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Tom Boonen blasts clash of the titans

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Tom Boonen wins in the velodrome, thanks to his sprinting skills

Tom Boonen wins in the velodrome, thanks to his sprinting skills (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Boonen makes his move!

Boonen makes his move! (Image credit: James Huang)
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Alessandro Ballan was strong to make the break, but had no answer to Boonen.

Alessandro Ballan was strong to make the break, but had no answer to Boonen. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato's shorts gave testimony to a rough day for the Italian

Pozzato's shorts gave testimony to a rough day for the Italian (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alexander Serov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) was part

Alexander Serov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) was part (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The clouds were not as threatening as expected and it stayed dry for the most part

The clouds were not as threatening as expected and it stayed dry for the most part (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara reflects on where it went wrong, but the truth is that Boonen was simply too strong today.

Cancellara reflects on where it went wrong, but the truth is that Boonen was simply too strong today. (Image credit: AFP)
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The only cobble stone you'd ever want to kiss!

The only cobble stone you'd ever want to kiss! (Image credit: AFP)
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Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) rode a good race.

Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) rode a good race. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen takes the Queen of Classics, in the velodrome in Roubaix.

Tom Boonen takes the Queen of Classics, in the velodrome in Roubaix. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) is marked by the dust of a dry race.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) is marked by the dust of a dry race. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen (Quick Step) celebrates as he crosses the line ahead of his breakaway companions.

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) celebrates as he crosses the line ahead of his breakaway companions. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ballan, Cancellara and Boonen and this ended up to be the reverse podium.

Ballan, Cancellara and Boonen and this ended up to be the reverse podium. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabio Baldato (Lampre) is an Italian who likes the cobbles.

Fabio Baldato (Lampre) is an Italian who likes the cobbles. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato had still plenty of team-mates in the earlier part of the race.

Pozzato had still plenty of team-mates in the earlier part of the race. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) leads his captain through one of the muddy sections.

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) leads his captain through one of the muddy sections. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cancellara in the break royale with the Belgian supporters cheering for 'their' Tom Boonen.

Cancellara in the break royale with the Belgian supporters cheering for 'their' Tom Boonen. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato was unlucky to be involved in a crash, just before the Arenberg.

Pozzato was unlucky to be involved in a crash, just before the Arenberg. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) rode a strong race and finished in the Hincapie group.

Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) rode a strong race and finished in the Hincapie group. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The clouds were not threatening as the weather was much better than predicted.

The clouds were not threatening as the weather was much better than predicted. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The forest of Arenberg always tells which riders are in and out of contention.

The forest of Arenberg always tells which riders are in and out of contention. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ballan leads Boonen and Cancellara.

Ballan leads Boonen and Cancellara. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The trio did well on the cobbles but Ballan clearly was not enjoying the rough terrain too much.

The trio did well on the cobbles but Ballan clearly was not enjoying the rough terrain too much. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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One of the typical right hand turns that often proves to be fatal in dry or wet conditions.

One of the typical right hand turns that often proves to be fatal in dry or wet conditions. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Some riders opted for the side of the road, while others didn't mind the cobbles.

Some riders opted for the side of the road, while others didn't mind the cobbles. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato was dropped after a crash then fought back, but eventually had to surrender.

Pozzato was dropped after a crash then fought back, but eventually had to surrender. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fischer stormed ahead in Wallers-Arenberg, but Cancellara had him in his sight.

Fischer stormed ahead in Wallers-Arenberg, but Cancellara had him in his sight. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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It was complete chaos on the course.

It was complete chaos on the course. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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One of the easier sections of the pavé.

One of the easier sections of the pavé. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan in an earlier part of the race with O'Grady carrying bottles.

Alessandro Ballan in an earlier part of the race with O'Grady carrying bottles. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Patrick Calcagni (Barloworld) cobbles along.

Patrick Calcagni (Barloworld) cobbles along. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato's shorts gave testimony to his rough day.

Pozzato's shorts gave testimony to his rough day. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alexander Serov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) was part of the main break of the day.

Alexander Serov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) was part of the main break of the day. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Quick Step power from left to right with Wouter Weylandt, Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder.

