Spartacus the stylish Stealth bomber
Two Classics, two victories for Fabian Cancellara, and the Swiss barely got out of the saddle to take either of them. Away with Tom Boonen at Flanders, "Spartacus" left the Belgian champion almost at a stop on the Kapelmuur with an in-the-saddle acceleration that underlined his class as it looked almost totally effortless.
Wind on a week, and Cancellara was at it again. This time his acceleration was on the flat, and not even a cobbled section at that, but was equally impressive, perhaps even more so given the distance he rapidly put between himself and his rivals when he glided away from the other leading contenders with more than 50km to go. Once again Cancellara, who is style personified on a bike, made it look ridiculously easy. Heaven knows what might happen if gets out of the saddle to attack at Amstel…
Hincapie down and almost out
After so many near misses, crashes and catastrophes, is the dream finally over for George? After yesterday's meek performance one would have to think so. His post race comments suggesting he didn't have the legs masked the fact that this time there was no excuses, no bad fortune and no places to hide.
He had a team at his disposal and five spare bikes but as with all riders that reach a certain age – the heart may be willing but the legs maybe not. Hincapie might come back for one last hurrah but when L'Equipe rated him as one star before the race they were probably right.
Tom Boonen out-classed, outmanoeuvred
Quite simply his worst Spring campaign since 2003. Every year since then Boonen has won either Roubaix, Flanders or both, or Gent-Wevelgem and some combination of E3 Prijs, Scheldeprijs, Dwars door Vlaanderen or Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.
What makes his spring even more frustrating is that he started the season in some of his best form, with Heinrich Haussler telling Cyclingnews that he's never seen Boonen so strong at the start of a season. He's certainly not a spent force, but Boonen will want to forget about the last few weeks. His tactics were called into question after Roubaix but as Sean Kelly told Cyclingnews, "You can only do so much with tactics but when you've got a guy so strong you can have all the tactics in the world but it can be no good."
Bjarne Riis out-smarting Lefevere
The press duly lapped up the confident talk dished out by Matti Breschel at the Saxo Bank pre-Roubaix press conference on Friday but the truth was it was a total smoke screen after the Dane injured his knee in Scheldeprijs. With everyone, including Boonen and Lefevere fooled into thinking that Saxo had two leaders instead of one, it wasn't surprising when Boonen worked so hard to keep Breschel out of the front group once he started to lose contact.
How Riis must have been enjoying the ride in the team car as the Belgium tired himself out and prepared the perfect spring board for Cancellara's move. Riis will always have his detractors but his tactical nous is unquestionable.
Cross Prestige for Bonnet
Bbox Bouygues Telecom's hopes rested mainly on Paris-Nice stage-winner William Bonnet, whose hopes disappeared when he flatted just moments before Cancellara made his winning move. The shame of this was that Bonnet could not have been better prepared having opted to ride on a road-modified version of Colnago's Cross Prestige bike usually seen carrying or being carried by Sven Nys.
Offering a longer wheelbase and more relaxed angles as well as a significant clearance if rain had turned Roubaix's roads to mud, the Cross Prestige held up well according to Bbox, but not well enough to enable Bonnet to emulate his achievement at Flanders when he was the first Frenchman home using the same Cross Prestige set-up.
Where does Devolder go from here?
Targeting one race – a single day race at that – and nothing else is like declaring you'll only sleep with super models. Great if it happens but you might be hanging around an awful long time and that's exactly Devolder's problem. In picking to peak for Flanders he's risking far too much on bad luck and form. While he's won the race twice before, the chances of three in a row were always a long shot and now, with Lefevere breathing down his neck, he'll have to find another goal to aim for. There's plenty of fish in the sea, or so the saying goes.
There were no real surprises in the results from Roubaix and Flanders with the experienced hands deciding the top places, but a few fresh faces crept into the top twenties. While no one should be surprised by Breschel's credentials and placing in Flanders, teammate Dominic Klemme, Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano), Stijn Vandenbergh (Katusha) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin) were also riders 25 or under who made the top twenty in either Flanders or Roubaix.
Of those five Breschel and Farrar stand out as the two most likely to win a Classic but Veelers is a real prospect too having won the U23 Roubaix in 2006. Meanwhile Farrar's progression as a cobbled specialist is almost complete.
Paris-Roubaix in general
As Cyclingnews waited for Cancellara to steam into the velodrome on Sunday, one experienced and may we add respected journalist concluded that it was the most boring Roubaix he'd ever seen (he'd covered five). While Cancellara's grace on the bike and his power on the pedals are impressive to watch his move killed the race into a battle for second place. How interesting the race would have been without him there is hypothetical, but it's fair to say it would have been far closer.
The Saxo Bank juggernaut
Competitive from first race in Belgium to last, it's a mark of their class and professionalism that they managed to ride so well in Roubaix when so many other teams were already in the last chance saloon. A blend of rich experience, Cancellara, Hoj and O'Grady, has forged perfectly with riders like Dominic Klemme – 14th in his first Roubaix.
Their sponsorship search is still on going but Riis will find recent success a double edged sword. More wins means more teams sniffing around his riders – we know it's already happening – and at the very least Cancellara will be after a new and improved contract.
Lotto on the long odds
With their winless streak now stretching out to a whopping 167 days it's become drastically clear that more than a just a sprinter is required in the Belgian Omega Pharma-Lotto.
In the mid-90s the team were often judged as a laughing stock by many and after moderate progress since, they've clearly taken a step back in the last twelve months. While Gilbert is a class act, you have to look hard to find any spark from the rest of the riders. The loss of McEwen to Katusha and Evans to BMC were both based on finances, but a damning result is that neither rider has been replaced. The Omega Pharma-Lotto squad remains the only ProTour team without a win this season.
A worry for Eurosport?
As you'd expect, news from Paris-Roubaix didn't knock coverage of the Grand National, the FA Cup semi-finals, the Masters and the opening matches of the cricket season out of headlines in the UK, but the presence of News Corp chairman James Murdoch did suggest that the sport's profile should continue to grow.
Exactly how is a matter of all kinds of conjecture. As he bounced over the cobbles in an ASO VIP car, Murdoch can't fail to have been impressed by the thousands that turned out on the roadside to watch Roubaix or the millions more tuning in on TV. It added up to the kind of audience that would significantly boost Sky's portfolio of TV sports. Could this spell trouble for Eurosport?
For the second Monument in a row, Belgium's most lauded performer was Bjorn Leukemans. Fourth at Flanders and the last man to be distanced by Fabian Cancellara at Roubaix, Leukemans provided a timely riposte to Roubaix organisers ASO, who decided against selecting his Vacansoleil team for the Tour de France.
The Belgian was hoping for a podium finish but his chances went south when his front tyre started to deflate just as Cancellara was coming across to him, forcing him to slow almost to a stop at every corner. Last seen waving frantically as Cancellara accelerated away into the dusty distance, Leukemans later complained, "It was a bit like riding behind a motorbike, but Cancellara really was riding behind one – the TV bike, and when it accelerated out of the bend he went with it."
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