Boonen Wins Paris-Roubaix
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has won 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 11 th 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 21 st 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