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Paris-Roubaix; Fabian the giant killer

Discovery hit hard as Hincapie crashes out and two top finishers DQ-ed

By Andrew Hood

Cancellara crosses the line alone in Roubaix

Cancellara crosses the line alone in Roubaix

Photo: AFP

Tom Boonen has been riding like an unstoppable freight train all year, and it may have been another freight train that denied him a shot at a successive win in the toughest of all the Spring Classics.

The world champion has been knocking off wins (12 so far this year) almost as fast as some of his fans pound down Belgian beers, but the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix on Sunday became a proving ground for another rising star.

Fabian Cancellara (CSC) bolted away from Boonen and an elite group of riders on the Carrefour de l’Arbre with about 16km to go in the 259km pain-fest to leave everyone choking on his vapors.

2006 Paris-Roubaix
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) CSC
2. Tom Boonen (B) Quick Step, at 01:49
3. Alessandro Ballan (I) Lampre, at 01:49
4. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sp) Rabobank, at 01:49
5. Bernhard Eisel (A) FDJ, at 03:25
6. Steffen Wesemann (Swi) T-Mobile, at 05:35
7. Guesdon Frédéric (F) FDJ, at 06:31
8. Bert Roesems (B) Davitamon-Lotto, at 06:44
9. Christophe Mengin (F) FDJ, at 06:44
10. Staf Scheirlinckx (B) Cofidis, at 06:45FullResultsGraham Watson’s photos
“I came here thinking I could win. I wasn’t looking to Boonen or the others,” said Cancellara, the first Swiss rider to win since 1923. “The riders who finish alone in the velodrome are great riders. I am now one of those.”

In his wake unfolded a bizarre finale that saw the second- to fourth-place riders — Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel), Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto) and Vladimir Gusev (Discovery) who came through at 50 seconds back — disqualified in a controversial decision after they slipped across a train crossing with 10km to go.

Hincapie crashed after a mechanical

Hincapie crashed after a mechanical

Photo: AFP

Boonen was elevated to second and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) into third.

In another stroke of bad luck, George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), who finished second to Boonen last year, fell with about 46km to go when his steerer tube broke, his handlebars popped off and he went crashing hard to the ground. Unable to finish, Hincapie clutched his right shoulder and grimaced in pain as his bid to win Roubaix proved elusive yet again.

Hincapie was taken to a hospital in Roubaix for x-rays, which revealed shoulder injuries that could require surgery.

“George crashed earlier in the race and he was already complaining about a pain in his hand. We don’t know yet what happened to the handlebars, but it was bad luck for George,” said Discovery Channel sport director Johan Bruyneel. “We achieved what we wanted to isolate Boonen without teammates, but second and fourth isn’t bad, so we have to be satisfied. Today it was obvious the strongest man won.”

Hincapie's bike

Hincapie’s bike

Photo: AFP

Those comments came right at the finish line – before officials ruled that the two Discovery Channel riders and Van Petegem had violated a race regulation when they skirted across the train crossing after the barriers had already gone down.

Discovery Channel sport director Dirk Demol was seen in a passionate exchange with Paris-Roubaix director Jean-Marie Leblanc once he learned Hoste would not get the podium to go along with his second place in Flanders last weekend.

“I think the judges should have interpreted the rules a little differently, because ultimately it didn’t affect the results, the best guy won,” Bruyneel said.

Early break
The opening two hours of this year’s edition of the Hell of the North followed a familiar script. Several riders tried to get away and a few more were caught up in spills in the nervous approach to the cobbles.

And out in the open

And out in the open

Photo: AFP

Discovery’s Hincapie and Roger Hammond — who made a brave start despite a row of fresh stitches in his right knee after falling in Tour of Flanders — were both caught up in spills early on.

Hincapie’s early crash would come back to haunt him and he was already complaining to team boss Johan Bruyneel that his right hand was hurting him.

Four riders pulled clear at about 60km: Nicolas Portal (Caisse d’Epargne), Stephan Schreck (T-Mobile), Dimitri Konyshev (LPR) and Joost Posthuma (Rabobank). The gap never went north of three minutes over the main field, while a few riders tried half-heartedly to chase.

The peloton wasn’t too keen on letting the escapees get too much of a head start. Quick Step put up its best game face and took responsibility for the early fireworks.

The weather was cooperative throughout the day, with partly cloudy skies, a slight breeze and a brisk 48 degrees at the start. A fine day in Hell.

