Boonen does the double

ProTour standings And removes himself from Museeuw's palmarès The 24...

103rd Paris-Roubaix - PT

France, April 10, 2005

ProTour standings

And removes himself from Museeuw's palmarès

The 24 year-old golden boy of Belgian cycling, Tom Boonen, who rode an amazing Tour of Flanders last weekend to become one of the youngest winners of 'De Ronde', today won his first Paris-Roubaix with another flawless display of power riding, becoming only the eighth rider in history to do the Flanders-Roubaix double.

"This is more than unbelievable. Everything went as I expected it would," said the beaming Boonen post-race, engulfed in a horde of team staff, journalists, photographers and fans.

"This is impressive," were some of the first stuttered words that came from his ecstatic team manager Patrick Lefevre's mouth. "The whole team worked for Tom. Actually, Boonen shouldn't have won after his victory last week. But he was spared of bad luck and rode fantastically."

On going with one of early breaks - which turned out to be the decisive one - Boonen said: "I'm hard to hold back, yes. But it was also dangerous and nervous in the peloton. When Pozzato went, we were away, and the legs were really good - I knew I was really strong today, even with 80 kilometres to go."

Completing the very rare back-to-back double, last achieved by Peter Van Petegem in 2003, but before that, 26 years ago by four-time Paris-Roubaix winner Roger De Vlaeminck (1977), Boonen has done something the man he is constantly compared to hasn't - that being three-time winner Johan Museeuw. "To win the double at 24 years old, fantastic. I shouldn't race for too much longer, right?" Boonen quipped.

Entering the Roubaix velodrome with only George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) by his side, the Belgian displayed the cunning of a seasoned track sprinter. Waiting and waiting until there were just two corners left, the blonde bombshell launched himself down the banking to comfortably outsprint Hincapie and Flecha, who took second and third place respectively.

"I felt confident coming into the velodrome because I raced a lot on the track when I was younger. "There's not much to say about the sprint. I just had to keep my head," said Boonen.

Second placed George Hincapie, who rode his best-ever Roubaix and would have been a deserving winner himself, said he felt confident all day: "The team was strong today and the strongest guys were up there at the end. I could only hope that I was faster than Boonen, but he had more power.

"I believed in myself. I knew Boonen was the man to beat. When he attacked, I thought I could come by him at the end. But he was too strong. I'm happy I was amongst the strongest riders. I rode a smart race. I did what I could and I rode as hard as I could," he said.

Asked if there was ever a stage where Hincapie thought about ridding himself of the Belgian, Hincapie simply answered: "Yeah but it wasn't possible. We went hard in the Carrefour de l'Arbre and the three strongest guys were there. You could tell we were all just finished. It was just 'get to the sprint'. No-one could ride away."

"It was beautiful Roubaix," said the third-placed Flecha, who, after finishing second in a controversial Gent-Wevelgem on Wednesday and 12th in the Ronde, is surely up for a Spring Classic victory in the not-too-distant future.

"After an ill-fated Gent-Wevelgem, I wanted to win for me and Fassa Bortolo. We attacked from a long way out, but in the finale, Boonen was the strongest. I knew I had no chance in the sprint; I wanted to try and attack before, but at the end of a race like this, you never know if you'll cramp or something. However, I am very happy with third place," he said.

The 27 year-old Spaniard, whose surname translates to 'arrow' in English, vowed to returned to the Hell of the North: "I will return to win, but first I want to make amends at Gent-Wevelgem."

Defending champion Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas) was there until just under 20 km to go, when the Carrefour de l'Arbre put paid to his chances. "I was really strong today and so fourth place isn't that bad...the other guys were just stronger than me. I gave it my all today so I'm happy the way it worked out," said Backstedt.

But right now, the only thing left on people's minds is what can boom-boom Boonen achieve next year. "Ach, Boonen just has to remain himself," said Lefevre. "Next year we will build a strong team around Tom. We don't need pseudo-stage racers any more in this team."

How it unfolded

At 11:00am this morning under cloudy conditions, the 103rd edition of Paris-Roubaix began when 191 riders headed out of Compiegne for a 4km neutral section. The weather gauge read 10 degrees C, and with a west-northwest wind blowing at 15-20 km/h, the peloton faced a crosswind on the way to Roubaix. Four teams and 31 riders in total were given blood tests by the UCI this morning: Credit Agricole, Ag2r, Bouygues Telecom and T-Mobile, with all riders were cleared to start.