Quick Step power from left to right with Wouter Weylandt, Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ballan in the dust.

Ballan in the dust. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Boonen is followed by Martyn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle - H30)

Boonen is followed by Martyn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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It's a relief when the riders see the number crossed out, as it means the end of the cobble section.

It's a relief when the riders see the number crossed out, as it means the end of the cobble section. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Marco Bandiera (Lampre) seems to cry in pain.

Marco Bandiera (Lampre) seems to cry in pain. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Sector 2 is the last 'real' sector and even it provides plenty of alternatives.

Sector 2 is the last 'real' sector and even it provides plenty of alternatives. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The break royale passes the windmill.

The break royale passes the windmill. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alexander Serov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) smiles before the start, but didn't know yet that he would be in the break of the day.

Alexander Serov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) smiles before the start, but didn't know yet that he would be in the break of the day. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Zong! A Paris-Roubaix without crashes would be like a fish without water.

Zong! A Paris-Roubaix without crashes would be like a fish without water. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Neither of the men up front could make a decisive move before the velodrome.

Neither of the men up front could make a decisive move before the velodrome. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ballan leads as Cancellara makes it from the left to the right side of the road.

Ballan leads as Cancellara makes it from the left to the right side of the road. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Serov is happy as it stayed dry

Serov is happy as it stayed dry (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen did it again!

Tom Boonen did it again! (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ballan can be proud with his ride and happy with third.

Ballan can be proud with his ride and happy with third. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Crashfest

Crashfest (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Baldato finished another classic and this one in a very good tenth place.

Baldato finished another classic and this one in a very good tenth place. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) can be happy with his result.

Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) can be happy with his result. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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When the attacks come thick and fast you better pay attention. Ballan fights his way back to Boonen, Cancellara and Devolder.

When the attacks come thick and fast you better pay attention. Ballan fights his way back to Boonen, Cancellara and Devolder. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Martijn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30) rode to an impressive fourth place.

Martijn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30) rode to an impressive fourth place. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton winds its way through the fields of northern France.

The peloton winds its way through the fields of northern France. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Anything to avoid the cobbles: riders make use of a footpath for a smoother ride.

Anything to avoid the cobbles: riders make use of a footpath for a smoother ride. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The Belgian fans were out in force as usual.

The Belgian fans were out in force as usual. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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No rain, but plenty of dust in the 106th Paris-Roubaix.

No rain, but plenty of dust in the 106th Paris-Roubaix. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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All eyes were on Tom Boonen today, and he did not disappoint.

All eyes were on Tom Boonen today, and he did not disappoint. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Boonen took the race by the scruff of the neck.

Boonen took the race by the scruff of the neck. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Tom Boonen sweeps through a corner on the pavé.

Tom Boonen sweeps through a corner on the pavé. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) had a great ride today.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) had a great ride today. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) goes in pursuit of Tom Boonen.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) goes in pursuit of Tom Boonen. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Boonen tried to shake Cancellara before the Roubaix velodrome but eventually settled for a sprint.

Boonen tried to shake Cancellara before the Roubaix velodrome but eventually settled for a sprint. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Tom Boonen leads Fabian Cancellara and Alessandro Ballan in their winning escape.

Tom Boonen leads Fabian Cancellara and Alessandro Ballan in their winning escape. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Boonen blasts away from Cancellara and Ballan down the finishing straight.

Boonen blasts away from Cancellara and Ballan down the finishing straight. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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An ecstatic Tom Boonen takes the win in the Roubaix velodrome.

An ecstatic Tom Boonen takes the win in the Roubaix velodrome. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Boonen is mobbed by photographers and journalists after his triumph.

Boonen is mobbed by photographers and journalists after his triumph. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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A second Roubaix cobblestone for Boonen's mantle piece.

A second Roubaix cobblestone for Boonen's mantle piece. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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It reads 'Vainqueur de Paris-Roubaix 2008'.

It reads 'Vainqueur de Paris-Roubaix 2008'. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Two Roubaix victories - this one probably sweeter than the first.

Two Roubaix victories - this one probably sweeter than the first. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The 2008 Paris-Roubaix podium: Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC), Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre).

