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Welcome to Hell! We will be riding along the “Hell of the North” today, also known as the 2010 running of Paris-Roubaix. There are lots of cobblestones along the way to the velodrome finale in Roubaix. Love it or hate it, this is one of the biggest races of the year.
Good morning! Is everyone ready for THE biggest one-day race of the year? The “Queen of the Classics” takes us 259 kilometres north from Compiègne, just north of Paris, to Roubaix, near the Belgian border. And let us not forget all those lovely cobblestones along the way!
There are 27 sections of cobblestones along the way, for a total of 52.9kms of bumping along. The first 97.5km of the race are nice and smooth, and then come the cobbles, quite regularly from there to the end. The longest sections are 3.7km long, and the shortest is a mere 200 metres.
Things should be started now! We're still awaiting official word on that, though.
We are very sad to report that Wilfried Cretskens of Omega Pharma-Lotto was not at the start today. The team reported that his sister died last night. She was 36 years old and the mother of two children. Cyclingnews extends its condolences to the family.
Aqua & Sapone had a nasty training accident yesterday which left Luca Paolini questionable for today. He was hit by a car which lost control and entered his lane. Paolini was knocked down and taken to hospital, with severe brusing. We don't yet know whether he will be riding today or not.
This is a very special race and we have a very special competition for it. Pick the podium and the prize is a DVD of the 2008 film “Road to Roubaix” and and “I (heart) Roubaix” t-shirt. What makes it special? We have five sets of prizes to give away!
You know the rules, and if not, you can read them and put your pick in our forum, just click here.
Entries accepted as of noon CET, whichis about one and a quarter hours fromnow.
And if by some chance, you aren't yet a member of our forum, then that can be taken care of easily. Click me.
And what is this film, you say? Well, “Road to Roubaix”, directed by David Deal and David Cooper, is a feature-length documentary film which premiered in 2008. It takes viewers along for the ride of those 259 incredibly difficult kilometres, including lots of cobblestones. Interviews in the film include Lance Armstrong, Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara, Juan Antonio Flecha, Sean Kelly, and Jean Marie Leblanc.
Brecht Decaluwe was at the start for Cyclingnews, and tells us it is sunny, 10 degrees C, Cold wind NNE - likely headwind for the riders.
There was a minutes silence for Franco Ballerini at the start in Compiegne.
Amgen Tour of California boss Andrew Messick is in a car with Gilbert Duclosse Lesalle, Decaluwe tells us. And James Murdoch is in a car with Bernard Hinault and Dave Brailsford
Lampre only had six riders registered for the race - Creztens was apparently the only non-starter.
We also hear that Jonathan Castroviejo (Euskaltel) was not at the start this morning.
Here's today's fashion tip: go black! Filippo Pozzatto (Katusha) is decked out all in black - black helmet, kit, shoes, socks etc
We have a full crew out there covering this race, and they attended the team presentation last night. Click here for part one with some quotes and photos.
And where there's a part one, there must be a part two! Click here for even more pretty pictures and some quotes, including some from Fabian Cancellara.
There is a special new award this year at the race. The first Italian to cross the finish line will be awarded a “unique cobble,” races organisers have said. The award is in honour of Franco Ballerini, who died in February.
Ballerini won Paris-Roubaix twice, in 1995 and 1998, and in fact ended his career at the Roubaix velodrome in 2001.
The race started today in Compiègne, which the French newspaper L'Equipe named France's “most sporting town” in 2009. The city offers a wide variety of facilities for not only cycling but a number of other sports as well.
Today's winner will take home 30,000 Euro, with the second-placed winner getting 22,000 and third winning 15,000. The prizes go down to 20th place, with 16-1´20 taking in 500 Euro each. The total prize money is 91,000 Euros.
Time for you all to tell us who you like today. Take a hike over to our Facebook page and pick a winner. So far, Tom Boonen seems to be the favourite.
There are 25 teams here today. No surprise, France is supplying the most, with five: AG2R, Bbox, Cofidis, Française des Jeux and Saur-Sojasun. The US and Italy are supplying four each, and the Netherlands three. Belgium and Spain are each represented by two teams, with Germany, Denmark, Great Britain, Russia and Switzerland there with one each.
We are sorry, but we just aren't getting a lot of race information. As far as we know, though, everyone is still all together. So far no one is willing to risk being the first to go.
