By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix
After casting doubt on the form of Tom Boonen in the days leading up to Paris-Roubaix, Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) was happy to admit that the Belgian was the strongest man today, and deserved his second Roubaix victory. "I think you need to win something before you can win a big race," were his words before the race, but Boonen proved that he didn't need wins in the Belgian semi-classics to capture victory in the 'Hell of the North'.
"I'm a little bit disappointed which is normal when you don't win," said Cancellara afterwards. "In the end I can be very happy with a second place in Paris-Roubaix. Besides one or two bad races I have never been bad in Hell. Today I'm satisfied as well, especially if you look at the two other guys in the breakaway, and especially Boonen who demonstrated he was the strongest. Now I'm happy to have a break."
The Swiss had enjoyed the rivalry between himself and Boonen, and was happy to see that both riders lived up to expectations. "If one of us would attack, the other one would chase him down. We were the two big favourites and the fact that we were there in the finale meant a lot to me. It proved that I was 100 percent, which I needed to be up there. In Flanders I wasn't that strong and I made a lot of mistakes, but the team and I reacted in a great way."
Team tactics proved to be all-important when the finale reached its decisive moment with 50 kilometres to go. Quick Step's Stijn Devolder attacked and ended up riding in the front with last year's winner from Team CSC, Stuart O'Grady. It was up to Silence-Lotto to close the gap for Leif Hoste and Johan Van Summeren, and by doing that big guns Boonen, Ballan and Cancellara were offered the ideal platform to jump away when the leaders came back together.
"That's the great thing about cycling," noted Cancellara. "When O'Grady and Devolder were up front, it was up to Hoste and Van Summeren to do the work. That tired them out and then it was up to Tom and me to attack. That's the game and sometimes it works in your advantage, but like in Flanders it might work the other way around as well. It shows that you need a strong team to win a race like this."
Team CSC directeur sportif Scott Sunderland was also satisfied with his team's efforts. "Although we didn't win this year, I still think we rode a great race," Sunderland told Cyclingnews. "Luck wasn't exactly on our side today with Marcus [Ljungqvist] crashing and a very strong Kurt [Asle Arvesen] puncturing at the worst moment when he arrived on the Arenberg.
"Fabian started to cramp after his attack and wasn't able to recover before entering the velodrome. Against a fast Boonen there was no possible tactics. Fabian won a lot already this year, Kurt won a semi-classic... I think team CSC came out to play in all races we started in so far this season. We are satisfied."