The 2008 Paris-Roubaix podium: Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC), Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre). (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Cancellara and Boonen share a joke on the podium.

Cancellara and Boonen share a joke on the podium. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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A dusty but delighted Tom Boonen attends the post-race press conference.

A dusty but delighted Tom Boonen attends the post-race press conference. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Boonen is congratulated by runner up Fabian Cancellara.

Boonen is congratulated by runner up Fabian Cancellara. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Cancellara reflects on his day's efforts.

Cancellara reflects on his day's efforts. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan, Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen enter the Roubaix velodrome with Boonen in perfect position.

Alessandro Ballan, Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen enter the Roubaix velodrome with Boonen in perfect position. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Boonen makes his move!

Boonen makes his move! (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Boonen quickly opens up a gap…

Boonen quickly opens up a gap… (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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…and there's no looking back from here.

…and there's no looking back from here. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Boonen rockets to the line to win the 2008 Paris-Roubaix.

Boonen rockets to the line to win the 2008 Paris-Roubaix. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Former pro rider Nico Mattan was present in Compiègne. The Belgian told Cyclingnews that he is currently featuring in a dancing program on TV.

Former pro rider Nico Mattan was present in Compiègne. The Belgian told Cyclingnews that he is currently featuring in a dancing program on TV. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Dirk Demol talked with Cyclingnews about his 'poulain' Stijn Devolder.

Dirk Demol talked with Cyclingnews about his 'poulain' Stijn Devolder. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Herman Frison featured on the front page of the organising French sports paper l'Equipe; nevermind the slip of the pen.

Herman Frison featured on the front page of the organising French sports paper l'Equipe; nevermind the slip of the pen. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Steffen Wesemann finished second and third in Paris-Roubaix and this is the Swiss' last participation in Hell.

Steffen Wesemann finished second and third in Paris-Roubaix and this is the Swiss' last participation in Hell. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Johan Vansummeren at the start in Compiègne.

Johan Vansummeren at the start in Compiègne. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Former winner Magnus Backstedt was wearing camouflage colours to slip past the press in Compiegne.

Former winner Magnus Backstedt was wearing camouflage colours to slip past the press in Compiegne. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Inventive Matteo Tossato made sure he could lose some sweat through his cap and helmet.

Inventive Matteo Tossato made sure he could lose some sweat through his cap and helmet. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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George Hincapie at the start of Paris-Roubaix 2008. "Nervous? No, I'll do whatever I can to win... yeah ok, maybe a little nervous."

George Hincapie at the start of Paris-Roubaix 2008. "Nervous? No, I'll do whatever I can to win... yeah ok, maybe a little nervous." (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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The press swarmed around former winner Tom Boonen at the start in Compiègne.

The press swarmed around former winner Tom Boonen at the start in Compiègne. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Winner Tom Boonen just crashed into the arms of his brother. One second later some press people crashed as well.

Winner Tom Boonen just crashed into the arms of his brother. One second later some press people crashed as well. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) talks with the press after his third place in Paris-Roubaix

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) talks with the press after his third place in Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Martyn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) cruised on towards a fantastic fourth place

Martyn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) cruised on towards a fantastic fourth place (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) rides to the podium

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) rides to the podium (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto) worked his ass off for his team leader Leif Hoste.

Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto) worked his ass off for his team leader Leif Hoste. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Tom Boonen (Quick Step) lifts the trophy cobble in the air

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) lifts the trophy cobble in the air (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Tom Boonen (Quick Step) shows the second cobble he can take home from Roubaix

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) shows the second cobble he can take home from Roubaix (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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The Topsport Vlaanderen riders gather on the track of Roubaix. They looked like boy scouts. "Next time we are going to win. Win, win win!"

The Topsport Vlaanderen riders gather on the track of Roubaix. They looked like boy scouts. "Next time we are going to win. Win, win win!" (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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This man was the first to congratulate Tom Boonen with his win as they crashed into each other's arms; it's Tom's brother.

This man was the first to congratulate Tom Boonen with his win as they crashed into each other's arms; it's Tom's brother. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Tom Boonen talks with the press after his second victory in Paris-Roubaix

Tom Boonen talks with the press after his second victory in Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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Johan Vansummeren (Silence-Lotto) in his unmistakable style, zooming across the rough roads.