Tom Boonen is being very consistent this spring: second in Milan-San Remo, second in E3 Prijs Harelbeke, second in Ronde van Vlaanderen … well, you get the idea. He's not really all hat upset about it though, he told Cyclingnews this week.
We have our first attack of the day! 19 riders have broken away. We don't have all the names, but know that Romain Zingle (Cofidis) and Maarten Wynants (Quick Step) are involved.
Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwe cornered a few riders yesterday for comments. One of them was Liguigas' Peter Sagan. After his climbing exploits during Tirrenno-Adriatico it seemed like Sagan is a specialist for the Ardennes classics but the team opted to get their youngster in the team for Paris-Roubaix. "I don't know what type of rider I am. Right now I want to be like Boonen and Cancellara. Two years ago I finished second in the junior version of Paris-Roubaix," Sagan explained that the pavé stretches suit him quite well, although he didn't had high expectations.
"My goal is to finish the race," a modest Sagan told Cyclingnews. "Daniel Oss and Manuel Quinziato are the protected riders in our team. My plan is to stay in the main group and see how far I can go," Sagan added.
The group now has a whole half a minute on the peloton.
The prologue of the Tour of Turkey has just ended. We won't tell you the results here, but as soon as they are up on the site, we will give you the link.
Decaluwe also talked to big Thor Hushovd. "After what happened last year I'm not looking for revenge. Those things can happen, it's bad luck," Hushovd said. The Cervélo team was weakened due to the absence of Andreas Klier and Heinrich Haussler. "Of course the team would be stronger with Andreas but that's life. Now it's up to Brett Lancaster and Roger Hammond to step forward,"
Hushovd pointed out who would be sidelining him as long as possible. During the Tour of Flanders the Norwegian wasn't yet as good as expected but one week later Hushovd thinks he'll be fighting with the best. "The last few days I have good sensations. I think I'm almost 100%," Hushovd told Cyclingnews.
David Millar had some thoughts to share, too. The Garmin-Transitions team has three guys who're capable of riding the finale, being Martijn Maaskant, Johan Van Summeren and David Millar. The latter loves the atmosphere during these spring classics and one day before the race he explained to Cyclingnews that he didn't want to retire without riding Paris-Roubaix.
"After my career I want to come to these races as a fan and I don't want to be at the side watching the race without ever having ridden it. I've done one short spell in the past so this is my real debut. With Quick Step versus Saxo Bank it'll be a tactical race, so we're in an opportunistic position with Johan, Martijn and myself," Millar said.
Johan Van Summeren isn't often named as a top favorite even though last year he was in the lead group at the Carrefour de l'Arbre pavé sector, before Flecha's crash took him out of Boonen's wheel. "I will only be happy if I battled along for the victory," Vansummeren told Cyclingnews.
Team-mate Martijn Maaskant wasn't feeling that confident although he should be capable of riding the finale too. "I haven't been very lucky so far. I hope that if there's a large breakaway group that I'll feature in it. Many riders are hoping for that though, and if everybody hopes for it it mostly doesn't happen," Maaskant predicted.
Servais Knaven of Team MILRAM is going for a record today: he looks to become the first rider to have started and finished Paris-Roubaix 16 times. The 39-year-old Dutch rider won here back in 2001.
We apologize again for the lack of information so far, but facts are hard to come by at the moment.
Who is going to win here today? Excellent question and if we knew the answer, we would be placing some rather large bets. Take a look here, though, and see what the great minds at Cyclingnews came up with, as to will win or won't.
Tom Boonen has won this race in 2005, 2008 and 2009. If he wins again today, to make it three in a row, he will tie the record held by Octave Lapize (1909, 1910, 1911) and Francesco Moser (1978, 1979, 1980)
A win today wold also tie him with Roger de Vlaeminck for the most victories ever in Paris-Roubaix. Coincidentally, de Vlaeminck was 29 when he won for the fourth time, the same age that Boonen is now.
The break now has 1:15 on the peloton, and we can add a few more names: Gorik Gardeyn (Vacansoleil), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha), Jeremy Hunt (Cervelo), Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Gregory Henderson (Team Sky), Matthew Goss and Adam Hansen (HTC-Columbia), and Rick Flens and Tom Leezer (Rabobank).
Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) is among those hoping for a dry race today. He's never raced it in the rain, and would just as soon not have to. Now that the pressure from the Tour of Flanders is over, he is looking forward to riding well here today.