Arenberg breaker
The infamous Forest of Arenberg was back this year and the mythic 2.4km stretch of cobble-stoned Hell once again delivered the back-breaker of the race.

The leading break was dwindling to 30 seconds when Boonen – riding with fearless panache in a custom-made rainbow-ProTour leader hybrid jersey – led the charge for the peloton.

The notorious sector, where Johan Museeuw so famously crashed in 1998, was left out of the 2005 edition because sink-hole damage made the classic stretch too dangerous. Repairs cleared out some of the most serious damage and sand was spread liberally throughout the sector to fill in the gaps.

New or old, the Arenberg would prove once again be the match that broke the camel’s back. A split fractured about 20 riders back. No one fell, but it was just enough of a gap to prove fatal to anyone missing the move.

Pulling clear were: Fabian Cancellara and Lars Michaelsen (CSC), George Hincapie, Leif Hoste and Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel), Stefen Wesemann (T-Mobile), Peter Van Petegem and Gert Weegmans (Davitamon-Lotto), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Bernard Eisel and Frederic Guesdon (FDJeux) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step).

The leaders were quickly reeled in. The 40-year-old Konyshev had already given up the chase and Posthuma and Schreck soon lost contact as well, but Portal latched a wheel and hung on.

Driving hard at the front of the peloton was Boonen, who was swarmed with Discovery Channel and Team CSC jerseys. When he looked around, he didn’t see any friendly faces.The façade of Quick Step’s classics seeming invincibility was punctured. A small wedge of 20 seconds was opened and Discovery and CSC turned on the turbos.

Quick Step massed at the front of the chase group, frantically chasing with Milan-San Remo champ Filippo Pozzato leading the way. Despite the efforts, the gap grew to 45 seconds, then 1 minute. After bouncing through sector 14 at Brillon with 73km to go, the deal was done. The gap was at 1:27 and Quick Step gave up the chase. Boonen would have to race this one alone.

Boonen shrugged off the sense of isolation. “It didn’t affect my racing at one bit,” Boonen said. “Ten or 20km after the Arenberg, I could see that Flecha and Cancellara were strongest in the bunch.”

Flecha attacks, Hincapie’s out
Early into sector 11 – a long 2.6km section that turns and twists into the wind – Flecha turned on the jets, riding off the wheel of Wesemann. The Spanish rider shot away like an arrow, but countering like a slingshot was Boonen to quickly bridge out with Cancellara. Gusev and Hincapie drove hard to reel the potentially dangerous move, but the cards were on the table.

Flecha was again nervous at the front, throwing a jab going into sector 10 at Mons-en-Pevele.

“I wanted to open up the action because everyone was riding very conservatively,” Flecha said. “I came here to win, but I knew if it came down a group this big I had no chances.”

Suddenly, Hincapie was drifting awkwardly to the left side of the ride with his hands desperately clawing the air. His handlebars were dangling off the front of his bike and it was like he was trying to ride a unicycle over the cobblestones.

Without any hope, Hincapie slammed on his right shoulder in an utterly helpless situation and his Roubaix was over.FullResults

The chaos split the bunch. Cancellara was driving the front and the cagey Van Petegem, hidden away so far, nudged forward followed by Boonen and Ballan, the young Italian hope.

Chasing were Gusev, Hoste, Flecha and Eisel at seven seconds and Guesdon, Wesemann and Steegmans desperately trying to hang on at 30 seconds In Roubaix, 20 meters can be 20 miles.

Coming onto sector 9 with 42.5km to go, Eisel was dropped, leaving Flecha and the Discovery duo to try to close the gap to the leaders. Eisel weaved his way through the team cars to rejoin the group with eight sectors to go and nothing decided.

Countdown to launch
There seemed to an unannounced détente among the group over sectors eight and seven. Boonen and Van Petegem massed at the front to hammer down any unnecessary aggression.

Coming through a right-hander in sector 6, Gusev appeared to skid out and inadvertently crossed Ballan’s line, taking the Italian’s front wheel out from underneath. Ballan somersaulted and Gusev skidded to the ground. Ballan quickly remounted to stay with the group, but the young Russian was forced to chase back hard. He dangled close and struggled to close the gap alone until a final burst on the asphalt.

Cancellara had enough of the waiting and punched the accelerators on sector 5, a rough and tumble sector. Grabbing his wheel was none other than Gusev, catching the veterans by surprise.

“I thought I had the legs to be able to bridge out to them, but on one turn Flecha came through and I had to brake and lost all of my momentum,” Boonen said. “I think that’s when I cracked.”