Johan Vansummeren (Silence-Lotto) in his unmistakable style, zooming across the rough roads. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Steffen Wesemann on the cobbles he loves so much, but it was his last Paris-Roubaix.

Steffen Wesemann on the cobbles he loves so much, but it was his last Paris-Roubaix. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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George Hincapie shadows Juan Antonio Flecha. Both riders suffered from bad luck.

George Hincapie shadows Juan Antonio Flecha. Both riders suffered from bad luck. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Where is the rider to this bottle?

Where is the rider to this bottle? (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Artists on wheels as the riders are pacing back through the caravan without getting clobbered.

Artists on wheels as the riders are pacing back through the caravan without getting clobbered. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The start in Compiègne when the riders are fresh and clean.

The start in Compiègne when the riders are fresh and clean. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The podium with Ballan, Boonen, Cancellara from left to right.

The podium with Ballan, Boonen, Cancellara from left to right. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The tension, the tension...

The tension, the tension... (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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A jubilant Tom Boonen wins the 106th edition of Paris-Roubaix.

A jubilant Tom Boonen wins the 106th edition of Paris-Roubaix. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The media eagerly awaits the arrival of the riders in the velodrome.

The media eagerly awaits the arrival of the riders in the velodrome. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Tom Boonen is all smiles as he won his second l'enfer du Nord.

Tom Boonen is all smiles as he won his second l'enfer du Nord. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Euskaltel riders are generally speaking more comfortable in the Basque rain than in French hell.

Euskaltel riders are generally speaking more comfortable in the Basque rain than in French hell. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) was unlucky but then again, that is not so uncommon here!

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) was unlucky but then again, that is not so uncommon here! (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The Hincapie group enters the velodrome. The US American won the sprint for 9th – leaving his streak of top 10 finishes uninterrupted.

The Hincapie group enters the velodrome. The US American won the sprint for 9th – leaving his streak of top 10 finishes uninterrupted. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Hincapie could bank on Team-mate Bernhard Eisel (on the left) to lead him out.

Hincapie could bank on Team-mate Bernhard Eisel (on the left) to lead him out. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream) at the start looking optimistic

Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream) at the start looking optimistic (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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In the Arenberg forest Boonen had a good position and luck enough not to crash.

In the Arenberg forest Boonen had a good position and luck enough not to crash. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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The big cobble seems to make Boonen a bit unsteady on the podium…

The big cobble seems to make Boonen a bit unsteady on the podium… (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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Boonen is interviewed before the start of the race.

Boonen is interviewed before the start of the race. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was jubilant after taking his second, and best, Paris-Roubaix

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was jubilant after taking his second, and best, Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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Franck Rénier (Bouygues Telecom) leads on the shoulder.

Franck Rénier (Bouygues Telecom) leads on the shoulder. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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The "Break Royale" of Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) tackle the Carrefour de l'Arbre secteur.

The "Break Royale" of Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) tackle the Carrefour de l'Arbre secteur. (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) leads the chase, but gets no help from Stuart O'Grady (CSC) or a well hidden Stijn Devolder, and will lose fourth place to Martijn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle - H3O).

Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) leads the chase, but gets no help from Stuart O'Grady (CSC) or a well hidden Stijn Devolder, and will lose fourth place to Martijn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle - H3O). (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) leads a group of chasers featuring George Hincapie (High Road) as Marcus Ljungqvist (CSC) grits his teeth.

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) leads a group of chasers featuring George Hincapie (High Road) as Marcus Ljungqvist (CSC) grits his teeth. (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Steven De Jongh (Quick Step) leads a group with Stefan Wesemann (Collstrop), Roger Hammond (High Road), Christophe Mengin (Française des Jeux) and Nick Nuyens (Cofidis).

Steven De Jongh (Quick Step) leads a group with Stefan Wesemann (Collstrop), Roger Hammond (High Road), Christophe Mengin (Française des Jeux) and Nick Nuyens (Cofidis). (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Baden Cooke (Barloworld) is pleased to be racing here again after his year at Unibet, but would rather be nearer the front!

