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104th Paris - Roubaix Race Report
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 4/10/2006
104th Paris - Roubaix Race Report
 

104th Paris - Roubaix Race Report

CSC commented, "On Sunday Team CSC's 25 year old Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara was responsible for one of the absolute greatest triumphs ever for the team, when he won the Queen of the classics, Paris-Roubaix, also known as "Hell of the North ".

Cancellara's attack was timed to perfection with earlier attacks that thinned the lead group from fourteen to four when he launched his solo attack. Quickly gaining a 40 second gap that grew to

CSC ran a tactically sharp race with a strong Lars Michaelson the main support for team leader Fabio Cancellara. Cancellara was able to sit in the first 14 riders that made the selection after the Arenberg cobble section and the continuing effort leading to the usual attrition as riders were dropped; with an eight man strong front group that later would decide the race between them. With about 20 kilometers to go Fabian Cancellara took matters in to his own hands. He launched a fierce attack on one of the worst pavées and folded over his bike in his familiar time trial position headed solo for the finish line in the velodrome in Roubaix.

The Swiss classics and tempo specialist built a lead of more than a minute to his pursuers, counting major favorite Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and others, and Cancellara subsequently crossed the finish line as a proud lone ranger.

"It's a totally indescribable feeling. I find it hard to put it into words, but it's definitely the greatest moment in my entire career. The whole team has a big stake in this victory because we've worked hard for a long time with this in mind," said a much moved Fabian Cancellara after the day's 259 tough kilometers.

"This is perhaps the biggest result in the history of the team; it is most definitely one of them, but of course it's hard to compare the different races. In my eyes Paris-Roubaix is the most spectacular one day race of them all, and the way Fabian won it shows his great, great class," was Bjarne Riis' satisfied comment after the victory.

The race ended somewhat controversially as numbers two, three and four, Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel, Peter van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto) and Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) were all disqualified for crossing a railroad line illegally. This meant that World Champ Tom Boonen was second, while Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) was third.

The Race:
The race was animated by an early break of 22 riders that were predictably brought  back by km 62.
A counter attack by  Joost Posthuma (Rabbank), Nicolas Portal (Caisse d’Epargne), Stephan Schreck (T-Mobile) and 40 year old Dimitry Konyshev of Team LPR the oldest rider in the race; and gained a gap that rose to over four minutes. Following in their wake was a chase group of three at 2 minutes: Iker Flores (Euskaltel), Stephane Berges (Agritubel), Marco Righetto (Liquigas) attempting to latch on to the leaders.  Denmark's Frank Hoj left the complacent peloton and in a strong solo effort joined up with the trio at 118 kms as they hit the Querenaing section of cobbles.

The race was contested luckily on a dry cobbles; but they appeared no less dangerous and gave the photos and TV coverage of the race the typical almost fog like quality to the contest. Hammond went down, and then Hincapie later both on Discovery team; both remounted and carried on, but these crashes might be omens for the decimation that the discovery team would face in the remaining kilometers of the race. The Disco lads looked to be the victims of some strange fate divined upon  them by the cycling gods.

 With 100 kms to the finish as the peloton approached the Arenberg trench Quick Step and Discovery drove the peloton forward as gap the escapees started to disappear.
Entering the Arenberg it was World Champion Tom Boonen on the attack, the gap to the escapees was less than a minute as the peloton stretched out. True to the past the selection of the winner would be the first twenty through the fabled cobble section of Arenberg.

Recent Ghent Wevelgem winner Thor Hushvod punctured, sealing his fate for the day; as the chase ended for the escapees as they were swept up by Boonen and company.

A group of 17 emerged from the trench with Tom Boonen leading the charge with George Hincapie, Frederic Guesdon, Fabian Cancellara, Bernhard Eisel, Steffen Wesemann, Juan Antonio Flecha,  Lars Michaelsen, Vladimir Gusev, Leif Hoste, Gert Steegmans, Alessandro Ballan,Peter Van Petegem and 27 year old Ag2R rider Nicolas Portal the last remaining member of the break.

By the Warlaing cobble sector any hopes of the peloton connecting to the 14 was gone as a Boonen now without support and Discovery with three riders in the select group pressed their advantage to 1:30. With three former winners in the break: Tom Boonen (2005), Peter Van Petegem (2003) and Frederic Guesdon (1997) feature in the leading group the drove at fearless pace over the cobbles, that had them 2 minutes in hand by the feed zone. Guesdon was dropped with a mechanical problem, while at the back Hushvod abandoned after another flat.

Hincapie Down!
50 kms from the finish on Mons en Pevele, one of the most difficult  pave sections Fletcha rained attacks at the front driving the pace as Discovery's Hincapie went down when his steerer tube broke and his handlebars separated from the bike at the frame.