Who won that opener in the Tour of Turkey? You can read all about it here: click me!
Our leading group is nearly at the first cobble section. Sure would be nice if we could get some more detailed information to pass on to you.....
What do you need to be a good cobblestone rider? Marc Madiot, who won here in 1985 and 1991, told letour.fr that “the most important quality is in your head: you have to want to get out there and do it. Paris-Roubaix is about desire. “
There are two cobblestone sections which are 3.7km long, and the first one comes at km. 106.5, Quievy a Saint-Python. This is how Ben Atkins described it for Cyclingnews in 2008: “A gap between two buildings in the village of Quiévy sees the start of this next secteur. It's generally - relatively - pretty well surfaced and starts off fairly level, but before too long the inevitable patched up tarmac area appears and it becomes much more of a false flat rising up between fields on either side. Suddenly, the "road" takes a sharp right hander and heads directly for the village of Saint-Python - it's relationship to Monty and his Flying Circus is currently unestablished.”
The second long 3.7km stretch is in Hornaing a Wandignies – Hamage, and is not really all that bad, Atkins wrote. “Despite its length, this secteur is not too bad … and it has one of the best kept surfaces of any of the secteurs on the course.
“Leaving the village of Hornaing it meanders across the fields, past a few houses, and skirts alongside the railway line for a while before turning right and passing beneath the shadow of another of the course's landmarks, the enormous twin water towers that serve the local villages. After passing the towers, there is a short rough asphalt patch, before the cobbles return and it heads straight across to Wandignies - Hamage where it finishes adjacent to a bunch of houses.”
Let us not forget the Arenberg – although some riders might prefer to do so. Atkins gave this one the highest ranking. “What can you say about Arenberg that hasn't been said a million times before. For many people - fans and detractors alike - this is the essence of Paris-Roubaix. Despite the fact that it's still nearly 100 km from the velodrome, there is always incident. This is the point where - because of the extremity of the surface - the favourites start to put the hurt on to the also-rans, and hopefully on to each other.”
He added, “Until a few years ago, it was possible to ride along the mud at the sides, amongst and even behind the spectators, but the organisers have now put barriers along the length of the Trouée to prevent this. Now everybody gets to experience the seventh level of Hell!
The race hits this secteur at the end of a long straight road out of the picturesque old mining town of Arenberg so they're generally travelling at speeds of up to 60 km/h. On dry days all they have to cope with is the fact that it seems to be surface with randomly sized stones, arranged in an uneven and seemingly random way. If it's wet then the stones will also be glacially slippery. It slopes gently downwards for the first few hundred metres allowing riders to maintain, or even increase their speed, before levelling off and sloping ever so slightly upwards for the remainder of its length. The unevenness of the surface makes this slight gradient seem a thousand times worse.
“There are always crashes here, because everybody wants to be near the front at this point. Mud on the cobbles - churned up by race vehicles, and often deliberately by the thousands of fans who always come here - makes it all the more treacherous.”
Frank Hoj of Saxo Bank talked to Cyclingnews before the start today. “There will be a head wind right from the beginning but it’ll be hard for a break to go. There are 170 riders that want to be in the break but then later in the race there will be more cross winds and we’ll see the peloton split up. It will be an extremely hard race to control.”
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This is what Scott Sunderland, DS for Team Sky had to say this morning: "The Jaguars were a bit too low so we pimped-out the cars this week and raised them to protect the motor and the gearbox so we should be fine. It’s a really nice calm feeling in the team. When you tick all the boxes in the lead up all the riders have to do is ride their bikes and it will happen. I’ve been here before I won this race twice with CSC."
We also talked to Jim Ochowicz (BMC). “Being here brings back a lot of memories. We set out store out in the 80s with 7-Eleven in Roubaix and the Tour de France. I never thought back then that I’d be here now though. As for our team, well George is good, he has good spirit and he’s looking forward to it.”
There is a very strong headwind, so the race is going signficantly slower than anticipated. But our lead group now has a four minute gap over the field.
The leading group is bumping its way ovr some cobblestones. The chasing field isn't too worried, though, with lots of friendly chats going on. Cervelo is halping out with leading the chase, but there is nothing serious at the moment.