Baden Cooke (Barloworld) is pleased to be racing here again after his year at Unibet, but would rather be nearer the front! (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Aurélien Clerc (Bouyges Telecom) grits his teeth as he rides as smooth a line as possible at the edge of the road.

Aurélien Clerc (Bouyges Telecom) grits his teeth as he rides as smooth a line as possible at the edge of the road. (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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2001 winner Servais Knaven (High Road) leads Martin Elmiger (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Allan Johansen (CSC).

2001 winner Servais Knaven (High Road) leads Martin Elmiger (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Allan Johansen (CSC). (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) digs in, but his captain Fabian Cancellara is way up the road.

Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) digs in, but his captain Fabian Cancellara is way up the road. (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R-La Mondiale) just wishes this day was over.

Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R-La Mondiale) just wishes this day was over. (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Rabobank) sticks out his tongue at the photographer!

Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Rabobank) sticks out his tongue at the photographer! (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Kurt Hovelynck (Topsport Vlaanderen) has had a tough day, but just to finish is a great performance in the Hell of the North.

Kurt Hovelynck (Topsport Vlaanderen) has had a tough day, but just to finish is a great performance in the Hell of the North. (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Poor Pippo! Pozzato (Liquigas) limps to Roubaix helped by team-mate Frederik Willems after his crash just before Arenberg.

Poor Pippo! Pozzato (Liquigas) limps to Roubaix helped by team-mate Frederik Willems after his crash just before Arenberg. (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) takes a smoother line on the dirt at the side of the cobbles.

Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) takes a smoother line on the dirt at the side of the cobbles. (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Frank Hoj (Cofidis) leads the large peloton across the Carrefour de l'Arbre as Wim Vansevenant (Silence-Lotto) takes the smoother line on the dirt.

Frank Hoj (Cofidis) leads the large peloton across the Carrefour de l'Arbre as Wim Vansevenant (Silence-Lotto) takes the smoother line on the dirt. (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)
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Everybody's going home but Mathew Hayman (Rabobank) is determined to finish.

Everybody's going home but Mathew Hayman (Rabobank) is determined to finish. (Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)

106th Paris-Roubaix - 1.HC

France, April 13, 2008

2005 winner doubles in sprint with Cancellara and Ballan

2005 Paris-Roubaix winner Tom Boonen blasted past his two escape companions – Swiss Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) and Italian Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) – to claim the 'Queen of the Classics' for the second occasion in Northern France. The 27 year-old Belgian of Team Quick Step, winner of the 2005 World Championships, followed the impetus of Cancellara at 36 kilometres remaining and formed the winning move with Ballan.

The trio harmoniously worked towards the velodrome in Roubaix with a healthy advantage, where Boonen blasted from behind his companions on the final quarter lap. 2006 winner Cancellara finished second and Ballan third, while the chasing group was led home with a small advantage by Martyn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) over last year's winner Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC).

"I am extremely proud of what we achieved here today," noted Boonen after his win. "I have focused on today, Flanders and Roubaix. I didn't have the best legs of the leading group when I attacked.

"When I attacked I didn't feel like I was the strongest man of the three, but while we were getting closer to the finish that feeling tilted towards confidence, and in the end I wasn't at all scared to show up on the velodrome with these guys.

"They were dead tired," he added of his two companions. "Cancellara had cramps up until his ears, and Ballan was happy that he wasn't dropped on the Carrefour de l'Arbre. If you know that, you need to be a realist, you shouldn't be the smart-ass that attacks them."

The 106th edition started to take shape when Johan Van Summeren attacked from a large group of favourites that had formed earlier, following the Trouée d'Arenberg. The Belgian rider of Silence-Lotto accelerated in the Achy-Lèze-Archives, sector with 53 kilometres remaining, to pull out seven others, which included team-mate Leif Hoste, Boonen and Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Stijn Devolder (both Quick Step), Ballan, Cancellara and Stuart O'Grady (both Team CSC), and Maaskant.

The team tactics played out with the two super-teams, Quick Step and CSC. First, Quick Step's Devolder launched an attack at the beginning of the Moans-en-Eelke sector, with 48 kilometres to go. He was covered by O'Grady and eventually brought under control at the expense of Van Summeren for team captain Hoste.

