By Gregor Brown in Roubaix, France
Katusha's Filippo Pozzato was once again shadowing Tom Boonen in a Classic, but for the second week in a row he was denied a man-to-man duel with his Quick Step competitor. This time it was due to a series of mishaps and overbearing fans on the roads from Paris to Roubaix. As Boonen was powering toward his third career victory, Pozzato was delayed by the carnage in the Belgian's wake.
"I was coming back after [Juan Antonio] Flecha's crash, then at the end of the Carrefour sector I was stuck behind [Thor] Hushovd. I found him in the middle of the street with the fans on both sides," Pozzato said.
Pozzato closed to within ten seconds of Boonen over the next few kilometres, but eventually faded. With nine kilometres to go, he lagged behind by 12 seconds, but with four kilometres remaining, the fight was over as he had 27 to make up. The closest he came to Boonen was when he entered the Roubaix velodrome and saw his former Quick Step teammate starting the final lap to the finish line.
"Tom was going strong and there was nothing to do. Clearly, if I had been able to stick on his wheel it would have changed the whole story. It would have been a good duel.
"The Belgian fans were not very polite out there, I got spat on by someone. Whatever, it's nothing. You have to consider all those police and photographer motorbikes protecting Boonen, he might have had a little bit of slipstream, but I only had one bike on my side."
It was Pozzato's best result in Roubaix: he finished 15th in 2006, 35th in 2007 and, after a bad crash prior to the Arenberg sector, he took 49th last year.