And here is what Gianni Savio had to tell us: “We hope to have a good results with Rubens Bertogliati. The others must get into a breakaway. It’s their first Roubaix so it’s great experience and a big opportunity to be a protagonist and that’s our tactic for today. One or two in the break but that depends on luck. We will honour this race, this magical race."
Oops, and there's a crash in the big field. Stijn Devolder of Quick Step has gone down. Ahead of him, the peloton is going into cobble section 23.
Liquigas moves into the lead and now the gap is dropping. It's at 3:47 now. THe main peloton has split, too.
Look carefully at the course today, and remember it. You will be seeing some of it again on July 6, in the third stage of the Tour de France. That would be the 13.2km cobblestone section from La Roubaix to the start of the Wald von Arenberg.
Don't look for the Tour contenders to be here today, though. “I have never ridden on cobblestones,” Alberto Contador of Astana told the SID news agency. “I'll train there some before the Tour.”
Daniel taking over from Susan for a bit. Lets give you an quick update in case you've just joined us. We have a lead group on 19 riders, with a lead of 3:25 over the peloton.
The bunch are on a road section of the course now coming up to sector 22 and they're all strung out as the pace continues to increase. Why such a fast pace? Cross winds. The bunch is splitting all over the road.
HTC are putting men at the front in a bid to split things up but the pace looks like it's easing now, so those riders that are off the back have the chance to chase back on.
Thomas (Sky) drops back to the team car to pick up some food for him and his teammates while Quinziato makes it back to the peloton. He was in the top ten last year and after some back luck in Flanders will be looking for a result today.
A sky rider, Devolder again!, and a ride from Androni have crashed. Devolder is back up quickly and chasing. That's the second time he's crashed today. Not his sping, is it?
Devolder almost came down again, almost hitting a musette in the road. A quick shake of his head and he's ok. Saxo leading the bunch right now with help from Liquigas. Bit like Flanders, isn't it?
The leaders are now on sector 21 of the cobbles. Riders are on the left, right and middle of the road.
Some are even deciding on the grass as the best option. Gap down to around three minutes.
The Cyclingnews team spent the night in the same hotel as Sky. Flecha was the first rider down for breakfast this morning. Could that be an omen for today? James Huang, our tech editor has picked him for the win today.
The bunch are now on sector 21 but the big news is that Laurent Jalabert has turned up in the press sector at the velodrome. Hello there Jaja. Saxo are heading the field still Larsson on the front for them.
You need to be at the front on these sectors though because the pace at the back of the peloton is close to walking pace. Hoj takes over at the front.
The next cobbles are Querenaing a Maing -- 2.5 km long. Rather long, but mostly downhill. The last km is a pretty steep descent, so the riders will really have to pay attention. We might see some water bottles popping out here, which is always quite dangerous. The lead group are there now.
We've just got our first glimpse of Cancellara. He's on Breschel's wheel. The leaders are now on the next sector.
At the press conference in Flanders a lot of of journalists felt that Cancellara had switched off, that he'd not be that tuned in for Roubaix. We'll see. Boonen was trying to get under his skin this week in the media and it might have worked. Not sure that was the smartest move from Boonen to be honest.
There's no mud but there's plenty of dust on the pave. That will make things really hard for the riders. It'll effect their breathing and visibility.
The bunch won't catch the leaders before Arenberg, which comes up in just a few minutes time. Eisel said that the race would split there and that it was the most decisive section. I've not raced Roubaix but it could be a bit too early for the race to split permanently then. You probably can't win the race there but you can certainly lose it.
Jens Keukeleire is the current leader of the UCI's Europe Tour after his bunch sprint wins in Le Samyn, Nokere Koerse and the 3-days of West-Flanders. The 21 year-old makes his debut in the Hell Classic and he received advice from former pro Nico Mattan at the start in Compiègne. Mattan told Keukeleire to think of the race as if it was a 120km long criterium, trying to get in the breakaway. Keukeleire told Cyclingnews that he was hesitating whether to stay in the peloton or not. "I'll ride as much near the front as I can without attacking myself. Actually, I want to learn how the peloton act on the cobbles," Keukeleire told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé. The young Belgian didn't make it into the large breakaway group so we're assuming he already knows how it feels to ride in the peloton on the pavé... Meanwhile, his team-mate Zingle is still in the front group.
The Trouee d'Arenberg is section 17. At 2.4km long, it drops and rises. It is a symbol for this race, and the cobbles were first laid in the time of Napoleon II. It has been in Paris-Roubaix since 1968.