Frank Vandenbroucke (MrBookmaker) and Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel) did not start, but all the favourites were there: Tom Boonen (Quick.Step), defending champion Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas-Bianchi), Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto), Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile), George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) and Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo).

After an aggressive first half-hour of racing, Thijs (MrBookmaker) attacked near Guiscard after 25km, and Berges (Agritubel), Herrero (Euskaltel) and Lang (Gerolsteiner) bridge. As the quartet gained 0'45 in 5km, the traditional early lead break of no-hopers was born, and after another 20km, a four-man countermove containing Barredo (Liberty Seguros), Chavanel (Bouygues), Brard (Agritubel) and Coyot (Cofidis) struck out, making the junction after 57km in St-Quentin, with 202km to race. And despite the ominous pre-race forecasts and a few drops of rain, the precip was kept at bay with a strong wind coming in from the riders' left shoulders.

30km later and with 170km to go, in the wide-open farmland of the Aisne near Bosigny, the gap was 12'05, but as the chase picked up with Fassa Bortolo on the front, the gap dropped to 11'30 as the peloton picked up the tempo behind, with a 44 km/h average after two hours' racing.

By the first of 26 sections of pavé in Troisvilles, the leaders held a 9'40 advantage. At the muddy Secteur 21 in Vertain with 133km to race, the break still had a 6'57 lead, aided by a major crash in the peloton that took down Steels, Van Petegem, Stijn Devolder and Allan Davis, among others. Davis had to abandon on the spot with a broken elbow, while Van Petegem eventually chased back with his teammates Roesems and Steels, although ended up abandoning shortly afterwards with deep cuts and an injured wrist.

With 105km to go, the six leaders were at Secteur 18 at Famars, with Herrero and Chavanel chasing and the peloton at 5'45. 10 kilometres later, T-Mobile began forcing at Secteur 16 with Wesemann, Zabel, Baumann and Burghardt, and with 86km to go at Secteur 15 in Haveluy (2400m), the break had a 5'21 lead - but Quick.Step was about to change the status quo of Paris-Roubaix with 80km to go...

As raindrops started to fall at the start of the 3.7km long Secteur 14 of Hornaing-Wandignies, Roubaix rookie Pozzato (Quick.Step) accelerated hard with his team captain Boonen right on his wheel. Michaelsen (CSC), Hincapie (Discovery) and Backstedt (Liquigas) were right there, while Pozzato's former Fassa teammates Flecha and Cancellara also got across. As Gent-Wevelgem winner Mattan (Davitamon-Lotto) tried to bridge, Pozzato dropped off, while former winner Andrea Tafi (Saunier Duval-Prodir) was also dropped. 5km later at Warlaing-Brillon, Secteur 13A, the counterattack formed and begun closing fast on the leaders.

Andrea Tafi, who is wrapping up his career after 30 pro wins, told Italian TV after the race, "I have such a big emotion now, but I'm sorry I didn't do better today... in my career, I've had so many beautiful emotions and winning here [in 1999] was the greatest moment of my career. Last night, I wasn't feeling that good and so when you aren't good, that's that. But I really want to thank everyone who's supported me."

Approaching Orchies with 60km to go, the break was hanging in there with Thijs, Brard and Berges riding hard, while the counter-attackers were at 1'30, with a 30-man peloton 2'00 further back, led by T-Mobile, Rabobank and Davitamon-Lotto, all of whom had missed the now-decisive break of the race.

After Secteur 12 in Orchies, the five counter-attackers had closed to within one minute, while the peloton began losing ground. With Van Petegem out of the race, Van Bon attempted to salvage something for Davitamon-Lotto and attacked solo on Orchies, while Wesemann and Quick.Step watchdog Hulsmans soon joined him. Up front, at Secteur 11 in Auchy-Lez-Orchies, the break was now in sight of the first counter-attackers, with an impressive Boonen pounding on the front.

