Cancellara Wins Paris-Roubaix for Third Time
Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) outsprinted Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) for third at 0:31.
Cold, clear weather greeted the riders at the start in Compiegne. The early pace was fast, and attempts to break away failed. The peloton shut down a 17-man escape, and smaller breaks failed to stay away. At Sector 27 (98.5 km), the first cobbled section, the field was together.
It did not stay together long. At Sector 26 (105 km), a crash split the peloton. Stuart O'Grady (Orica-GreenEdge), the 2007 champion, attacked and Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Matthew Hayman (Sky), and Clement Koretzky (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) joined him. The gang of four's lead maxed out at about 2:00 while Saxo Bank-Tinkoff led the pursuit on behalf of Matti Breschel. When the leaders reached Sector 18, the Arenberg Trench (158 km), they led the field by 1:30.
Argos-Shimano, BMC, and Omega Pharma-Quick Step chased. At the end of the Arenberg, 0:40 separated bunch and break. At Sector 16, Hornaing (198.5 km), with the gap down to 0:30, Steegmans and Hayman dropped their companions. Michael Schar (BMC) attempted to bridge up to the pair, and after a 20-km chase, he succeeded. Shortly thereafter, Damien Gaudin (Europcar) joined the lead group. Behind, a crash took down Geraint Thomas (Sky), Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), Borut Bozic (Astana), and Matthieu Ladagnous (Francaise des Jeux), and Thor Hushovd (BMC) punctured.
At Sector 10, Mons-en-Pevele (205 km), Cancellara made his first move. He reduced the lead group to 12 riders, but three of them were Omega Pharma-Quick Steppers, while the Swiss star was without teammates. The leaders were Zdenek Stybar, Stijn Vandenbergh, and Terpstra (all from Omega Pharma-Quick Step); Gaudin; Cancellara; Van Avermaet; Bernhard Eisel (Sky); Lars Boom and Vanmarcke (both from Blanco); Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM); Luca Paolini (Katusha); and Sebastian Langeveld (Orica-GreenEdge).
At Sector 8, Pont-Thibaut (214.5 km), the lead group split into three parts. Cancellara found himself in the rearmost of these groups. At 226 km, he surged away from his group and joined the leaders.
Vandenbergh and Vanmarcke attacked. Cancellara bridged up to the move with Stybar in tow. With 20 km left, the Omega Pharma-Quick Steppers had an advantage in the day's decisive move.
In the next few km, Omega Pharma-Quick Step's chances evaporated. Vandenbergh crashed on Sector 4, Le Carrefour de l'Arbre (236.5 km). One km later, Stybar bumped into a spectator, lost momentum, and never rejoined the leaders. Cancellara and Vanmarcke would battle for the win.
The pair collaborated but also tested each other. With four km remaining, Cancellara attempted to drop the Belgian, but Vanmarcke kept the Swiss rider's wheel. With 1.5 km to go, Vanmarcke made a move, but Cancellara stayed with him.
The two entered the velodrome together, but Vanmarcke led out the sprint. He took the inside, but Cancellara fought past him for the win.
Cancellara collapsed after crossing the finish line. After the race, he said, "I was in another world of riding! I still don't know how I did it. I was dropped and pretty far back, but then I started to move up. This is a race you can never give up on until the end. I had to play with him in the end because I tried to go away, but he followed, so then I knew it was man against man. I'm happy for the team and for me. Now I look forward to rest and a holiday. Mission accomplished."
Cancellara pointed out that he had to take the race by the scruff of the neck because the entire field was racing against him and RadioShack-Leopard. "It's amazing having a third victory," Cancellara said. "When I see how in this race everyone was against our team, against me, I just had to do a selection. The team came into a little bit of difficulty because we lost a few guys because of bad luck. But that's Roubaix. It's always nice to win alone, but today there was pure fighting until the very end. I could not believe it when I crossed the finish line. My legs and my head wanted to bring me here."
Spartacus will take a break, but many of the riders in Paris-Roubaix will toe the line at the Amstel Gold Race next Sunday. How will they fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!