Devolder is back in the convoy again. I dont think he wants to be here, do you? He's battling on but now he's trying to look around for team car.
It has been said, “Paris-Roubaix is not won in Arenberg, but from there the group with the winner is selected.” It has been the scene of many a crash over the years, some causing serious injuries. Filippo Pozzato once called it “The true definition of hell”.
Boonen and Breschel near the front as the bunch snake towards the forest. This is going to be a vitally important sector and everyone in the bunch knows it. It's practically a sprint bunch and we have a crash. About five riders in the road.
It looks like they crashed into or just before a traffic island. Garmin, Shack and Rabo involved.
Cervelo take over on the front now. We'll try and get you the names of the riders down soon.
And now it's back to Susan...
Thanks Dan. Exactly 100 km to go, and now Eisel has a puncture. A teammate helps him out. Not a good time to get thrown back, though.
Another crash, and Columbia again. Eisel again! He sumersaults onto the grass. Van Summeren of Garmin is down, too, and doesn#t look too good. Farrar was also involved, but is up and going again.
The peloton has now fallen into a zillion little groups.
We have about 12 riders in a lead group, including -- what a surprise -- Boonen and Cancellara.
Let's make that the lead chase group. And it as all the favourites except for Eisel, Van Summeren and Farrar, who have fallen back due to crashes.
Hushovd, Hincapie, boonen, Pozzato, Flecha, Breshel, Hoste and Hayman ar among those in the group, but it looks like things are coming back together.
The problem is that everyone wants to be at the front when they go into the Arenberg. And that's hard to work out, with 150 riders or so all trying to be at the same place at the same time.
Remember our lead group? They ha a 1.22 gap as they go into the Arenberg.
Cancellara leads the main field into the Arenberg.
The leaders have gone into the cobbles in single file. Lots of fans lining the narrow way. Boonen now takes over the lead work from Cancellara.
The teams have equipment people along the way, holding spares for anyone who punctures.
The lead group is out of the woods. Boonen continues to be at the head of the chase.
And now the field is out of that section. Everyone grabs a new water bottle and keeps on going.
The gap is under a minute now , and the break riders know that their break is nearly finished.
Roger Hammond of Cervelo is now leading the field. In fact he has pulled away slightly. He is catching the first to fall back from the lead group.
Looks like Arenberg didn't play its usual role this year: no big crashes, no big breaks, no pre-decision.
The gap is down to 45 seconds now.
Only eight riders in the lead group now,
Saxo Bank is all neatly line up ahead of Breschel and Cancellar. They have a firm grip on the lead work of the main group.
And another crash, going around a tight corner. A Cofidis rider and one from Bbox. Both are back up and going, though.
Saxo Bank continues to have control, as the gap is now only 20 seconds.
The leaders are 20 seconds ahead of the Cancellara /Boonen group. About a minute behind them is a 40-man group with Eisel and Bonnet.
Devolder is having a bad day. Another puncture.
The peloton flies past some lovely flowering fruit trees -- but probably isn't even aware of them.
And we have another section of "pave" or cobblestones. Not so tough this time.
The gap has become a bit larger again.
The field is strung out, flying along, as the leaders head into the next cobbled section.
Oh very bad news. Cancellara has punctured. No time to change tyres, he just gets a whole new bike. In no time flat he is back with the lead chase group.
A narrow bridge here over a canal. Be careful, no swimming today!
Martijn Tjallingii (Rabobank) and a RadioShack rider are trying to get away from the chase group.
And more cobbles! Most of the riders "cheat", riding in the narrow uncobbled sections on the sides.
Goss and Hunt lead the way over the cobbles.
The gap is 20 seconds again, and the peloton is bumping along on the cobbles in single file.
The main field is out of the cobbles and turns up the speed.
Tjallingii is now on his own, taking on the next section of cobbles.
Goss continues to lead his little escape group over even more cobblestones.
Sky is now at the front of the field, with Boonen not far behind.
David Millar is at the wrong end of the field: the back end.
Boonen has picked up the speed and he leads the capture of Tjallingii. The leaders only have 12 seconds now.
Former Paris--Roubaix winner Stuart O'Grady is th next to fall back.
Time to toss this back to Dan, who will take you from here to the velodrome in Roubaix.
