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Boonen blitzes Paris-Roubaix

By Andrew Hood

Boonen makes it three. This time he came in all by himself.

Boonen makes it three. This time he came in all by himself.

Photo: Agence France Presse

Defending champion Tom Boonen soloed to victory in a dusty, crash-filled Paris-Roubaix on Sunday as Quick Step, Cervélo TestTeam and Silence-Lotto slugged it out toe to toe over the cobblestone trophy awarded to the victor in the Hell of the North.??

“The race was very hard,” said the big Belgian after collecting his third win here, following triumphs in 2005 and 2008. Praising runner-up Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), he added: “This victory for me is the most beautiful because I beat Pozzato, who is a great champion.”

Cozza covers the move??

The 107th Paris-Roubaix started at exactly 11:05 a.m. as 187 riders from 24 teams rolled out of Compiègne, only to be slowed down by angry workers protesting layoffs at a local Continental tire factory.?

It was cool, but muggy following overnight showers, with brisk northwesterly winds. The cobbles were damp, with some deep mud puddles on the shoulders. The cobbles were perhaps a little “grippier” because they weren’t as dusty and slick as they would be if it were completely dry.?

Paris-Roubaix, 2009

1. Tom Boonen (B), Quick Step, 259km in 6:15:53, (41.343kph)
2. Filippo Pozzato (I), Katusha, at 0:47
3. Thor Hushovd (N), Cervelo Test, at 1:17
4. Leif Hoste (B), Silence-Lotto, at 1:17
5. Johan Van Summeren (B), Silence-Lotto, at 1:22



Top Winners in 107 editions

Four wins
Roger De Vlaeminck (B): 1972, 1974, 1975, 1977

Three wins
Octave Lapize (F): 1909, 1910, 1911
Gaston Rebry (B): 1931, 1934, 1935
Rik Van Looy (B): 1961,1962, 1965
Eddy Merckx (B): 1968,1970, 1973
Francesco Moser (I): 1978, 1979, 1980
Johan Museeuw (B): 1996, 2000, 2002
Tom Boonen (B): 2005, 2008, 2009

“Race conditions were really ideal. The cobbles weren’t slick or slippery, you could just float right over them,” said Tony Cruz (BMC), who eventually pulled out in his sixth start at Roubaix. “I was feeling great today, but I had a mechanical and then I lost contact with the first group. After that, it’s almost impossible to come back.”

A break went just 42km into the 259km race when 11 men escaped just after the village of Ham. It was a good break because 10 teams were represented, including those of all the pre-race favorites except Katusha. In the move were Kasper Klostergård (Saxo Bank), Angelo Furlan (Lampre), Steven Cozza (Garmin-Slipstream), Greg Henderson (Columbia-Highroad), Maarten Wynants (Quick Step), Yoann Offredo and Wesley Sulzberger (Française des Jeux), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Servais Knaven (Milram), Steve Chainel (Bbox-Bouygues Telecom), and Andreas Klier (Cervélo TestTeam).?

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Garmin's Steven Cozza makes the early escape.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Garmin’s Steven Cozza makes the early escape.

Photo: Graham Watson

The escapees took a lead of three minutes into the first section of cobblestones at Troisvilles, 98km into the race, and they slowly expanded that to four minutes over the following 20km. By the time they reached the infamous Arenberg Forest sector, where howling, flag-waving spectators overran the barriers at several points, the gap was down to two minutes.

Arenberg opens crash derby

The break got an assist from a huge crash on the cruel cobbles of the Arenberg, which slashed the list of hopefuls to an elite cadre of classics riders. Quick Step had Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel and Stijn Devolder; Saxo Bank was represented by 2006 Roubaix champ Fabian Cancellara, Matti Breschel and Kurt-Asle Arvesen. George Hincapie (Columbia-Highroad) was there, as were Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano), Frédéric Guesdon (Française des Jeux) and Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto).

Among those caught out in the Arenberg were Garmin-Slipstream’s Martijn Maaskant and Manual Quinziato (Liquigas), who punctured just short of exiting safely from the cobbles; Sébastien Hinault (Ag2r) fell victim to the crash and was done for the day.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Slipstream’s Martijn Maaskant had trouble in the Arenberg.

Photo: Graham Watson

“I crashed once and punctured three times,” Maaskant told VeloNews. “My legs felt great, I just didn’t have the luck today. That’s the way Roubaix is.”

Devolder flatted further down the road and found himself chasing back through the team cars. Hincapie was next to fall off the pace, courtesy of a mechanical on sector 15 of the pavé. The American hope had a very slow rear wheel change, but unlike Devolder, he had two teammates to pace him back on.

With 71km to race, the early leaders were still clear and riding into a headwind, clinging to a lead of just over a minute. Milram’s Knaven — the 2001 Paris-Roubaix champion, riding here for the 15th time — took a dig out of the break, but was quickly neutralized.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Angelo Furlan (Lampre) in the early break.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Angelo Furlan (Lampre) in the early break.

Photo: Graham Watson

Behind, Saxo Bank was driving the chase, gassing it through the feed zone and splitting the peloton in two. Both Hincapie and Quinziato had caught back on as the chase hit section 13 of the cobbles – and then Boonen laid down a powerful effort, dogged by Quinziato and Flecha.

Hincapie distanced

Boonen’s effort split the bunch once again, and only Cancellara, Flecha, Pozzato, Quinziato, Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto) and Thor Hushovd (Cervélo) stayed with him. There was still 61km to race when Hincapie and the others were distanced, and it wasn’t clear whether it was due to Boonen’s attack or a motorbike crash that left 16 spectators injured, three of them seriously, among them a 4-year-old child.

Boonen launched again, just before sector 12 of the pavé, but it was nothing doing. Hushovd led the way onto the cobbles, helping to set up a break by teammate Heinrich Haussler, Klostergård and Flecha, dogged by Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step) and Quinziato, who were offering no help.

“This race is all about surviving, surviving, surviving,” Boonen said. “I didn’t think I had great legs today, but I felt better as the race developed. I know I didn’t feel great, but maybe the others felt worse.”

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara on the charge; he faded after a hard day's work.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara on the charge; he faded after a hard day’s work.

Photo: Graham Watson

Some 20 seconds behind, a group of two dozen that included Cancellara — but not Hincapie — was in hot pursuit with 53km to race. Up front, Boonen went again and chased down the leaders, bringing Pozzato and Hushovd along for the ride. A half-dozen other riders followed, and then Quick Step and Cervélo took turns testing each other, with Chavanel and Cancellara trading attacks.

The wind really began to whip up as Cervélo set the pace on sector 10, with 3km of pavé. Meanwhile, Hincapie had rejoined the pursuit and was leading the chase a minute behind.?? That was the end of the dream for Hincapie, who was expecting big things this year on the cobblestones after enjoying a strong early season.

“It’s really unfortunate, it was a similar situation to last year,” Hincapie told VeloNews. “When I got back, they started attacking.”

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Columbia's George Hincapie endured yet another disappointing Hell of the North.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Columbia’s George Hincapie endured yet another disappointing Hell of the North.

Photo: Graham Watson

Boonen comes to life

Then Boonen punched it again, taking Flecha, Hoste, Van Summeren, Pozzato and Hushovd with him. Quinziato was among those left behind with 45km to go.

Breschel and Cancellara were driving the chase as the Silence-Lotto twosome of?Hoste and Van Summeren pushed the break. The main chase was some 25 seconds in arrears with the Hincapie group a further 30 seconds behind.

Saxo Bank at one point had six riders in the thick of the action, but settled on a team-best — 10th with Matti Breschel.

“I had mixed feelings when I crossed the line. I’m glad to be able to finish in the top 10, but I wanted to be able to follow with the best. I just didn’t have the legs today,” Breschel told VeloNews. “We should have had another rider up front, there’s no excuse. They were just better than us today.”

With the selection clearly made, everyone settled down to business, and the gap gradually inched up, with the Hincapie group slipping to two minutes and the main chase down by 40 seconds. The American would lose even more ground over the remaining kilometers, crossing 44th at 6:32 in a group of 30 riders that sprinted for 19th place.

Boonen had broken a spoke in the midst of the attacks, and finally decided to stop with 29km to go to get a quick bike change; he chased straight back on. Behind, Saxo Bank continued to drive the chase, which was a minute down and losing ground.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Boonen launching yet another in what seemed like an endless barrage of attacks.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Boonen launching yet another in what seemed like an endless barrage of attacks.

Photo: Graham Watson

Flecha led the way onto sector 6, powering through the now dusty cobblestones, and with 25km left to race it appeared that Hushovd might be the weakest of the leaders. Behind them, the Saxo Bank chase had run out of steam, slipping to nearly two minutes down.

The crowds were thick and boisterous alongside sector 5 of pavé as Van Summeren drove the break along the cobbles, working tirelessly for Hoste.

Crash on the Arbre

The leading six seemed unsure what to do — when a pair of crashes completely changed the complexion of the race.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) fell victim to a most untimely crash.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) fell victim to a most untimely crash.

Photo: Graham Watson

Hushovd attacked going onto the decisive Carrefour de l’Arbre sector, with Boonen hot on his wheel.??In his wake, Flecha came in too hot into a tight lefthander. His front wheel slipped out from underneath him and he fell to the cobbles, sending Van Summeren somersaulting over him.

Hoste skidded to a stop, and suddenly it was a whole new race, with Hushovd and Boonen off the front and Pozzato caught in no man’s land.

“He fell for nothing, and he almost caused disaster,” said Pozzato about Flecha. “But before that he was riding badly anyway. He wasn’t taking any share of the relays in the group.

“I was a little unlucky that Flecha went right in front of me when he crashed. I lost 10 to 15 meters and I could never recover them. But Boonen was really strong.”

Boonen moved to the front ahead of another lefthander when Hushovd misjudged it through the crowd, hit a barrier and went down hard. It was a crushing blow for the Norwegian, who was on great form after crashing in the sprint for third place in last weekend’s Tour of Flanders.

“I attacked on the Arbre and I didn’t even know Tom was on my wheel. Without this stupid crash, I would have arrived with him to the velodrome and I think I would have the sprint,” Hushovd said.

“If I lose a sprint it’s because someone is stronger than me. You never know, but to lose the chance because of this stupid crash is hard. It will be hard to forget.”

Caught behind the spill, Pozzato roared after Boonen, despite the boos of a clearly partisan crowd.?? Behind him, Hushovd linked up with Hoste and Van Summeren to chase frantically. With 13km to race, the Quick Step captain had 10 seconds on Pozzato, while Chavanel and Haussler had leapt from the remnants of the main field and were trying to get back in the hunt.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) chases Boonen after getting caught up behind a crash.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) chases Boonen after getting caught up behind a crash.

Photo: Graham Watson

“I didn’t realize the crashes were behind me,” Boonen said. “I heard the differences over the radio. I knew that this was my chance to win the race.”

Boonen was punching the pedals, his shoulders rocking, as he clung to a narrow lead over Pozzato. The Katusha rider had not surrendered, though, and with 9km remaining he was still just 15 seconds behind.

“I got spat on and beer was thrown at me. It’s not very nice, but what can you do about a few imbeciles?” said Pozzato, who thankfully had kinder words for Boonen.

The Quick Step leader hit the 1400-meter-long sector 2 of pavé with 16 seconds over his pursuer, using every inch of road, switching from gutter to gutter to find the smoothest ride. Behind, Hushovd and Hoste separated themselves from the chase in hopes of reeling in Pozzato and claiming the lesser steps on the podium in Roubaix.

Five kilometers from the line Boonen held 19 seconds on Pozzato; but the Italian was looking more tired than the Belgian. Just one sector of pavé remained — the final stretch leading to the Roubaix velodrome.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Boonen rides solo into the Roubaix velodrome.

2009 Paris-Roubaix: Boonen rides solo into the Roubaix velodrome.

Photo: Graham Watson

Hoste and Hushovd closed in on the fading Pozzato as Boonen hit the final section of cobbles, bound for the velodrome and the hat trick – his third victory in the Hell of the North in five years.

