By Andrew Hood
Magnus Backstedt (Alessio) was as surprised as anyone after realizing a childhood dream by winning the 102nd edition of Paris-Roubaix in a sprint finish on Sunday.
The big Swede, 6-foot-3 and just under 200 pounds, outsprinted Tristan Hoffman (CSC) and Roger Hammond (MrBookmaker.com) to win the grueling 261km “Hell of the North.”
“I just don’t know how the hell it happened,” said Backstedt, whose face showed a mix of emotions as he recalled the final kilometers of the nearly seven-hour race. “I just tried to stay at the front the whole day, stay out of trouble and away from the wind. Then with a few of the cobbled sections to go all of a sudden we’re five guys left, and I thought, ‘Hang on, this is a chance of a lifetime here.’ “
2. Tristan Hoffman (Nl), CSC
3. Roger Hammond (GB), MrBookmaker
4. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Fassa Bortolo, all st
5. Johan Museeuw (B), Quick Step, at 0:17
6. Peter Van Petegem (B), Lotto, s.t.
7. Leon Van Bon (Nl), Lotto, at 0:29
8. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal
9. Tom Boonen (B), Quick Step-Davitamon
10. Frank Hoj (Dk), CSC, all st
Click forfull results
“As soon as I crossed the line, I had tears in my eyes,” Backstedt added. “I’ve always dreamt about Paris-Roubaix. I’ve watched it on television since about 1987, ever since I’ve been riding a bike.”
Belgium’s powerhouse teams, Quick Step and Lotto-Domo, each rode superb races, putting several riders into the decisive breakaway that split coming through the Arenberg Forest, but ill-timed flats took out last year’s winner, Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo), and retiring superstar Johan Museeuw (Quick Step), racing in his last Paris-Roubaix.
Van Petegem flatted with about 17km remaining, while the Lion of Flanders suffered even worse luck, puncturing with just 6km to go while driving the winning breakaway toward Roubaix.
Despite finding himself without teammates after the infamous Arenberg cobbles, U.S. Postal’s George Hincapie rode an aggressive race, and made it into a key breakaway with less than 20km to go, but wound up having to settle for eighth place.
Early break leads to Arenberg
Cool temperatures and dry roads welcomed the 184 riders for the most notable of the spring classics. An early break saw a group of five riders – Michael Albasini (Phonak), Salvatore Commesso (Saeco), Giosue Bonomi (Saeco), Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) and Guillaume Auger (RAGT) – build a lead of nearly five minutes as they approached the first of 26 sections of cobbles at Troisvilles.
Battling pavé and head winds, however, took its toll, and the group came apart just as a pair of pursuers – Geert Van Bondt (Landbouwkrediet) and Bert Hiemstra (Chocolade Jacques) – latched on. Commesso, sensing an opportunity, attacked again, and this time only Van Bondt stayed with him.
With 115km to go, the two were nursing a 40-second lead as the peloton hit the difficult 1.7km stretch of cobbles at Haspres. Robert Bartko (Rabobank) fell heavily and took out several others. Despite the mayhem behind them, Commesso and Van Bondt were caught.
Rolf Aldag (T-Mobile) then slipped off the front going into the Arenberg Forest. Despite the relatively mild conditions, the cobbles were still slick in spots, where fans 10-deep lined the treacherous section.
“Guys were going down left and right in the forest,” said Tony Cruz, one of three Postal riders to crash in the forest. “Even if you had good position, it didn’t take much to crash and kill yourself.”
Postal’s biggest casualty of the mishap was Dutchman Max Van Heeswijk, apart from Hincapie the team’s best hope for a strong finish.
Meanwhile, Aldag lost his advantage when he slipped and nearly came to a stop. Behind him, a motorcycle crashed, causing havoc in the bunch. In the confusion that ensued, a strong lead group emerged, with several riders sensing that this was the key moment of the race.
This group included Postal’s Hincapie; Ag2r’s Jaan Kirsipuu; Lotto’s Van Petegem, Lief Hoste, Leon Van Bon, Gert Steegmans and Hans De Clercq; Fassa Bortolo’s Cancellara and Juan Antonio Flecha; Lorenzo Bernucci (Landbouwkrediet); Alessio’s Fabio Baldato and Backstedt; Hammond (MrBookmaker); Romans Vainsteins (Lampre); CSC’s Frank Hoj, Michele Bartoli, Vladimir Gusev and Lars Michaelsen; and Quick Step riders Johan Museeuw, Stefano Zanini, Wilfried Cretskens and Tom Boonen. There, too, were Emanuel Mengin and Frederic Guesdon from FDJeux.com); Daniele Nardello, Stefan Wesemann and Ivanov, Schaffrath from T-Mobile; Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole); and Rabobank’s Robert Hunter. A chase group that included last year’s runner-up, Dario Pieri (Saeco), was caught out of position.
As for Hincapie, while he felt lucky to be with the lead group, it was frustrating to be the lone Postie in the bunch.
“Yeah, that made it difficult, definitely,” Hincapie said. “Without any teammates up there, it was hard to follow the attacks.”
And attacks there were. Boonen, intending to cause some pain, drove hard over the Hornaing section (3700 meters, with a rating of 3). Then Kirsipuu took a shot going into the pavé at Orchies (1700m, rated 3) and opened up a quick gap. He held an advantage all the way through the Auchy lez Orchies (2600m, rated 3), when the Lion of Flanders accelerated. The acceleration by the three-time winner put a shock wave through the lead bunch, and was neutralized.
Next to try was Frank Hoj (CSC) and Leon Van Bon (Lotto-Domo). Hoj wasn’t getting much help from Van Bon,and the pair held a 22-second lead through the Pont Thibaut (1400m, rated 3) with Quick Step working to reel in the break with about 30km to go.
Hincapie’s chance came at the short cobbled sections at Cysoing (100m, rated 4) and Bourghelles (400m, rated 3). Lotto’s Hoste followed a move by Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com) when a Flanders flag fell and wrapped around his rear wheel, forcing him into a skid on the pavé. Hincapie, Boonen and Flecha sped away and quickly opened up a gap, leaving T-Mobile, CSC and Lotto-Domo scrambling to chase with just under 25km to go.
“I thought I made what was a good move with Boonen and Flecha,” Hincapie said. And indeed, behind him, as the chase was picking up, Van Petegem punctured, improving the break’s chances markedly. Things were looking up for Hincapie.
With Hoste in the group, the quartet had a 20-second gap, but hard work behind quickly sent the difference spiraling downward. Museeuw roared onto the Carrefour del Arbre section (2100m, rated 5) and quickly reeled in the Hincapie group. Backstedt was quick on the Lion of Flanders’s wheel and the decisive break took shape. With Van Petegem still chasing off the back, Museeuw took the race into his own hands.
Museeuw took over coming across the difficult cobbles at the Carrefour del Arbre with just 17km to go. His acceleration splintered the field.
Backstedt, Cancellara, Hammond and Hoffman were about to catch the wheel of their careers.
Coming onto the second section of the pavé sector at Gruson (1100m rated 2), Museeuw accelerated again, this time eliminating Tour of Flanders winner Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile) and gapping the chase group, now led by Hincapie.
With 13km to go, Museeuw seemed to have the race under control. Van Petegem chased back onto the Hincapie group, but Museeuw and Co. were opening up a 20-second lead.
And then fate delivered a cruel twist for the soon-to-be-retired legend. With just 6km to go, Museeuw suffered a rear puncture. He got a pretty clean wheel change from the neutral support crew, but it was too late. Backstedt and Hammond powered the quartet into the velodrome and the subsequent sprint for victory.
“When Museeuw punctured, I thought to myself, ‘We’ve just got to hammer as hard as we can and settle it in the velodrome,'” said Backstedt.
As for Museeuw, who was appearing in his last Paris-Roubaix ahead of his retirement at the GP de L’Escaut on Wednesday, the Lion of Flanders eventually finished fifth ahead of his main rival, Belgian Lotto rider Van Petegem, the winner last year. The two men came into the velodrome together, finishing fourth and fifth, and congratulated each other as they crossed the line. Punctures had taken out perhaps the two strongest riders in the race.
“I felt very strong today, and just when I was beginning to feel I could have won I punctured,” said Museeuw. “But I’m very proud. I’ve won the Tour of Flanders three times and Paris-Roubaix three times – and it could have been four. For that I’m pretty sad, but that’s life.”
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Results – Paris – Roubaix – April 11, 2004
1. Magnus Backstedt (SWE), Alessio-Bianchi, 6:40.26
2. Tristan Hoffman (Nl), CSC, at 00:00
3. Roger Hammond (GB), MrBookmaker.com, at 00:00
4. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Fassa Bortolo, at 00:00
5. Johan Museeuw (B), Quick Step-Davitamon, at 00:17
6. Peter Van Petegem (B), Lotto-Domo, at 00:17
7. Leon Van Bon (Nl), Lotto-Domo, at 00:29
8. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, at 00:29
9. Tom Boonen (B), Quick Step-Davitamon, at 00:29
10. Frank Hoj (Dk), CSC, at 00:29
11. Romans Vainsteins (Lat), Lampre, at 00:29
12. Leif Hoste (B), Lotto-Domo, at 00:29
13. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sp), Fassa Bortolo, at 00:29
14. Ludo Dierckxsens (B), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, at 00:29
15. Daniele Nardello (I), T-Mobile, at 00:36
16. Steffen Wesemann (G), T-Mobile, at 00:58
17. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Crédit Agricole, at 02:52
18. Guesdon Frédéric (F), FDJeux.com, at 02:52
19. Serguei Ivanov (Rus), T-Mobile, at 02:52
20. Vladimir Gusev (Rus), CSC, at 02:52
21. Michele Bartoli (I), CSC, at 02:56
22. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est), Ag2R Prevoyance, at 03:50
23. Lars Michaelsen (Dk), CSC, at 03:50
24. Fabio Baldato (I), Alessio-Bianchi, at 03:50
25. Christophe Mengin (F), FDJeux.com, at 03:50
26. Rolf Aldag (G), T-Mobile, at 03:54
27. Jan Schaffrath (G), T-Mobile, at 03:54
28. Lorenzo Bernucci (I), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, at 03:54
29. Kevin Hulsmans (B), Quick Step-Davitamon, at 06:36
30. Wilfried Cretskens (B), Quick Step-Davitamon, at 07:59
31. Robert Hunter (RSA), Rabobank, at 07:59
32. Thierry Marichal (B), Lotto-Domo, at 12:18
33. Servais Knaven (Nl), Quick Step-Davitamon, at 12:19
34. Aart Vierhouten (Nl), Lotto-Domo, at 12:19
35. Bernhard Eisel (A), FDJeux.com, at 13:19
36. Salvatore Commesso (I), Saeco, at 13:19
37. Stefano Casagranda (I), Saeco, at 13:19
38. Gianluca Bortolami (I), Lampre, at 13:19
39. Eric Baumann (G), T-Mobile, at 13:19
40. Murilo Fischer (BRA), Domina Vacanze, at 13:19
41. Steven De Jongh (Nl), Rabobank, at 13:19
42. Pedro Horrillo (Sp), Quick Step-Davitamon, at 13:19
43. Andrea Tafi (I), Alessio-Bianchi, at 13:19
44. Scott Sunderland (Aus), Alessio-Bianchi, at 13:19
45. Bekim Christensen (Dk), CSC, at 13:19
46. Ludewig Jörg (G), Saeco, at 13:19
47. Thomas Eriksen (Dk), CSC, at 13:19
48. Andy Flickinger (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, at 13:19
49. Antonio Cruz (USA), U.S. Postal Service, at 13:19
50. Alessandro Cortinovis (I), Lampre, at 13:19
51. Martin Elmiger (Swi), Phonak, at 13:19
52. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun), Quick Step-Davitamon, at 13:19
53. Bert Hiemstra (Nl), Chocolade Jacques, at 13:19
54. Nicolas Portal (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, at 13:19
55. Nicola Gavazzi (I), Saeco, at 13:19
56. Hinault Sébastien (F), Crédit Agricole, at 13:19
57. Rast Grégory (Swi), Phonak, at 13:19
58. Maarten Den Bakker (Nl), Rabobank, at 13:19
59. Kristof Trouve (B), MrBookmaker.com, at 13:19
60. Paolo Fornaciari (I), Saeco, at 13:19
61. Chris Peers (B), Chocolade Jacques, at 13:19
62. Allan Johansen (Dk), BGL, at 13:19
63. Bart Voskamp (Nl), Chocolade Jacques, at 13:19
64. Joachim Benoît (Lux), U.S. Postal Service, at 13:19
65. Stephan Schreck (G), T-Mobile, at 13:19
66. Max Van Heeswijk (Nl), U.S. Postal Service, at 13:19
67. Wim Vansevenant (B), Lotto-Domo, at 13:32
68. Steffen Radochla (G), Illes Balears-Banesto, at 13:32
69. Stefano Zanini (I), Quick Step-Davitamon, at 13:33
70. Dario Pieri (I), Saeco, at 13:33
71. Erwin Thijs (B), MrBookmaker.com, at 14:58
72. Michael Rich (G), Gerolsteiner, at 14:58
73. Roy Sentjens (Nl), Rabobank, at 14:58
74. Michel Van Haecke (B), MrBookmaker.com, at 14:58
75. Alexandre Bazhenov (Rus), Domina Vacanze, at 14:58
76. Jacky Durand (F), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, at 14:58
77. Thomas Voeckler (F), Brioches La Boulangere, at 20:37
78. Unai Yus (Sp), Brioches La Boulangere, at 20:37
79. Jeremy Hunt (GB), MrBookmaker.com, at 28:07
80. Alexandre Usov (Blr), Phonak, at 31:03
81. Remco Van Der Ven (Nl), BGL, at 31:09
82. Andy Cappelle (B), Chocolade Jacques, at 31:09
83. Berges Stéphane (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, at 31:09
84. Christophe Laurent (F), R.A.G.T. Semences-MG Rover, at 31:09
85. Renaud Dion (F), R.A.G.T. Semences-MG Rover, at 31:09
86. Johan Verstrepen (B), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, at 31:09
87. David Derepas (F), FDJeux.com, at 31:09
88. Nazon Jean-Patrick (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, at 31:09
89. Francesco Chicchi (I), Fassa Bortolo, at 31:09
90. Lars Ytting Bak (Dk), BGL, at 31:09
91. Stijn Devolder (B), U.S. Postal Service, at 35:10
92. Bobbie Traksel (Nl), Rabobank, at 43:09
93. Roy Jérémy (F), FDJeux.com, 51:08
World Cup Standings – After Three Rounds
1. Steffen Wesemann (G), T-Mobile, 110 Pts.
2. Oscar Freire (Sp), Rabobank, 103 Pts.
3. Magnus Backstedt (SWE), Alessio-Bianchi, 100 Pts.
4. Leif Hoste (B), Lotto-Domo, 84 Pts.
5. Tristan Hoffman (Nl), TEA, 70 Pts.
6. Erik Zabel (G), T-Mobile, 70 Pts.
7. Leon Van Bon (Nl), Lotto-Domo, 68 Pts.
8. Peter Van Petegem (B), Lotto-Domo, 58 Pts.
9. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal , 53 Pts.
10. Erik Dekker (Nl), Rabobank, 51 Pts.
11. Roger Hammond (GB), MR., 50 Pts.
12. Dave Bruylandts (B), Chocolade Jacques, 50 Pts.
13. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Cofidis, 50 Pts.
14. Johan Museeuw (B), QUI, 47 Pts.
15. Paolo Bettini (I), QUI, 44 Pts.
16. Romans Vainsteins (Lat), Lampre, 43 Pts.
17. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Fassa Bortolo, 40 Pts.
18. Frank Hoj (Dk), TEA, 40 Pts.
19. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo, 40 Pts.
20. Andreas Klier (G), T-Mobile, 37 Pts.
21. Max Van Heeswijk (Nl), US , 36 Pts.
22. Igor Astarloa (Sp), Cofidis, 32 Pts.
23. Rolf Aldag (G), T-Mobile, 28 Pts.
24. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sp), Fassa Bortolo, 27 Pts.
25. Tom Boonen (B), QUI, 21 Pts.
26. Martin P. Miguel Angel (Sp), SAU, 20 Pts.
27. Serguei Ivanov (Rus), T-Mobile, 16 Pts.
28. Thierry Marichal (B), Lotto-Domo, 15 Pts.
29. Mirko Celestino (I), Saeco, 14 Pts.
30. Laurent Brochard (F), AG2, 13 Pts.
31. Ludo Dierckxsens (B), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 12 Pts.
32. Fabio Baldato (I), Alessio-Bianchi, 12 Pts.
33. Ludewig Jörg (G), Saeco, 12 Pts.
34. Philippe Gilbert (B), FDJeux.com, 12 Pts.
35. Daniele Nardello (I), T-Mobile, 11 Pts.
36. Josu Silloniz (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 11 Pts.
37. Thor Hushovd (Nor), CRE, 9 Pts.
38. Guido Trentin (I), Cofidis, 9 Pts.
39. Guesdon Frédéric (F), FDJeux.com, 8 Pts.
40. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est), AG2, 8 Pts.
41. Xavier Florencio (Sp), REL, 8 Pts.
42. Marcus Zberg (Swi), GER, 8 Pts.
43. Roberto Petito (I), Fassa Bortolo, 7 Pts.
44. Cristian Moreni (I), Alessio-Bianchi, 7 Pts.
45. Vladimir Gusev (Rus), TEA, 6 Pts.
46. Michael Boogerd (Nl), Rabobank, 6 Pts.
47. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 6 Pts.
48. Michele Bartoli (I), TEA, 5 Pts.
49. Stijn Devolder (B), US , 5 Pts.
50. Michele Gobbi (I), DE , 4 Pts.
51. Lars Michaelsen (Dk), TEA, 3 Pts.
52. Inigo Landaluze (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 3 Pts.
53. Danilo Hondo (G), GER, 2 Pts.
54. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 2 Pts.
55. Christophe Mengin (F), FDJeux.com, 1 Pts.
56. Allan Davis (Aus), LIB, 1 Pts.