Wynants, Hunt, Sutton and Hansen are hanging on at the front of the race, but they have only about a 15 second lead. Apparently it has been Hansen all the time and not Goss. Sorry!
The four leaders look back over their shoulders to see how much longer they have.
And the four in front go into the next cobbled sector with their minimal lead.
Cancellara is now at the head of the chase group, picking up the pace. Who goes with him? Boonen and Flecha!
Boonen move into th lad as thy catch the break group. But Cancellara sneaks up to the front.....
The break is over. Yikes! A big dog just took his life in his paws and crossed the street dangerously close to the riders. Nothing happened, thank goodness.
Deveolder is still making his way forward. he is not yet to the favourites' group.
Cancellara is n't going to let that happen, and brings a group right up to the Belgian.
The first show of strength by the two main favourites.....
And Boonen goes again, as they enter the next cobble section.
And once again, Cancellara goes after him.
Hushovd is with Cancellara, but lets the Swiss man do the lead work. It works, they catch Boonen and have brought Pozzato along with them. Roger Hammond was ther too, and now he takes off.
Boonen, Cancellara, Pozzato lead the chase of Hammond, and have him. Some grim faces there -- things have gotten serious all of a sudden!
Boonen glances sideways and Cancellara takes the hint, jumping in to take over the lead work.
We have a group of roughly 40 in the lead at the moment -- but we surely don't believe it will stay that way very long.
HInault and Terpstra are now at the head of things.
There is a group of about group of 40 riders together, including Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), Thor Hushovd and Roger Hammond (Cervelo TestTeam), Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) Adam Hansen (HTC-Columbia), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
The lead group is getting smaller.....
The two in front have been joined by Frederic Guesdon.
Well, it didn't work out for Dan to take over, so Susan will turn it over to Sue George now.
Riders are on another section of cobbles and the pace is high. The favorites, like Boonen and Cancellara and Flecha are sitting near the front.
Boonnen stands on his pedals and move to the front of the bunch, accelerating the pace.
Riders are all strung out now front to back.
At the front right now, we have Leif Hoste, Leukemans and Hinault at the front together, followed by the favorites.
Cancellara attacks the favorites and rockets up to the lead trio. Boonen is forced to take up chase with the others.
Cancellara attacks the break and it seems like the only man who can react in an instant is Leukmans. Behind the four leaders, Boonen is setting the pace, trying to make it across the gap.
Cancellara is pedalling like a machine through the dusty cobbled section. He's powering away from Leukmans, who can't handle the Swiss rider's pace.
Cancellara's performance reminds us a little of Flanders last week, when he just put the hammer down and rode away from his rival Boonen to go on to the race win.
Behind Cancellara, riders like Boonen, Pozzato, Hushovd, Hammond, Hoste, Hinault and Flecha are chasing.
It looks like George Hincapie did not make the selection of the chase group. The chase group still contains many of the favorites. It will be interesting to see if they decide to work together to catch Cancellara or if they let him go while they mark each other.
Cancellara is riding another sector of cobbles. It is lined with fans clapping and cheering as he passes. He's got his hands on the hoods and is powering along. He looks pretty comfortable.
Boonen is back at the front of the chasers, but it seems like he will need some help to catch the time trial World Champion Cancellara, who has opened the gap to 35 seconds, where it is currently holding steady.
George Hincapie is in a chase group with Bernard Eisel and Adam Hanson. That group is behind the lead chase group of favorites including Boonen. It doesn't look very likely that they will close in on the favorites, but then there are still 37km to go.
Cancellara is continuing to open the gap. He's now got 55 seconds on the favorites. He appears to be riding away with the race while the rest of the favorites are left behind, almost neutralizing each other.
Cancellara is riding with a flat back, his elbows are at 90 degrees. His hips look nice and steady and he pedals in powerful, smooth strokes as he's gotten the gap up to 1:18. Behind him, the eight chasers are rotating through their turns though no one is taking any particularly long pulls.
The fact that Pozzato is in the group of chasers must mean that he's feeling much better after his recent bout with an intestinal virus. Among the chasers, Boonen has spent quite a bit of time at the front. He's getting some help from Hushovd, too.
Although Cancellara's gap is not going up quite as fast, it is still, undeniably, going up. He's got 1:37 on the eight chasers now as they are all on another section of cobbles.