“This was the hardest of my three to win,” Boonen said. “I had a crash early and it was very hard to come back, and then I rode with a broken wheel for 30km before I decided to change it. To come across the line was like a dream come true. There’s no better way to win Roubaix.”

On the track, with the bell ringing, Boonen checked to see where his rivals?were.?? Waving his right fist in the air, he took one last, quick glance, then saluted the cheering crowd. Pozzato hung on for second, 47 seconds down. Hushovd outsprinted the Silence-Lotto duo of Hoste and Van Summeren for third at 1:17.

Top 10
1. Tom Boonen (B), Quick Step, 259km in 6:15:53, (41.343kph)
2. Filippo Pozzato (I), Katusha, at 0:47
3. Thor Hushovd (N), Cervelo Test, at 1:17
4. Leif Hoste (B), Silence-Lotto, at 1:17
5. Johan Van Summeren (B), Silence-Lotto, at 1:22
6. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa), Rabobank, at 2:14
7. Heinrich Haussler (Ger), Cervelo Test, at 3:13
8. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Quick Step, at 3:15
9. Manuel Quinziato (I), Liquigas, at 5:00
10. Matti Breschel (Dk), Saxo Bank, at 5:29

Photo Gallery

Results

1. Tom Boonen (B), Quick Step, 259km in 6:15:53 (41.343kph)
2. Filippo Pozzato (I), Katusha, at 0:47
3. Thor Hushovd (N), Cervelo Test, at 1:17
4. Leif Hoste (B), Silence-Lotto, at 1:17
5. Johan Van Summeren (B), Silence-Lotto, at 1:22
6. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa), Rabobank, at 2:14
7. Heinrich Haussler (Ger), Cervelo Test, at 3:13
8. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Quick Step, at 3:15
9. Manuel Quinziato (I), Liquigas, at 5:00
10. Matti Breschel (Dk), Saxo Bank, at 5:29
11. Wouter Weylandt (B), Quick Step, at 5:29
12. Andreas Klier (Ger), Cervelo Test, at 5:29
13. Frédéric Guesdon (F), Française Des Jeux, at 5:29
14. Kévin Van Impe (B), Quick Step, at 6:15
15. Roger Hammond (GB), Cervelo Test, at 6:15
16. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (N), Saxo Bank, at 6:15
17. Niki Terpstra (Nl), Milram, at 6:15
18. Bert Scheirlinckx (B), Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, at 6:19
19. Jérémy Hunt (GB), Cervelo Test, at 6:32
20. Marcel Sieberg (Ger), Columbia-Highroad, at 6:32
21. Mathew Hayman (Aus), Rabobank, at 6:32
22. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr), Française Des Jeux, at 6:32
23. Angelo Furlan (I), Lampre-NGC, at 6:32
24. Damien Gaudin (F), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 6:32
25. Bradley Wiggins (GB), Garmin-Slipstream, at 6:32
26. Saïd Haddou (F), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 6:32
27. Maarten Wynants (B), Quick Step, at 6:32
28. Staf Scheirlinckx (B), Silence-Lotto, at 6:32
29. Sébastien Minard (F), Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne, at 6:32
30. Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe), Saxo Bank, at 6:32
31. Nicolas Jalabert (F), Agritubel, at 6:32
32. Matthew Goss (Aus), Saxo Bank, at 6:32
33. Grégory Rast (Swi), Astana, at , at 6:32
34. Filip Meirhaeghe (B), Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, at 6:32
35. Florent Brard (F), Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne, at 6:32
36. Servais Knaven (Nl), Milram, at 6:32
37. Nicolaï Trussov (Rus), Katusha, at 6:32
38. Greg Van Avermaet (B), Silence-Lotto, at 6:32
39. Joost Posthuma (Nl), Rabobank, at 6:32
40. Imanol Erviti (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, at 6:32
41. Björn Leukemans (B), Vacansoleil, at 6:32
