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104th Paris-Roubaix - The Contenders
 
By Andy McGrath
Date: 4/8/2006
104th Paris-Roubaix - The Contenders
 

After retaining his Ronde van Vlaanderen title in the rainbow jersey of world cycling and gaining the lead in the ProTour competition, Tom Boonen still remains the golden boy of Belgian cycling, described by his peers as a man in a different league. Now he has the onerous (to say the least) task of becoming the first man to do the Roubaix-Flanders double two years running by winning tomorrow. Indee, the 104th edition of Paris-Roubaix, l'Enfer du Nord, is being billed as a ‘Boonen vs. the Rest’ affair, and while Boonen has hardly put a foot wrong this season, he will be heavily marked by rivals here as the overwhelming favourite. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him before! The world champion has the support of a fine Quick Step team, tailored to meet his needs but also with the potential to provide a winner if Boonen should suffer a crash or untimely mechanical. Nick Nuyens and Filippo Pozzato, the former having prepared especially for these two opening weeks of April, will be alternate options for Quick Step, while Servais Knaven cannot be discounted, as a winner here in 2000. However, it should not come to that: if things go to plan, it will be Boonen smiling and kissing the cobblestone trophy on the podium in Roubaix.


The well-oiled Quick Step machine. Courtesy Quickstep.


Rainbow jersey Boonen pounds the cobbles in preparation photo c. Quick Step

Boonen does not seem worried in the slightest, as the undisputed man to beat: “I never avoid anybody or plan my race around them. I always make my own decisions: when I want to attack, I attack. I’ve won a lot of races this way.”
Identifying the main threats, teammate Filippo Pozzato interestingly pinpointed Fabian Cancellara as the biggest: “First of all, Cancellara, then Hincapie and Van Petegem.” The CSC man showed his form with sixth in the Tour of Flanders, and is perhaps the man with the best-equipped “engine” to challenge Boonen: give him 50 metres and, as one of the best time-trialists in professional cycling, he will take a kilometre. With Lars Michaelsen, one of the most experienced men in the sport and a frequent top ten finisher here, and Marcus Ljungvist also on board, CSC have a good team to back-up the Swiss rider.

Davitamon-Lotto have taken little joy from this year’s Classics, the most recent example being in Gent-Wevelgem, where Bert Roesems was caught just a kilometre from the finish line. While this move alerted the media as well as the team to the veteran’s good form, Peter van Petegem remains the acknowledged team leader. However, his tactics of staying near the rear of the pack till he feels a sense of urgency or a need to move up are particularly risky in the "Queen of the Classics", a race in which crashes are common and selections form naturally from the front. Van Petegem himself should recognise this too, after crashing out of last year’s edition before the cobbles in agony. Davitamon can also boast Nico Mattan, Leon van Bon and Gert Steegmans, all of whom could finish highly themselves.

Photo by Scott Schaffrick

George Hincapie will be looking to become the first American winner of Paris-Roubaix; he was second last year, but could do little against Boonen. Hincapie looked good at Ronde van Vlaanderen, and he certainly deserves a victory in one of the “big two” after so many good performances over the years. This time round, it's likely be a case of distancing oneself from the world champion before the velodrome finish, either with constant attacks or one perfectly-timed blow. Ronde van Vlaanderen runner up Leif Hoste is also in fine form. Also taking Russian strongman Vladimir Gusev into consideration, Discovery Channel have several cards to play. Roger Hammond also knows what it is to the enter the velodrome in Roubaix in contention for victory after finishing third in 2003, but he crashed badly on Sunday and is likely to be restricted by his injuries, as he received ten stitches to the knee. Riding at all in the race will be a testament to the Briton’s grit and courage.