George did a impressive display of bike handling and high speed ballet to balance the bike and get to the side of the rode, but when he couldn't unclip one of his feet, he came down hard on his right shoulder causing a broken shoulder. In obvious pain mixed with disappointment Disco's hardman, last years second place rider and the best Classics Rider the USA has produced was tragically out of the race. Hincapie undoubtedly in the best form of his career in an opportune situation with two of his team in the break was given the worst decision of the fates on this Sunday in Hell.

The attacks by Fletcha separate the 13 riders left in the break with counter attacks by Boonen, Cancellara and Guesdon, by 32 kms the race is down to a lead group of 8: Boonen, Cancellara, Van Petegem, Hoste, Gusev, Eisel, Flecha and Ballan. Wessemen, Steegmans and Guesdon chase at one minute and a determined Portal and Michaelson attempt to rejoin the lead group with a 30 second gap.

Allesandro Ballan goes down as Gusev slides across the dusted cobbles in front, and falls; Fletcha following dashes around as they go down, amazingly both riders are up and back on the bikes and chasing to rejoin the break. Ten minutes later at 240 kms both Ballan and Gusev are back. Alone in the distance Nicolas Portal is on a solo chase attempting to join the action at the front, his persistence and grit are admirable for a rider who has been in the action from the early this morning.

20 kms to the finish Gusev attacked as Fletcha relaxes after his turn at the front of the break and the only rider to respond in time is Fabio Cancellara as they gain a gap. The gap grows as Fabio takes the lead and Gusev holds his wheel, Cancellara is relentless as the gap increases to 30 seconds Gusev loses his grip as they reach 15 km to the finish. Cancellara is now bent into his time trial position the same one that won him the tour de France prologue two years ago and flying across cobbles, asphalt towards the finish.


Cancellara Solo  photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
"
4.5 km left: The gap is out to 51" for Cancellara. Barring alien invasion, divine intervention, or really very bad luck, Cancellara is going to win this." Locutus www.dailypeloton.com live race ticker.

Behind Cancellara mayhem reigns, Super Tom Boonen is dropped by Alessandro Ballan, Leif Hoste and Peter Van Petegem. Hoste and Van Petegem catch Gusev and when they encounter a blocked railway crossing choose to go around the barriers making a fatal decision that would set in motion their eventual disqualification and resulting controversy after the Race Jury keeps them from joining Cancellara on the podium for the celebration.

Meanwhile Boonen joins Ballan stopped by an official at the train tracks. Cancellara on his solo gains time on the chasing Disco duo Hoste and Gusev who play Van Petegem trying to weaken him on the way to the velodrome finish in Roubaix. Fletcha.

Boonen and Ballan fight non stop towards the finish but the combination of attacks and then the rail crossing have put the riders out of contention... or has it; as the later race jury disposition will put Super Tom at second, Ballan at third and Fletcha at fourth. Over three minutes later the remnants of the original 17 riders that survived the attack on the legendary and dreaded Arenberg trench if they survived the race finish.

Boonen for his effort has made a great and dignified presentation as the World Champion. When Tornado Tom drove the selection on the Arenberg with his attack, none of his team mates made the bridge to join in support for his victory. This didn't stop Boonen from attacking or doing his part in the break, he drove the dynamics of the race and though weakened in the final kms never stopped his efforts.

In the words of Jean Marie Blanc in his message for the race this year,
"...And yet the sport of cycling is such that Paris-Roubaix, more than ever before, holds a particular fascination. At times, men of little renown, at the price – literally! – of an inordinate passion for this type of competition have here won fame and praise: Marc Madiot, Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle, Andrea Tafi. Affection for the cobblestone sections overrides any amount of suffering: an admirable and tough conviction!"
"...Yes, Jacques Goddet’s definition of the race forty years earlier holds true today: "the ultimate folly that the sport of cycling proposes to its participants."

Full official results and Photos
Paris Roubaix Live Ticker

Paris Roubaix Fast Facts
Victories by Country:

Belgium 51
France 30
Italy 11
Nederlands 5
Ireland  2
Switzerland  2 *Counting Fabian Cancellara's win today.
1 each: Luxembourg, Russia, Sweden, and Germany,
Oldest Rider: Dimitry Konyshev of Team LPR
Riders at the Start:  194

Previous Top Ten Finishers
7 in PR in Sunday's race

George Hincapie USA Discovery 6
Leon Van Bon (Nederlands) 4
The following had three top ten finishes:
Tom Boonen  Belgium (Quick Step/Innergetic) (now 4-2nd this year)
Lars Michaelsen  Denmark (Team CSC)
Peter Van Petegem  Belgium Team CSC 
Marc Wauters   Belgium (Rabobank )
Steffen Wesemann Germany (T-Mobile)

 

 
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