42. Pieter Vanspeybrouck (B), Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator, at 6:32
43. Rony Martias (F), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 6:32
44. George Hincapie (USA), Columbia-Highroad, at 6:32
45. Lars Bak (Den), Saxo Bank, at 6:32
46. Gabriel Rasch (N), Cervelo Test, at 6:32
47. Bernhard Eisel (Aut), Columbia-Highroad, at 6:43
48. Kasper Klostergaard (Den), Saxo Bank, at 6:45
49. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Saxo Bank, at 6:48
50. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Astana, at 9:09
51. Gregory Henderson (NZl), Columbia-Highroad, at 11:11
52. Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr), Liquigas, at 11:11
53. Marco Bandiera (I), Lampre-NGC, at 11:11
54. Aleixei Markov (Rus), Katusha, at 11:11
55. Stijn Devolder (B), Quick Step, at 11:11
56. Tom Veelers (Nl), Skil-Shimano, at 12:12
57. Mauro Da Dalto (I), Lampre-NGC, at 12:12
58. Rui Costa (Por), Caisse d’Epargne, at 12:12
59. Matthieu Ladagnous (F), Française Des Jeux, at 12:12
60. Renaud Dion (F), AG2R La Mondiale, at 12:12
61. Wesley Sulzberger (Aus), Française Des Jeux, at 12:12
62. Edvald Boasson Hagen (N), Columbia-Highroad, at 12:12
63. Maarten Tjallingii (Nl), Rabobank, at 12:12
64. Steven Cozza (USA), Garmin-Slipstream, at 12:12
65. Marcus Burghardt (Ger), Columbia-Highroad, at 12:12
66. Arnaud Coyot (F), Caisse d’Epargne, at 12:12
67. Aitor Galdos (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 12:32
68. Alexandre Moos (Swi), BMC Racing, at 16:57
69. Aart Vierhouten (Nl), Vacansoleil, at 17:30
70. Björn Schröder (Ger), Milram, at 17:36
71. Pedro Horrillo (Spa), Rabobank, at 17:36
72. Lloyd Mondory (F), AG2R La Mondiale, at 17:36
73. Markus Eichler (Ger), Milram, at 17:36
74. Enrico Franzoi (I), Liquigas, at 17:36
75. Koen Barbe (B), Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, at 17:36
76. Christophe Laurent (F), Agritubel, at 17:36
77. Alexandre Blain (F), Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne, at 17:36
78. Stijn Neirynck (B), Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator, at 17:36
79. Cyril Lemoine (F), Skil-Shimano, at 17:36
80. Martin Velits (Svk), Milram, at 17:36
81. Emilien-Benoît Berges (F), Agritubel, at 17:36
82. Floris Goesinnen (Nl), Skil-Shimano, at 17:36
83. Markel Irizar (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 17:36
84. Anders Lund (Den), Saxo Bank, at 17:36
85. Yoann Offredo (F), Française Des Jeux, at 17:36
86. Bert De Backer (B), Skil-Shimano, at 17:36
87. Arnaud Labbe (F), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 17:36
88. Brent Bookwalter (USA), BMC Racing, at 17:36
89. Marcin Sapa (Pol), Lampre-NGC, at 17:36
90. Michaël Barry (Can), Columbia-Highroad, at 17:36
91. Kevin De Weert (B), Quick Step, at 17:36
92. Daniel Oss (I), Liquigas, at 17:36
93. Michael Schär (Swi), Astana, at 17:36
94. Sebastian Langeveld (Nl), Rabobank, at 17:46
95. Christopher Sutton (Aus), Garmin-Slipstream, at 17:46
96. Romain Villa (F), Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne, at 17:46
97. Daniele Righi (I), Lampre-NGC, at 17:46
98. Martijn Maaskant (Nl), Garmin-Slipstream, at 17:46
99. Michael Friedman (USA), Garmin-Slipstream, at 17:48
100. Marlon Perez Arango (Col), Caisse d’Epargne, at 19:51
101. Maciej Bodnar (Pol), Liquigas
102. Steve Chainel (F), BBox Bouygues Telecom
103. Simon Spilak (Slo), Lampre-NGC
104. Kevin Ista (B), Agritubel, at
105. Maarten Neyens (B), Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator