discovery Channel), who rode Paris-Roubaix for the first time today, told Roadcycling.com that ?The race was incredible and a lot more fun than I expected. It was thrilling to ride for George and get him in position for the cobbled sections. My job was to keep him in good position going into the cobbles and to keep him out of the wind as much as possible.? Barry added that, ?I stopped the race at just over 200 km as I had a front flat and was too far out to get back on. My work was pretty much done by then anyhow. So, I went to the finish in a team car and watched the race on TV in the bus. I had goose bumps as George entered the velodrome. It was a terrific result for George and for the team. Now I have tasted Paris-Roubaix, and it has left me motivated for next year.?
Many of these riders will take on the Amstel Gold Race on April 17. Who will prosper? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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