By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix, France
For more than six hours the tornado raged through the north of France. Silently and barely noticed during the first few hours before unleashing his fury two thirds into the rush from Compiègne to Roubaix. The storm gathered strength, gobbling up the pavé as he left a 259 kilometre path of destruction in Northern France.
When the winds died down and the sun shone through in Roubaix, Quick Step's Tom 'Tornado' Boonen kissed the cobble trophy for the third time in his career as the other teams tried to piece together just what had gone wrong.
The Tornado first raged in the terrible trenches of the Arenberg forest ahead of a massive crash that took down co-favorite and teammate Stijn Devolder and held up fellow Quick Stepper Sylvain Chavanel and Garmin's Martijn Maaskant.
Thirty kilometers later, on the pavé sector Beuvry à Orchies, the Belgian avoided a crashing motorbike when he put the hammer down once again, creating a 21-man strong leader's group. Boonen rode as if he was in the calm eye of a storm which laid waste to the poor peasants who dared to chase.
The intervals of its touchdowns started to get shorter and ten kilometers later Boonen accelerated again, bringing down the number in front to fifteen. Five kilometers later, Tornado Tom was almost satisfied. On the pavé sector of Mons-en-Pévèle, Boonen roared once more and only five riders were able to see light through the dust behind the 28 year-old Belgian. The sun started to shine, and for a while it seemed as if the storm was over... Boonen even changed bikes and the five others gained confidence, not knowing that they were dead men walking.
"They were already dead and I couldn't wait for them," Boonen said.
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