The duo was perhaps too green to realize the audacity of their move and simply kept chugging away. They hit the decisive Cerrefour de l’Arbre sector of cobblestones with a 17-second head start on the remaining five.

Van Petegem and Boonen hovered at the front, but didn’t react when Cancellara continued to pour it on, dropping Gusev on the Carrefour with 15km to go.

There was no doubt for Cancellara. He kept laying it on and rode into the velodrome alone. “It became like a time trial in the end,” he said. “When I heard the differences were 20 seconds, 30 seconds, I just kept going harder and harder. I just knew someday I would win this race.”

Two groups were furiously chasing. Hoste, Van Petegem and Gusev were only about 20 seconds back and Boonen, Ballan and Flecha in another about another 20 seconds back.

With about 10km to go, Cancellara reached a railroad crossing, whose barriers began dropping as he passed through. The first chase group – Hoste, Van Petegem and Gusev – reached the same spot with the barriers clearly down. They went through, anyway. When Boonen, Ballan and Flecha arrived, race officials stopped them and were forced to wait about 15 seconds as a train came barreling past.

“I am glad they stopped us because had they not, I would have kept going and it was too dangerous,” Flecha said. “I am sure we would have caught the lead group and that could have changed the race.”

Unaware of the brewing controversy, Hoste out-sprinted Van Petegem for second and Gusev came through fourth for Discovery Channel. Officials, however, agreed that the riders had violated a race regulation.

“At first I stopped, but then I saw Hoste and followed him. It’s a decision that was very impulsive because we were chasing the victory,” Van Petegem said. “It was all very strange that in one of the top races in the season and a train is passing that could make the difference between winning and losing. In Belgium for sure they would try to stop the train.”

Results – Paris-Roubaix, April 9, 2006
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) CSC
2. Tom Boonen (B) Quick Step-Innergetic, at 01:49
3. Alessandro Ballan (I) Lampre, at 01:49
4. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sp) Rabobank, at 01:49
5. Bernhard Eisel (A) Francaise des Jeux, at 03:25
6. Steffen Wesemann (Swi) T-Mobile, at 05:35
7. Guesdon Frédéric (F) Francaise des Jeux, at 06:31
8. Bert Roesems (B) Davitamon-Lotto, at 06:44
9. Christophe Mengin (F) Francaise des Jeux, at 06:44
10. Staf Scheirlinckx (B) Cofidis, at 06:45FullResults

Photo Gallery

Results

Results – Paris-Roubaix, April 9, 2006
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) CSC

2. Tom Boonen (B) Quick Step-Innergetic, at 01:49

3. Alessandro Ballan (I) Lampre, at 01:49

4. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sp) Rabobank, at 01:49

5. Bernhard Eisel (A) Francaise des Jeux, at 03:25

6. Steffen Wesemann (Swi) T-Mobile, at 05:35

7. Guesdon Frédéric (F) Francaise des Jeux, at 06:31

8. Bert Roesems (B) Davitamon-Lotto, at 06:44

9. Christophe Mengin (F) Francaise des Jeux, at 06:44

10. Staf Scheirlinckx (B) Cofidis, at 06:45

11. Pedro Horrillo (Sp) Rabobank, at 06:49

12. Erik Zabel (G) Milram, at 06:49

13. Steven De Jongh (Nl) Quick Step-Innergetic, at 06:49

14. Leon Van Bon (Nl) Davitamon-Lotto, at 06:49

15. Filippo Pozzato (I) Quick Step-Innergetic, at 06:49

16. Aart Vierhouten (Nl) SKS, at 06:49

17. Baden Cooke (Aus) UNI, at 06:49

18. Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak, at 06:49

19. Lars Michaelsen (Dk) CSC, at 06:49

20. Marco Serpellini (I) UNI, at 06:49

21. Anthony Geslin (F) Bouygues Telecom, at 06:49

22. Marcus Burghardt (G) T-Mobile, at 06:49

23. Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank, at 06:49

24. Roger Hammond (GB) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling, at 06:49

25. Jimmy Casper (F) Cofidis, at 06:49

26. Arvesen Kurt-Asle (Nor) CSC, at 06:49

27. Enrico Poitschke (G) Milram, at 06:49

28. Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto, at 06:49

29. Arnaud Labbe (F) Bouygues Telecom, at 06:49

30. Ralf Grabsch (G) Milram, at 06:49

31. Allan Johansen (Dk) CSC, at 06:49

32. Nico Mattan (B) Davitamon-Lotto, at 06:49

33. Hunt Jérémy (GB) UNI, at 06:49

34. Marco Milesi (I) Liquigas-Bianchi, at 06:49

35. Kevin Hulsmans (B) Quick Step-Innergetic, at 06:49

36. Nicolas Portal (F) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, at 06:49

37. Marc Wauters (B) Rabobank, at 06:49

38. Andy Flickinger (F) Bouygues Telecom, at 06:49

39. Christophe Laurent (F) Agritubel, at 06:49

40. Frank Hoj (Dk) Gerolsteiner, at 06:49

41. Aivaras Baranauskas (Lit) Agritubel, at 06:49

42. Andreas Klier (G) T-Mobile, at 06:49

43. Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) CSC, at 06:49

44. Servais Knaven (Nl) Quick Step-Innergetic, at 06:49

45. Alessandro Cortinovis (I) Milram, at 06:49

46. MÃœller Martin (Swi) Milram, at 06:49

47. Nazon Jean-Patrick (F) Ag2r Prevoyance, at 06:49

48. Jimmy Engoulvent (F) Credit Agricole, at 06:49

49. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Cofidis, at 06:49

50. Imanol Erviti (Sp) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, at 06:49

51. Vicente Garcia Acosta (Sp) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, at 06:49

52. Wilfried Cretskens (B) Quick Step-Innergetic, at 06:49

53. Coutouly Cédric (F) Agritubel, at 06:49

54. Wim Vansevenant (B) Davitamon-Lotto, at 06:49

55. Paolo Fornaciari (I) Lampre, at 06:49

56. Enrico Franzoi (I) Lampre, at 06:49

57. Nick Nuyens (B) Quick Step-Innergetic, at 06:49

58. Hinault Sébastien (F) Credit Agricole, at 06:49

59. Van Impe Kévin (B) Quick Step-Innergetic, at 06:49

60. Marc De Maar (Nl) Rabobank, at 07:24

61. Gert Steegmans (B) Davitamon-Lotto, at 09:32

62. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Credit Agricole, at 10:53

63. Jan Boven (Nl) Rabobank, at 11:18

64. Tomas Vaitkus (Lit) Ag2r Prevoyance, at 13:13

65. Sebastian Langeveld (Nl) SKS, at 15:58

66. Matthew Wilson (Aus) UNI, at 15:58

67. Vicente Reynes (Sp) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, at 16:44

68. David Kopp (G) Gerolsteiner, at 19:07

69. Robert Hunter (RSA) Phonak, at 19:20

70. Gustav Larsson (Swe) Francaise des Jeux, at 19:20

71. PÃœtsep Erki (Est) Ag2r Prevoyance, at 19:20

72. Yuri Metlushenko (Ukr) Team L.P.R., at 19:20

73. Heinrich Haussler (G) Gerolsteiner, at 19:20

74. Matthew White (Aus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling, at 19:20

75. William Bonnet (F) Credit Agricole, at 19:20

76. Luciano Pagliarini (BRA) Saunier Duval, at 19:20

77. Koen De Kort (Nl) Liberty Seguros, at 19:20

78. Peter Wrolich (A) Gerolsteiner, at 19:20

79. Aaron Kemps (Aus) Liberty Seguros, at 19:20

80. Koldo Fernandez (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 19:20

81. Piet Rooijakkers (Nl) SKS, at 19:20

82. Duclos-Lassalle Hervé (F) Cofidis, at 19:20

83. Sjef De Wilde (B) Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, at 19:20

84. Christophe Agnolutto (F) Agritubel, at 19:20

85. Florent Brard (F) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, at 19:20

86. Ludovic Auger (F) Francaise des Jeux, at 19:20

87. Andoni Aranaga (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 19:20

88. Rony Martias (F) Bouygues Telecom, at 19:20

89. Mathieu Claude (F) Bouygues Telecom, at 19:20

90. Maarten Tjallingii (Nl) SKS, at 19:20

91. Markel Irizar (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 19:20

92. Kevin Neyrinck (B) Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, at 19:20

93. Mauro Da Dalto (I) Liquigas-Bianchi, at 19:20

94. Berges Stéphane (F) Agritubel, at 19:20

95. Franck Renier (F) Bouygues Telecom, at 19:20

96. Tristan Valentin (F) Cofidis, at 19:20

97. Bas Giling (Nl) T-Mobile, at 19:20

98. Laurent Mangel (F) Ag2r Prevoyance, at 19:20

99. Paul Martens (G) SKS, at 19:20

100. Korff André (G) T-Mobile, at 19:20

101. Gilles Canouet (F) Agritubel, at 19:20

102. Joseba Zubeldia (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 19:32

103. Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ukr) Team L.P.R., at 19:32