Feeling ready to flex its muscle, CSC fired its heaviest missile, Cancellara. The winner of Eroica, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo accelerated away with only an attentive Boonen and Ballan for company. The winning move was formed and three key teams missed out: Silence-Lotto (Hoste lacked the strength to close the gap with Maaskant), Rabobank (Juan Antonio Flecha's day was ruined by bad luck and crashes) and High Road (strong early on and then it fell apart when team captain George Hincapie succumbed to mechanicals).

Pundits expected Cancellara to attack Boonen before the finale, however the 27 year-old waited out the key sectors of Cysoing and the Carrefour de l'Arbre. The same can be said for Ballan, but the 28 year-old looked to be suffering.

In fact, it was the Italian from Castelfranco Veneto, winner of the 2007 Ronde van Vlaanderen, who led the trio onto the velodrome for the lap and a half that conclude Paris-Roubaix. Ballan accelerated at 300 metres to go, but his speed seemed at a stand still compared to Boonen's blast 50 metres later. Cancellara barely made it past Ballan to finish second.

"If one of us would attack, the other one would chase him down," commented Cancellara on the rivalry between him and Boonen. "We were the two big favourites and the fact that we were there in the finale meant a lot to me. It proved that I was 100 percent, which I needed to be to be up there."

"I thought that it would be hard, because with two riders like that I knew it would be that way," Ballan noted, following his finish. "In the finale I was tired. With the first round of attacks I started to have cramps, so for this reason I am content to just finish on the podium."

After Devolder and Australian O'Grady duelled for fourth, Dutchman Maaskant took advantage of the infighting and was able to gain an advantage before the velodrome's entrance. He finished 18 seconds ahead of O'Grady, Hoste and Devolder, respectively.

"I think we did a fantastic race," O'Grady stated. "We took our responsibility in the race and did everything we could. I think we rode an almost perfect race. We were there for Fabian today, which is all that matters, he was the key."

On the multiple Devolder attacks, he added, "Devolder was strong, but obviously not as strong as the three guys in front of him [laughs - ed.]."

Just like Flecha and Hincapie, Italy's Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) suffered the fate of Paris-Roubaix's perils. Liquigas' team leader was involved in a crash with team-mate Manuel Quinziato before the guns were ready to fire in Paris-Roubaix's key Trouée d'Arenberg sector, kilometre 164.

"I did not see who caused the crash; maybe it was a High Road rider. It was stupid – I was up on the sidewalk," said Pozzato of the crash two kilometres before Arenberg. "I went sliding on the sidewalk in the middle of the group. I was able to come to a stop but there were others crashing from behind." He was forced to ride the Arenberg and other key sectors solo in his chase. "I did a few sectors, but I knew I would not be able to continue with the pain."

Although Pozzato and Flecha put in an amazing – and separate – chases to rejoin the favourites, they were both later gapped in the midst of the heavy artilleries. Both were able to finish their day in Hell.

How it unfolded

The start in Compiègne was taken on time at 10.55am, with 198 riders rolling out towards an unknown fate. Contrary to the forecasts, which predicted incessant rain throughout the course, the sky was pretty clear in the morning, even if the road was wet from some overnight drizzle.

Mathieu Ladagnous (Française des Jeux), racing his first Paris-Roubaix, boldly attacked at kilometre 10.5, but reintegrated into the bunch nine clicks later. A few other escape attempts were made\notably at kilometre 45 from Andreas Klier (High Road), Christophe Mengin (FDJ) and Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) – but never worked out, until Matthé Pronk (Cycle Collstrop), Jan Kuyckx (Landbouwkrediet) and Alexander Serov (Tinkoff) left the bunch behind at kilometre 87.

This trio was to be the "break of the day", as the riders, all from invited Pro Continental teams, collaborated well and the big ProTour squads behind were not worried about reeling them back in later.

Pieter Ghyllebert (Topsport Vlaanderen) decided to try to join them, but the lead of the break was already up to 1'40 over the peloton and to one minute over the lone chaser by kilometre 92. After sector 24 (Vertain), 30 kilometres later, the leaders had a maximum advantage of five minutes over the field, and Ghyllebert was back safely inside the bunch.

