Roubaix ’09: Boonen Bashes ‘Em Again!

Almost by virtue of crashing at the least disastrous time, Tom Boonen rolled to a monumental third Paris-Roubaix win. Of course, the guy’s a beast on the bike, and it’s not just good luck he won … but he stayed upright when everyone else wiped out, and that’s the mark of a champion.

It’s not even that it was an epic, rain/mud/snow/wind nightmare of a race, but in a mayhemic final 20kms Juan Antonio Flecha melted it on a left-hander wiping out Leif Hoste, Johan Van Summeren and Pippo Pozzato at the same time; then Thor Hushovd inexplicably overshot on another left-hander into the crowd barrier. That’s five of yer leading six right there wrecking out of contention ….

… and the guy who kept it together rode off with the win. QuickStep certainly didn’t seem to have the numbers or strength that they showed off last week in Flanders, so the chance was there to take the race to them.

After a quiet early Classics campaign, Tom Boonen roared at Roubaix today.

It’s just that today Boonen was untouchable – he was always the guy stretching the group, pushing the pedals harder, making life hard. Even when Silence-Lotto had two in the decisive six-man break, you didn’t really think betting on anyone other than Boonen made sense!!

He rode the last 15kms like he was in a TT … it was spectacular stuff. And what of Big George Hincapie? Well, 73 kms to go and inevitably there’s Big George’s bad luck – a flat, and in his desperation to get the rear wheel off it looks like he manages to jam his wheel into the dйrailleur. The mechanic jumps out, sorts things and pushes him back into the fray.

Eisel and Boassen Hagen waited to pace him back, but it took them 4kms to make contact and just as they were in touching distance of the contenders’ group it shredded and I’m afraid that spelt the end of Hincapie’s hopes for another year.

Garmin’s Martin Maaskant leads this group through an early sector of muddy cobbles. Stay tuned as we talk with him post-race.

The big break heroes of the day …. take a bow Mr Sulzberger (FDJ), Mr Wynants (QuickStep), Mr Klostergaard (SaxoBank), Mr Furlan (Lampre), Mr Klier (Cervelo), Mr Cozza (Garmin), Mr Henderson (Columbia), Mr Chainel (BBox Bouyges), Mr Posthuma (Rabobank) and Mr Knaven (Milram).

They were through the notorious/legendary/terrifying Trouйe d’Arenberg before the field had a close-up taste of pain a la pavй with Hayden Roulsten and Brett Lancaster of Cervelo coming down badly.

The break ploughed onwards and by 71 kms to go still had 1′ 30” on the main field. Over sector 14 (Tilloy – Sars-et-Rosiиres) and onto sector 13 (Beuvry-la-Forкt а Orchies), the peloton munched the group’s advantage, chomping away almost a minute.

63kms to go and a camera moto collided with some spectators …….. it was total chaos as fans dived in to help, so hopefully no lasting damage.

61kms to go and the 10 remaining breakaways are joined by a peloton royale – and immediately Boonen accelerates! Flecha is onto him directly. QuickStep, Cervelo, Saxobank were all there mob-handed, as they hit sector 12 at Orchies with Andreas Klier driving it at the front.

57 to go and Weylandt’s acceleration pulled Flecha, Quinziato, Haussler and Klostergaard out ahead of the Boonen group – unfortunately no sign of Big George at this point.

Secion 11 loomed into view – Auchy-lez-Orchies – Bersйe – and the chasing group is only 12 strong. Boonen again grits his pearly whites and sticks it to the rest, pulling everyone up to the Haussler break.

Chavanel is next to give it a bash leaving sector 11, but just strings it out a little.

50kms to go and we’ve 15 men away. Quinziato has the honour of leading onto the nasty sector 10 at Mons-en-Pйvиle. Hincapie is on the front of peloton 2 himself, chasing frantically but they’re already a minute back and looking desperate.

46kms to go and Boonen hits the gas, but Pozzato (as usual!!) only has eyes for Tom’s posterior and is right behind!

Boonen goes again and suddenly he splits the group …. but has Hoste and Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto), Hushovd (Cervelo), Flecha (Rabobank) and …. Pippo Pozzato for company as they slam onto the less heinous sector 9 (Mйrignies – Pont-а-Marcq).

39kms to go as Boonen leads the race onto sector 8 (Pont-Thibaut) and SaxoBank who’ve missed this move are 30 seconds back with Cancellara, Klostergaard and Breschel chasing.

Hoste is on the front hammering past the tourist fave Le Moulin de Vertain on sector 7. The chasers are a minute back and the Hincapie-led peloton is well gone by now.

Now Boonen changes bikes … he’s bloodied of elbow and dirtied of shorts from an earlier spill, and with four nightmarish cobbled sectors on the horizon, maybe a bike change here makes most sense.

It’s the charge of the dust brigade as Flecha blasts onto sector 6a at Cysoing – Bourghelles. The six heads of the race are 1′ 32” ahead, and it’s not coming back together today with just 25m to race.

20kms to go and the six are cruising away but who’s going to attack Boonen? Will Van Summeren try to set it up for Hoste? Will Pozzato do anything at all?

Sector 5 at Camphin-en-Pйvиle and Van Summeren is on the front.

17kms to go and sector 4 – Le Carrefour de l’Arbre – is a five-star nightmare, the last real mofo before home! As soon as we hit it, Flecha smashes down, toppling Hoste and Van Summeren, and holding up Pozzato!

Then Hushovd miscalculates a corner in his desire to stay with Boonen! It’s just one of those days where the corner is 20 degrees tighter than it should be … and Hushovd’s up-close-and-personal with the spectators.

14kms to go: Boonen’s solo and flying, chased by Pozzato, then Hoste/Van Summeren, then Hushovd. It’s more like a big Tour de France mountain stage wth fans everywhere.

And I mean … EVERYWHERE! Boonen’s already been waving them out of the way when Pozzato has to hit the brakes to avoid a young woman who chooses exactly the WRONG moment to cross the cobbles.

10kms left and Boonen is on his own and heading for the velodrome but with all the mayhem so far the win isn’t a done deal. The Belgian is on the brake hoods, then the drops, then the bars and his body is rockin’ left-right, left-right. The gap is stretching out second be second as he hurtles onto sector 2 at Hem.

The Specialized is a bucking bronco under Boonen; Pozzato actually looks smoother than Boonen, but he’s making no impression on the defending champ.

5kms to go – Boonen’s belting along the smooth tarmac and he’s over 20 seconds clear. Head swinging side to side, it ain’t easy or pretty when you’re racing to a third Paris-Roubaix crown.

Into the velodrome to a huge roar and he coasts round the lap and a half waving to the crowd. One last acceleration to make sure Pozzato won’t spoil the winning photograph and its job done.

Pippo graciously pats Boonen on the back as he rolls in for second and Hushovd inevitably dusts Hoste for third.

So another fine win to add to the Boonen palmares and you wouldn’t bet against Boonen going on to match or better Roger De Vlaeminck’s record at Paris-Roubaix.

Stay tuned for Jered’s epic day on the roadsides of Paris-Roubaix. Keep it Pez!

107th Paris-Roubaix, 259 km
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) QuickStep 6hrs 15′ 54”
2 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha + 46”
3 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo + 1′ 17”
4 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence-Lotto same time
5 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Silence-Lotto + 1′ 22”
6 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank + 2′ 14”
7 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo + 3′ 13”
8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) QuickStep + 3′ 15”
9 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas + 5’ 00”
10 Matti Breschel (Den) SaxoBank + 5’ 29”