The number of Spanish victories in Paris-Roubaix remains a round zero. Indeed, most of those riders, more at home on tarmacked, uphill roads, almost religiously abandon at the first feed zone in the race. However, Juan-Antonio Flecha is an exception to the rule and, after finishing third last year, he could end the 104 year victory drought. Having given selfless work to the Rabobank team in the last couple of weeks, particularly at the Brabantse Pijl and Tirreno-Adriatico, Flecha now has an opportunity to take the reins himself. His aggressive nature will serve as a double-edged sword: his attacks will either break Boonen or return to tire Flecha himself. Yet, as Boonen himself has said, "to win a race, you have to be prepared to lose."
Marc Wauters - alongside Pedro Horrillo, another Spaniard made out of sterner stuff than many of his countrymen - should also be able to provide able support, after years of good performances in this event.

T-Mobile will be desperate for a big victory, let alone any victory, here to stop the rot: Steffen Wesemann looks to be their best hope, having finished on the podium before, whereas the team’s other Classics frontman Andreas Klier has never been in the top fifty here. Serguei Ivanov and youngster Marcus Burghardt could also perform well here for the Magenta squad.


Alessandro Ballan puts the hammer down Photo c. Lampre/Fondital

Alessandro Ballan will be leading the Lampre charge after another impressive showing in the Ronde van Vlaanderen confirmed his promise as one of the new generation of Classics riders. Daniele Bennati and Italian cyclo-cross champ Enrico Franzoi are also capable of top twenty-five finishes.
After Gent-Wevelgem, David Kopp has moved up in many people’s estimations, and he could well be one of the revelations of the race. Frank Hoj will also be sharing leadership with him at Gerolsteiner.


Mighty Thor wins Gent-Wevelgem photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti

Credit Agricole look like the French team most capable of producing a winner, with Thor Hushovd flying on the back of victory in Wevelgem midweek. Ninth here last year, it will be again a case of following the right wheels, as it’s unlikely that any teammates will be alongside him when the action hots up. Florent Brard (Caisse d’Epargne) took a shock seventh place last year after getting in the early break, but it seems he will be hard-pressed to repeat this performance. Jean-Patrick Nazon (Ag2r Prevoyance), Jimmy Casper (Cofidis) and Francaise des Jeux pair Frederic Guesdon (the last French winner here) and Bernhard Eisel are also all capable of finishing highly; the Austrian has looked particularly strong in recent weeks.

Erik Zabel (Milram) can never be discounted in the cobbled Classics while Stefano Zanini (Liquigas) and Baden Cooke (Unibet.com) are also possible challengers. However, the Italian squad will feel the absence of their lime-green giant, 2004 winner Magnus Backstedt, sidelined by injury at the worst possible time. Aivaras Baranauskas (Agritubel), Aart Vierhouten (Skil-Shimano), Francisco Jose Ventoso (Saunier Duval) and Gregory Rast (Phonak) are all candidates for top twenty finishes if they have good rides.

The Top 30 in 2005
1. Tom Boonen (BEL/Quick Step) les 259 km en 6 h 29:38. (moyenne: 39,884 km/h)
2. George Hincapie (USA) m.t.
3. Juan Antonio Flecha (ESP) m.t.
4. Magnus Backstedt (SUE) à 1:09
5. Lars Michaelsen (DAN) 2:43.
6. Leon Van Bon (PBS) 3:49.
7. Florent Brard (FRA) 3:49.
8. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) 3:49.
9. Thor Hushovd (NOR) 3:49.
10. Arnaud Coyot (FRA) 3:49.
11. Frédéric Guesdon (FRA) 3:49.
12. Vladimir Gusev (RUS) 3:49.
13. Erwin Thijs (BEL) 3:49.
14. Nico Mattan (BEL) 3:49.
15. Kevin Hulsmans (BEL) 3:49.
16. Steffen Wesemann (ALL) 3:49.
17. Frank Hoj (DAN) 4:48
18. Stuart O'Grady (AUS) 4:52
19. Pedro Horrillo (ESP) 4:52.
20. Jeremy Hunt (GBR) 4:52.
21. Marcus Ljungqvist (SUE) 4:52.
22. Jimmy Casper (FRA) 4:52.
23. Henk Vogels (AUS) 4:52.
24. Koen De Kort (PBS) 4:52
25. Heinrich Haussler (ALL) 4:52.
26. Roy Sentjens (BEL) 4:52.
27. Nicolas Jalabert (FRA) 4:52.
28. Steven De Jongh (PBS) 4:52.
29. Roberto Petito (ITA) 4:52.
30. Enrico Franzoi (ITA) 4:52.

Paris-Roubaix Palmares
(Information courtesy Veloarchives.com)

Paced

1896 Josef Fischer
1897 Maurice Garin
1898 Maurice Garin
1899 Albert Champion
1900 Emile Bouhours
1901 Lucien Lesna
1902 Lucien Lesna
1903 Hyppolyte Aucouturier
1904 Hyppolyte Aucouturier
1905 Louis Trousselier
1906 Henri Cornet
1907 Georges Passerieu
1908 Cyrille Van Hauwaert
1909 Octave Lapize

The pacing was by bicycle (1896, 1897), by car (1898 - 1900) and by bicycle again until 1909. Initially the pacing was for the whole race; for 1908 and 1909 it was as far as Beauvais, thereafter the race was run without pacing.

Unpaced

1910 Octave Lapize
1911 Octave Lapize
1912 Charles Crupelandt
1913 François Faber
1914 Charles Crupelandt
1915 Not held
1916 Not held
1917 Not held
1918 Not held
1919 Henri Pélissier
1920 Paul Deman
1921 Henri Pélissier
1922 Albert Dejonghe
1923 Henri Suter
1924 Jules Van Hevel
1925 Félix Sellier
1926 Julien Delbeque
1927 Georges Ronsse
1928 André Leducq
1929 Charles Meunier
1930 Julien Vervaecke
1931 Gaston Rebry
1932 Romain Gijssels
1933 Sylvère Maes
1934 Gaston Rebry
1935 Gaston Rebry
1936 Georges Speicher
1937 Jules Rossi
1938 Lucien Storme
1939 Emile Masson Jr.

Paris - Roubaix during the WWII occupation - called the "Trophée Duralumin"

1940 Joseph Sofietti (Le Mans - Paris)
1941 Jules Rossi (Paris - Rheims)
1942 Emile Idée (Paris - Rheims)

Paris - Roubaix, unpaced

1943 Marcel Kint
1944 Maurice De Simpelaere
1945 Paul Mayé
1946 Georges Claes
1947 Georges Claes
1948 Rik Van Steenbergen
1949 André Mahé & Serse Coppi, tied
1950 Fausto Coppi
1951 Antonio Bevilacqua
1952 Rik Van Steenbergen
1953 Germain Derycke
1954 Raymond Impanis
1955 Jean Forestier
1956 Louison Bobet
1957 Fred De Bruyne
1958 Léon Van Daele
1959 Noël Foré
1960 Pino Cerami
1961 Rik Van Looy
1962 Rik Van Looy
1963 Emile Daems
1964 Peter Post
1965 Rik Van Looy
1966 Felice Gimondi
1967 Jan Janssen
1968 Eddy Merckx
1969 Walter Godefroot
1970 Eddy Merckx
1971 Roger Rosiers
1972 Roger De Vlaeminck
1973 Eddy Merckx
1974 Roger De Vlaeminck
1975 Roger De Vlaeminck
1976 Marc De Meyer
1977 Roger De Vlaeminck
1978 Francesco Moser
1979 Francesco Moser
1980 Francesco Moser
1981 Bernard Hinault
1982 Jan Raas
1983 Hennie Kuiper
1984 Sean Kelly
1985 Marc Madiot
1986 Sean Kelly
1987 Eric Vanderaeden
1988 Dirk Demol
1989 Jean Marie Wampers
1990 Eddy Planckaert
1991 Marc Madiot
1992 Gilbert Duclos Lasalle
1993 Gilbert Duclos Lasalle
1994 Andrei Tchmil
1995 Franco Ballerini
1996 Johan Museeuw
1997 Frédéric Guesedon
1998 Franco Ballerini
1999 Andrea Tafi
2000 Johan Museeuw
2001 Servais Knaven
2002 Johan Museeuw
2003 Peter Van Petegem
2004 Magnus Backstedt
2005 Tom Boonen

 
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