The Hell of the North added another chapter to its legend in 2010, as Fabian Cancellara pulled away from the field with 50 km to go and won by two minutes. It was the Swiss rider's second victory at the famous velodrome, and one of the most impressive in the race's long history, rewarded by being voted Best One-Day Race by Cyclingnews readers.
The 2010 edition of the race was held on a clear, dry and sunny day, so the riders were spared the worst of the dust and mud which have so often added an additional layer of drama to an already spectacular race.
The favourite going into the race was not Saxo Bank's Cancellara, who had won in 2006, but Tom Boonen of Quick Step, who was looking for his third consecutive win and his fourth in total. In 2009, it was the Belgian who had pulled away and soloed into the velodrome.
But 2010 was not to be Boonen's year, and he must have had forebodings going into the race. Cancellara has already proved his dominant form, dropping Boonen with a kiilometre to go in the E3 Prijs Harelbeke, and more importantly, outriding him on the Kapelmuur before going on to win the Tour of Flanders.
The questions going into the race therefore, were: would Saxo Bank be able to control the race? Could Cancellara stay upright on the cobbles, and would his material also come through unscathed? But as it turned out, the only thing to consider was how much the world time trial champion would win by.
A large escape group got away early, but the first cobblestone section started cutting into their four-minute lead. The 2400m-long cobble section in the Arenberg had it usual effect, and when the riders emerged from the forest, only nine riders had less than minute lead over the field led by Cancellara and Boonen.
With only 68 km to go, the last of the break was caught by a chasing field of 30 riders, which contained all the big names. Boonen did his best to get away, but the others were having none of it. Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) and Sebastien Hinault (Ag2R) were judged to be harmless and allowed to get away, although their gap was not large.
Boonen eventually took a break at the back of the group, with a bit more than 50km to go, and this would turn out to be a costly mistake. Cancellara took off, quickly catching and passing the three escapees.
Boonen gave chase, of course, and a new eight-man group chase group formed, but to no avail. The Swiss rider simply turned into his time trial mode and went all out. His powerful speed was too much for the mere mortals behind him, and he swept alone into the Roubaix velodrome, exhaustedly celebrating a victory which he himself could hardly believe.
Second place in the poll went to the Tour of Flanders, won by none other than Cancellara. He easily pulled away from Boonen on the fabled Muur in Geraardsbergen, and used his time trial skills to beat the frustrated Belgian by 1:15 – an omen of what was to happen a week later in Roubaix.
The men's road world championship race was voted into third place. It was a race in which no one really knew what to expect – a sprinters' parade, or would the climbs prove to be too much? In the end, the race went to a sprinting Classics specialist. Norway's Thor Hushovd claimed top honours as he outcharged a 25 man group to take the title and the rainbow jersey.
2010 Best one-day race
Paris-Roubaix, 8361 votes
Ronde van Vlaanderen, 2733
Men's Road World Championship, 1873
Fleche Wallonne, 781
Giro di Lombardia, 768
Milan-San Remo, 671
Cross-Country Mountain Bike World Championship, 280
Clasica San Sebastian, 106
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 76
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