Sunday, April 13, 2008

Boonen wins Paris-Roubaix

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) out-kicked Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) to win his second Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.

The three — the same men that made the podium in 2006 — made their break from an elite group with 35km to race. Boonen shot away, followed by Cancellara and Ballan, and they would never be retrieved.

It was not until 53km from the finish that the big favorites really began to fight it out, when an acceleration by Silence-Lotto's Johann Van Summeren prompted an eight-man lead group to form, leaving Juan Antonio Flecha, Fabio Baldato and FDJ's Frederic Guesdon trailing.

The Belgian's effort eventually pushed the CSC team of Cancellara and Boonen's Quick tep outfit into some late tactical racing, but it also indirectly led to his team leader Leif Hoste using precious energy and missing the crucial three-man break.

Quick Step's Stijn Devolder, who won the Tour of Flanders last week with a long breakaway effort, had first tested his teammate Boonen's rivals by peeling off the front on of the toughest cobblestone sectors at Mons-en-Peleve with around 46km to race.

Boonen looking relaxed at the start

He managed to ride for only a few hundred meters on his own before CSC's Stuart O'Grady, the defending champion, got up out the saddle and began to give chase - more in a bid to protect Cancellara's chances than his own.

The Australian soon had the Belgian on a tight leash after catching him before the ninth last sector, allowing Cancellara, Boonen, Hoste, Ballan and Dutchman Martijn Maaskant to catch them as they emerged from the eighth last sector.

Ballan then threw down the gauntlet with a quick burst which soon left him in front with only Boonen and Cancellara. Trapped behind with O'Grady and Devolder was Hoste, the Silence team's only remaining rider. Soon, Hoste's bid for an elusive victory on the race would come to a virtual end.

With 20km remaining the lead trio held a lead of 1:20 on the chasing foursome and after Cancellara put in a quick acceleration it was time for Boonen to push to the front as they rode through the yellow, Flemish flags covering all sight of the cobbles in the crucial Carrefour de l'Arbre sector.

Defending champion O’Grady and Devolder made repeated attempts to bridge, as did Hoste, but it wasn’t to be.

High Road’s George Hincapie was well placed until he punctured twice, the last flat coming just as the action up front heated up, and would never see the front group again. He crossed ninth at 5:15.

1. Tom Boonen (B), Quick Step, 259km in 5:58:42
2. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) CSC, same time
3. Alessandro Ballan (I), Lampre, s.t.
4. Martin Maaskant, (Nl), Slipstream-Chipotle, at 3:39
5. Stuart O'Grady (Aus), CSC, at 3:57
6. Leif Hoste (B), Silence Lotto, s.t.
7. Stijn Devolder (B), Quick Step, at 3:59
8. Johann Van Summeren (B), Silence-Lotto, at 4:35
9. George Hincapie (USA), High Road, at 5:12
10. Fabio Baldato (I), Lampre, at 5:12

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