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107th Paris Roubaix - How the race was won
 
By Staff
Date: 4/13/2009
107th Paris Roubaix - How the race was won
 

107th Paris Roubaix - How the race was won
 Tom Boonen, into the record books as he nears his 100th professional career victory is it too soon to call him "Legend"?

By Chris Graetz

The 107th Paris Roubaix was run and won by Belgiumís Tom Boonen on Sunday. The Beligium stamped his name alongside some of the greats as he took his third win of the classic. It was a hard fought win. A win which deserves high accolades. Tornado Tom showed everyone he is the king of the cobbles and no one was a match for what he pulled out in a race full of crashes. With 16km to go, that was Boonenís time to launch his final attack.

The race unfolded in cool calm weather. After 50km of racing the first break got away. It included a strong contingent consisting of former winner Servias Knaven. Andreas Klier, Maarten Wynants, Kasper Klostergaard, Joost Posthuma, Steven Cozza, Angelo Furlan, Greg Henderson, Yoann Offredo, Steve Chainel and Australian Wesley Sulzberger. At one stage the group got over four minutes until a determined Silence Lotto squad put the hammer down being joined by a CSC squad consisting of Fabian Cancellara.

The first big name to crash out was Garminís Martijn Maaskant in sector 18. It was a crash which included about 20 riders and the big name involved was Maaskant who was tipped by many, including me, to be a chance to podium. From there, Maaskant was never to be heard from again despite Frishkorn and Friedman trying to pace him back up to the peloton.

Heading into the Forest of Arenberg on slippery cobbles, things werenít about to change. There was another crash which took out Devolder , Chavanel and Quinziato and dinted the chances of many others who had hopes to go well in this event.

After the forest, one of the pre-race favourites, George Hincapie was at the front of the peloton with Eisel, Burghardt, Barry, Boasson Hagen leading the peloton. However things started to turn nasty for George.

George Hincapie must be the most unluckiest guy in cycling when it comes to Paris Roubaix. The big American sustained a rear wheel puncture in sector 15. At the time he was fortunate, or so he thought, as the peloton were spent chasing; that Hincapie, with the help of team-mates, Marcus Burghardt, Michael Barry and Edvald Boasson Hagen, managed to cling back onto the peloton. But thatís where his dream of winning this event which has eluded him for 14 years was over. Saxo Bank at the time had 7 men on the front of the peloton and when they felt cross winds, they put the hammer down and the riders at the back of the peloton, including Hincapie were caught out and were never seen again.

At this stage there was 69km to go and 3 km later the race opened up and the first major move was made thanks to Saxo Bank doing the damage, just like they did in last years Tour de France setting up the win for Carlos Sastre. 21 riders were in the front, including the 10 breakaway riders. They included Klier, Chainel, Posthuma, Sulzberger, Henderson, Cozza, Furlan, Weylandt, Klostergaard, Quinziato, Flecha, Haussler, Boonen, Pozzato, Hoste, Hushovd, Cancellara, Van Summeren, Guesdon, Breschel and Chavanel.

From here the important moves were made and the decisive move was about to be made in the next 10km.

When the breakaway was caught there was a counter attack from Weylandt and Haussler, Klostergaard, Flecha and Quinziato followed and had a lead of 20 seconds over a Quick-Step and Saxo Bank led group. With 51km to go Boonen bridged the gap and the group was back together and from there Boonen and Chavanel showed how strong and determined Quick Step were by putting the hammer down.

With 46km to go the final decisive move of the race was made by none other than Tornado Tom. He attacked and Filippo Pozzato, Johan Van Summeren, Leif Hoste, Thor Hushovd and Juan Antonio Flecha came across with him. This caught Saxo Bank out and soon the leading group of 6 had a 20 second lead over a rattled group who was spent from  chasing or being part of the breakaway and missed the decisive move. Saxo Bank at one stage went from having 7 riders at the front,  at around kilometer 60 km to go, to no riders in the decisive move. I know one rider who would have been happy with that even though it was no consolation and that was George Hincapie. It was Saxo-Bank which ruined his chances by attacking when Hincapie was trying to get back into the race. Do I feel sorry for Saxo Bank? No. Thatís racing. There is some justice for George, albeit, minute.

Not only were Saxo Bank the biggest losers, but Team Columbia were as well. At one stage these two teams controlled the race but when the race was there to be won, they had no backup plan nor did they have any answer for the more prepared and stronger teams which included an under the pump Silence Lotto squad, Cevello, Quick-Step and Rabobank who at one stage did control the race and it  paid off by being represented in the decisive move.

For the next 20km the chase group had Klier, Haussler, Quinziato, Guesdon, Henderson, Cancellara, Weylandt, Chavenal, Klostergaard and Breschel. A minute back was George Hincapie trying to get back into the race but no one was prepared to help him and the rattled Columbia squad could not make inroads.

So with the six leaders having 30 seconds which eventually came close to a minute and a half, it was here the winner was going to come from. But who would have it been? There were three known sprinters there and three other riders who are not known for their sprinting abilities. Silence Lotto at this stage had the edge as they had 2 riders represented.

With 26km to go, Flecha had enough of riding with the four other men and decided to attack. But it was no good. Boonen was marking every move and the next 10km they were just watching each other looking to see where the move was coming from. The move came from the God of Thunder, Thor Hushovd, who decided to do an attack soon after in section 4, Carrefour de líArbre; and Boonen went with him. Flecha was caught out and tried to go with them both but crashed soon after. He took out Van Summeren and Hoste. Pozzato was caught up in the mess and was distanced and it was Hushovd and Boonen leading the race with Pozzato in third. However at the next corner, Hushovd went too wide and crashed leaving Boonen on his own with 13km to go.

From there, Boonen was never troubled. Pozzato was riding for second and was always 10 Ė 20 seconds behind Boonen but had no answer to Tornado Tomís pace. Boonen was doing a time trial to try and win the race. Hushovd, Van Summeren, Hoste were fighting out for third position 40 seconds behind and Flecha was a further 30 seconds behind them.

Whilst all this happened, Haussler and Chavanel attacked the chasing group riding for themselves. They had the legs so they decided to attack in the hope of maybe catching the next 3 in front of them, but it wasnít to be. They, in the end fought out for 7th and 8th.

Tom Boonen was negating the last 3 cobbled sectors safely and smoothly and knew he had the race won providing he didnít crash or puncture. 1km out from the velodrome you could hear the crowd cheer Boonen home. The cheer was enormous as Boonen entered the Velodrome in Roubaix and crossed the line to win his third Paris-Roubaix. After Boonen crossed the line, Pozzato had one lap to go and tapped Boonen on the shoulder to congratulate him for winning. Van Summeren and Hoste had no answer to Thor Hushovdís pace as he took third place ahead of them. But this was Tomís day.

George Hincapie might have blown his last chance to win this race and Hushovd and Flecha are thinking what might have been if they didnít crash but it just goes to show that Paris Roubaix is an unforgiving race. Itís the survival of the fittest. You are riding for yourself. Tom Boonen was the fittest. He survived all the crashes. He survived the cross winds. He survived the attacks thanks to a very strong team and he showed us why he is the Cobbled king. He joined Johan Museeuw, Francesco Mosser, Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy, Gaston Rebry and Octave Lapize who have all won this event three times.

In the 108th edition, in 2010, Boonen will be looking to join fellow countrymen and a cycling legend of Belgium, Roger De Vlaeminck who won this race 4 times in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1977. However, if you look at the pattern, you can see Vlaeminck made his second and third wins back to back just like Boonen did and then conquered it again two years later. Which will be Boonenís year to equal the record? Will he win it in 2010, will he follow the pattern and win it in 2011 or will he win it ever again? Either way he has stamped his authority and class on the cycling world as he nears his 100th professional career win so it doesnít matter if he does it or not, Boonen is already a legend of the sport.

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