At 50km to go, the early break was caught after 184km of liberty, creating an 11-man front group of Thijs (MrBookmaker), Berges and Brard (Agritubel), Coyot (Cofidis), Boonen (Quick.Step), Backstedt (Liquigas), Hincapie (Discovery), Michaelsen (CSC), Flecha and Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo), Carlos Barredo (Liberty); Van Bon, Wesemann and Hulsmans were chasing at 0'37, with the peloton at 2'15.

With 10 pavé zones left, the toughest moments were still to come, including the brutal 3km Secteur 10 of Mons-En-Pevele. Flecha and Michalesen were hammering up front while Cancellara was pedaling easy at the back, but suddenly disaster struck for the Swiss rider, as he flatted and was dropped from the front group. Team-mate Flecha stopped working, but with 44km to go, the break rode harder than ever.

At Secteur 9 in Merignies, old-hand Michaelsen was riding hard on the front, while Cancellara was chasing back after his second puncture. As Secteur 8 (Pont-Thibaut) approached near Lille Airport, Boonen was still making tempo, with the chasers at 1'00 and the peloton at 2'50, and a pallid sun shining as the race entered its crucial phase.

As Secteur 6 of Cysoing-Bourghelles started with 25.5km left, the other four riders in the break eyeballed Boonen. The Belgian and Backstedt try some forcing, but nothing too hard; however, with 25 friends and family from the Big Apple waiting for him in the Roubaix Velodrome, New York native Hincapie hit the front in earnest, but to no avail.

Things got serious as Secteur 5 of Camphin-En-Pevele began with 20km to go. A difficult 1800m-long humpbacked section saw Boonen move right to the front to keep control, with old-pro Michaelsen still right there and Hincapie riding smart. Backstedt accelerated halfway through, but Flecha, Boonen and Hincapie all latch on, though Michaelsen was clearly hurting.

With the chasers almost 2'00 behind the front five, the crucial 2100m Secteur 4 of Carrefour de Arbre began with Flecha up front, followed by Hincapie, Michaelsen, Boonen and Backstedt. As Boonen moved up to Hincapie's wheel less than one kilometre in, Michaelsen punctured and dropped off Boonen's wheel. Then Backstedt faced his worst nightmare: the big Swede could only watch the other three disappeared up the pavé, metre by metre, as Boonen's forcing ended Maggie's hopes of defending his Roubaix crown.

At Secteur 3 in Gruson, Boonen hit a big gear, with the tough Flecha glued to his wheel and Hincapie solid. As the outskirts of the grim industrial city of Roubaix began, the front trio came out of Gruson and had just 10km and two pavé sectors to go. Flecha hit the front with his hands draped over the top of the handlebars, while George looked good with Boonen increasingly nervous; Backstedt was now 20 seconds behind in no-man's land, with Michalesen just hanging on one minute back, and the chase group at 2'00.

No-one dared to attack at five to go, and the lead trio was all together; Backstedt was at 0'40, Michaelsen at 1'15, and the chase group of seven - Cancellara, Brard, Van Bon, Wesemann, Hulsmans, Thijs and Coyot - at 3'00, with the peloton 4'00 behind.

On the symbolic and final Secteur 1 of pavé in Roubaix, Boonen kept the pace high to avoid attacks, then Hincapie passed him to enter the velodrome first. A three-up match sprint began with Boonen perfectly placed in third wheel... Flecha jumped with 250m to go, but Boonen came down the banking to hit the front while Hincapie gave it everything, but nothing could stop a superb Tom Boonen from winning the 103rd edition of Paris-Roubaix!

The seventh win of the season for the powerful 24 year-old from Mol, Belgium, Boonen became the eighth rider to do the double and win Flanders and Roubaix back-to-back. With his Roubaix victory today, Boonen now takes over the lead in the ProTour standings with 112 points, ahead of Petacchi, Freire and Hincapie. Boonen may start next Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, but he'll soon take a break from his incredibly successful 2005 Classics campaign, before riding the Tour de Suisse, Tour de France and Vuelta a España - all pointing towards the world road championships in Madrid this September.

Race Day photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us

Images by Hedwig Kröner

Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti

Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net

Images by Régis Garnier/www.velofotopro.fr.st

Results - 259 km

ProTour standings

Back to top

Back to top