Should Cancellara, who now has a two-minute advantage, manage to hold on for the win, that would give him two very important victories for his palmares: Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. His team manager , Bjarne Riis, is looking for a sponsor to replace Saxo Bank at the end of the 2010 season, and results like this will only help his search.
If this trend continues, it won't be long before the chase group starts riding for second and third places. Cancellara will be trying to stay out of trouble by avoiding mechanicals and crashes that could jeopardize his lead.
Leif Hoste is taking a turn ahead of Thor Hushovd at the front of the chasers as they fly over some cobbles. The chasers are riding the cobbles with their hands on the tops of the bars, elbows bent to help soak up some of the vibration.
Juan Antonio Flecha attacks the chasers and instantly gets a gap.
Flecha's attack is sticking and he's on his own, riding in second place.
On Friday, Flecha said to Cyclingnews, "I think I love this race for the same reason as many other riders. It's because they're epical. There's a lot of adversity during the race. It defines me and all the 200 riders who will be on the start line on Sunday." Flecha has been having a good early season. He won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in late February.
Flecha realizes he's not going to get away from the other chasers and sits up to wait and rejoin them. It was worth a shot for Flecha, who figured his chances were best on his own ahead of the other favorites as they all chased Cancellara.
Cancellara has passed the 20km to go mark and his gap is up to 2:42. It's looking good for the Swiss rider.
During Flecha's attack, Pozzato slipped off the back of the chasers, but he managed to catch back on, leaving us still with eight chasers. Meanwhile, at the front, Cancellara is in sector 4 of the cobbles, still riding strong and increasing his gap slowly, but steadily. It's up to 2:55. He's bouncing along over the cobbles, absolutely flying.
Cancellara is riding the famous Carrefour. It's 2.1km long. At this point in the race, concentration is so important. He's got to pick his line, stay smooth and avoid, as much as possible, any flats. He seems to be doing that well as his gap breaks the three-minute mark.
The chasers are all strung out on the cobbles. It's looking increasingly like they are racing for second and third, but anything can happen in Paris-Roubaix. Hushovd is pushing the pace among the chasers. Pozzato seems to be struggling again.
The chase group has splintered thanks to the efforts of Flecha. He's got Hushovd with him. They are well ahead of the other chasers.
Flecha and Hushovd look are battling for second and third. Boonen couldn't go with them on the cobbles - he appeared visibly more tired than earlier in the race. Hammond, Pozzato and Leukmans are with Boonen chasing. Hinault and Hoste didn't make the cut with Boonen's group.
Cancellara hits sector 2 of the cobbles. He's got a fairly comfortable 2:47 on the his first chasers and is still riding strongly. That means just one more section of cobbles for him to go.
Cancellara is all the way to the right of the section of cobbles, trying to find the smoothest path.
Flecha and Hushovd are trading turns, still working together as they're on the cobbles together.
Cancellara has 2:41 with 5km to go. He's on pavement at the moment, and the road is lined with people cheering him on.
Flecha and Hushovd has closed the gap just a little, to 2:34, but Cancellara has just 4.1km to go. Barring the unexpected, Cancellara, who is the Swiss road national champion and the time trial World Champion, looks like he will soon be able to take home the cobbled trophy.
Fans are packed into the Roubaix velodrome, awaiting the arrival of Cancellara. The Swiss rider has been on his own at the front for a long time. Behind him, the two chasers, Flecha and Hushovd, are still trading pulls.
Cancellara gets a high five from someone in his team car, probably Bjarne Riis. He's backing it off, starting to celebrate as he heads toward the the finish with plenty of time.
Cancellara is on the final section of cobbles as he heads toward the velodrome.
Cancellara turns into the velodrome.
Cancellara rides a lap, raising his arm in celebration occasionally.
It's been six hours, 35 minutes and 10 seconds as Cancellara crosses the line as the winner of the 2010 Paris-Roubaix!
The battle is on for second as the two chasers enter the velodrome.
Flecha is leading them out, with Hushovd on his wheel.
Hushovd darts on the inside and passes Flecha for a second place. Flecha is third and claps as he rides across the line in third.
Hammond takes the sprint just ahead of Tom Boonen in a sprint to the line.
Bjorn Leukmans takes sixth place ahead of Filippo Pozzato in seventh.
That wraps up our live coverage for Paris-Roubaix. Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a complete report, results and photos plus lots of news from the race.