104. Dimitri Konyshev (Rus) Team L.P.R., at 19:36

105. Rik Reinerink (Nl) SKS, at 19:38

106. Jurgen Van Loocke (B) Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, at 19:38

107. Daniele Righi (I) Lampre, at 19:38

108. Stefano Zanini (I) Liquigas-Bianchi, at 19:38

109. Pronk Matthé (Nl) UNI, at 30:56

110. Angel Gomez (Sp) Saunier Duval, at 30:56

111. Erwin Thijs (B) UNI, at 34:34

112. Clerc Aurélien (Swi) Phonak, at 34:34

Did Not Finish

Peter Van Petegem (B) Davitamon-Lotto

Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling

Leif Hoste (B) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling

Van Hummel Kenny Robert (Nl) SKS

Marco Righetto (I) Liquigas-Bianchi

Olivier Lenaïc (F) Agritubel

Martin Pedersen (Dk) CSC

Iker Flores (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi

John Gadret (F) Ag2r Prevoyance

Renaud Dion (F) Ag2r Prevoyance

Carlos Zarate (Sp) Saunier Duval

Francisco Ventoso (Sp) Saunier Duval

Sebastian Siedler (G) Milram

Geoffroy Lequatre (F) Cofidis

Thierry Marichal (B) Cofidis

Aaron Olsen (USA) Saunier Duval

Peter Mazur (Pol) Saunier Duval

Charles Dionne (CAN) Saunier Duval

Yohann Gene (F) Bouygues Telecom

Minard Sébastien (F) Cofidis

Chavanel Sébastien (F) Bouygues Telecom

Unai Uribarri (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi

Iban Mayoz (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi

David Herrero (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi

Alberto Ongarato (I) Milram

Alexandre Usov (Blr) Ag2r Prevoyance

Masahiro Shinagawa (JPN) SKS

Michele Maccanti (I) Team L.P.R.

Mattia Gavazzi (I) Team L.P.R.

Giairo Ermeti (I) Team L.P.R.

Michael Gene Michael (Aus) Team L.P.R.

Johan Verstrepen (B) Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

Paul Jean Paul (B) Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

Filip Meirhaeghe (B) Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

Mathieu Criquielion (B) Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

Andy Cappelle (B) Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

Luis Pasamontes (Sp) UNI

David Boucher (F) UNI

Benoit Sinner (F) Agritubel

Nicola Loda (I) Liquigas-Bianchi

Francesco Failli (I) Liquigas-Bianchi

Daniele Colli (I) Liquigas-Bianchi

Christophe Riblon (F) Ag2r Prevoyance

Simone Cadamuro (I) Milram

Stephan Schreck (G) T-Mobile

Matteo Bono (I) Lampre

Tom Steels (B) Davitamon-Lotto

Gregory Rast (Swi) Phonak

Uros Murn (SLO) Phonak

Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) Phonak

Fabrizio Guidi (I) Phonak

Bert Grabsch (G) Phonak

Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC

MÃœller Christian (G) CSC

Michael Rich (G) Gerolsteiner

Sebastian Lang (G) Gerolsteiner

Sven Krauss (G) Gerolsteiner

Thomas Fothen (G) Gerolsteiner

Joost Posthuma (Nl) Rabobank

Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Sp) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling

Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling

Stijn Devolder (B) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling

Claudio Corioni (I) Lampre

David Loosli (Swi) Lampre

Carlos Abellan (Sp) Liberty Seguros

Bram Schmitz (Nl) T-Mobile

Andre Greipel (G) T-Mobile

Francis Mourey (F) Francaise des Jeux

Lilian Jegou (F) Francaise des Jeux

Christophe Detilloux (B) Francaise des Jeux

Aleixei Markov (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears

Julia Cegarra José Cayetano (Sp) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears

Eric Berthou (F) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears

Yannick Talabardon (F) Credit Agricole

Mark Renshaw (Aus) Credit Agricole

Cyril Lemoine (F) Credit Agricole

Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole

Ivan Santos (Sp) Liberty Seguros

Eladio Sanchez (Sp) Liberty Seguros

Joaquin Jose Joaquin (Sp) Liberty Seguros

Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros

Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Liberty Seguros

George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling