What's Cool In Road Cycling

“Amazing” Boonen 3rd, Hincapie 6th at Roubaix

– Reported by Dan Osipow For Tailwind Sports
After near misses the last three years, the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team finally made the podium at Paris-Roubaix today. However, it was the USPS rider who reached the podium that was the biggest surprise. First year professional Tom Boonen, just 21-years-old, turned in the race of his life in finishing third in the 261 kilometer event while teammate George Hincapie placed sixth – his fourth straight top-six finish at the “Hell of the North.” Yet, no matter what Boonen and Hincapie did along the muddy cobble stoned course, neither had an answer for Domo’s Johan Museeuw, who won his third Paris-Roubaix and the 10th World Cup event of his storied career.

“We did everything right today,” said Johan Bruyneel, the USPS team’s director sportif. “Everything went right for us except for one thing…Museeuw was too strong. Nobody was going to beat him today.”

Museeuw, the winner of the 1996 and 2000 editions of Paris-Roubaix, attacked the lead group – one containing Boonen and Hincapie – with just over 40 kilometers remaining and rode clear to victory. Boonen, fourth in last year’s espoir version of Paris-Roubaix, and Hincapie took up the chase of Museeuw and dropped the rest of the leaders yet were unable to gain ground of Museeuw.

“We had two guys working together and he (Museeuw) was still putting time on them every 2-3 kilometers,” Bruyneel said. “The team did a big race today. George had a big race, Tom had a big race, but Museeuw was too strong, that’s all. There is nothing to say, there are no excuses, he (Museeuw) was the strongest by far.”

While riding alongside Boonen in the final 20 kms, Hincapie slipped of the road and fell into a ravine, dropping off the pace. He was eventually absorbed by a hard charging chase group while Boonen, riding in the lead group for nearly the entire race, was caught by Telekom’s Steffen Wesemann in the final 10 kms and was outsprinted by the German for second place.

“Tom was much better than expected today,” Bruyneel said. “As a first year pro, he has shown well in the all Classics this year but today was over 260 kms, it’s an impressive result. He needs to keep going and keep both his feet on the ground. But for a 21-year-old in his first Paris-Roubaix, he was amazing.

“George looked great and he was very comfortable the whole day,” Bruyneel added. “The only thing I think happened was that when Museeuw attacked and George saw how strong he was – and that nobody was going to have a chance to stay with him – he had a little breakdown mentally, which I think is normal. He is disappointed, but I know how difficult it is to win.”

Yet, despite not reaching the top step of the podium, Bruyneel was pleased with the team’s performance, especially after last year’s Paris-Roubaix, when the team was criticized after failing to provide Hincapie with support in the final stages of the race.

“We had the right guy (Boonen) in the early break and he was able to sit on, while the rest of the team worked to keep the break within 2-3 minutes,” Bruyneel said. “The whole team did a great job on all of the sections (of cobblestones), grouping at the front. It was almost always 5-6 USPS riders at the front every time. We had a very successful Flemish campaign and here, especially after what happened last year, was great. All eight guys rode great today, they all did an amazing job.”

1. Johan Museeuw, Domo-Farm Frites; 261 kms in 6:39:08
2. Steffen Wesemann, Telekom; at 3:04
3. Tom Boonen, U.S. Postal Service; at 3:08
4. Tristan Hoffman, CSC Tiscali; at 4:02
5. Lars Michaelsen, Coast; s.t.
6. George Hincapie, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
DNF – David Clinger, U.S. Postal Service
DNF – Antonio Cruz, U.S. Postal Service
DNF – Steffen Kjaergaard, U.S. Postal Service
DNF – Floyd Landis, U.S. Postal Service
DNF – Pavel Padrnos, U.S. Postal Service
DNF – Matt White, U.S. Postal Service
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