One of cycling's five esteemed Monuments, Paris-Roubaix rarely fails to deliver a memorable day of racing and for the 10th straight year Cyclingnews readers deemed "The Queen of the Classics" the best one-day race of the year with a resounding 10,765 votes (49.8%).
Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Cervélo) enjoyed his best-ever day on the bike with a solo victory into the Roubaix Velodrome after a dry, dusty 258km of racing along northern France's legendary cobbles. The rangy Belgian super-domestique and pavé-specialist held off the finishing charge of defending champion Fabian Cancellara by 19 seconds, with Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank) rounding out the podium in third in the same time as the Swiss powerhouse.
Amazingly, it was only Vansummeren's second victory as a professional and also the first Monument for his Garmin-Cervélo squad.
"Today simply was my dream day. Who would have dared to dream that?" Vansummeren said. "Last week Nick [Nuyens] was speechless [after winning the Tour of Flanders], and now I'm speechless, too. It's unbelievable. Normally one starts by winning a small race." Before Sunday's victory the 30-year-old captured his sole professional win in the Tour of Poland back in 2007.
Vansummeren entered Paris-Roubaix with the intent to work for team leader and world champion Thor Hushovd, who had finished on the Classic's podium for the previous two years. In a tactical finale, it would be Vansummeren, however, who would emerge from a large lead group to race alone over the final 15km while the favourites in their wake played a game of cat-and-mouse for too long.
Despite riding on a rear tire beset with a slow puncture during the final 5km, Vansummeren kept the bike upright through the turns and dug deep in the time trial of his life to prevail. To cap off his truly magical day, the Belgian proposed to his girlfriend soon after crossing the finish line.
Even after adding a Paris-Roubaix victory to his palmares, Vansummeren remains modestly pragmatic about his future options.
"Today's win will not change a lot for my career though," said Vansummeren. "I know what I can and what I cannot do. I can help the team a lot and in some races if the team could work for me that would please me a lot. I can help the team in the Tour and some Classics. In the races that suit me, having some teammates in support would be well appreciated."
In a rare occurrence, all of the Monuments in 2011 were claimed by first-time winners and Nick Nuyens' break through triumph in the Tour of Flanders finished second amongst Cyclingnews readers for the year's best one-day race with 4,511 votes (20.9%).
Milan-San Remo, masterfully claimed by Matt Goss in an eight-man sprint, finished third for Cyclingnews readers with 2.554 votes (11.8%).
2011 Best One-Day Race:
1 Paris-Roubaix 10,765 (49.8%)
2 Tour of Flanders-Men 4,511 (20.9%)
3 Milan-San Remo 2,554 (11.8%)
4 Road Race World Championship-Elite men 1,827 (8.4%)
5 Amstel Gold Race 856 (4.0%)
6 Strade Bianche 558 (2.6%)
7 Dwars door Vlaanderen 207 (1.0%)
8 Clasica San Sebastian 164 (0.8%)
9 Tour of Flanders-Women 123 (0.6%)
10 Road Race World Championship-Junior women 69 (0.3%)