But the first pavé sectors took their toll on the peloton. Approaching the Arenberg sector, the field was already down to about 60 riders. The breakaway still hovered in front, but the race moved into a decisive phase and the pace increased. In the Haveluy section, the last one before the famous Arenberg forest, Team CSC took command.

The dreaded sector 18 held all its promises. Approaching the cobbles, under the tremendous pace set on by CSC, a crash involved Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) and Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), both in contention for the event. The two entered the sector way behind the other favourites, and embarked on a terrible journey to try to make it back to the front.

The main field split on the Arenberg pavés, with the main contenders coming out of it in a group of 28 riders. Quick Step was well represented with Tom Boonen and Belgian champion Stijn Devolder, Team CSC had Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O'Grady in it; there was Alessandro Ballan of Lampre, George Hincapie (High Road) and Steffen Wesemann (Cycle Collstrop).

The full list of riders in that group was: O'Grady, Breschel, Cancellara, Johansen, Ljungqvist (CSC), Langeveld (Rabobank), Wesemann (Cycle Collstrop), De Vocht, Van Avermaet, Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto), Fischer (Liquigas), Boonen, De Jongh, Devolder, Hulsmans, Weylandt (Quick Step), Hincapie, Eisel, Hammond (High Road), Ballan (Lampre), Krauss (Gerolsteiner), Grabsch (Milram), Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Mengin (FDJ), Clerc, Martias (Bouygues), Cooke (Barloworld) and Maaskant (Slipstream).

Meanwhile, the breakaway's advantage had melted to 1'30, with Pozzato and Flecha in a chase group, about one minute behind the main bunch.

But the lead group fell apart before it was caught. With 77 kilometres to go, Serov was out of strength, while Kuyckx flatted. With 72 kilometres to go, the last man standing, Pronk, was passed by the main bunch under the command of Quick Step.

Behind, Flecha managed to slowly but steadily come back to the group of favourites, while the injured Pozzato had more trouble but also re-joined by sector 13 (Beuvry-la-Forêt, 65 kilometres to go).

Teams CSC and Quick Step took turns in putting the hammer down during the next few kilometres and cobble sections, as well as High Road with Bernhard Eisel. The acceleration of the Austrian made the bunch split up, and American Hincapie found himself chasing behind.

Sector 11, Auchy-lez-Orchies, also played a key role in the unfolding of the race. Silence-Lotto's Johan Van Summeren accelerated as the bunch hit the cobbles. He had about 75 metres when some of the big time favourites reacted: Boonen, Devolder, Cancellara, O'Grady, Ballan and Hoste followed the Belgian's move, as well as a young Dutch talent, Martyn Maaskant of the Slipstream-Chipotle team.

A few kilometres later, it became apparent that George Hincapie had lost contact to the bunch, as he was already 38 seconds behind.

With 50 kilometres yet to race to the velodrome, the front group consisted of eight riders: Stijn Devolder and Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Martyn Maaskant (Slipstream Chipotle), Johan Van Summeren and Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto).

A chase group of about 22 riders, including Flecha, Pozzato and Wesemann, slowly but steadily lost ground to the front.

With Quick Step disposing of two pawns in the play, DS Wilfried Peeters decided to send Tour of Flanders winner Devolder up the road on the next pavé section (#10, Mons-en-Pévèle). But team tactics at CSC were no less cunning, and saw last year's winner O'Grady join the Belgian with 42 kilometres to go. The duo had an 18 second-advantage over the other six by sector eight.

But Lotto's Van Summeren worked hard to bring them back for his leader Hoste, and paid for his efforts afterwards. Hoste had no more team-mate with him, as the leaders hit sector 7, where Ballan, Cancellara and Boonen made their decisive move.

With 33 kilometres to go, the three leaders had eight seconds over their four chasers, Devolder, O'Grady, Maaskant and Hoste. And this gap did not cease to increase under the hard pace put on by the exceptional motors of Ballan, Boonen and Cancellara.

The three stayed together until the very end, even if 'Spartacus' Cancellara attacked at the Carrefour de l'Arbre – he couldn't shake the other two.

Ballan led the trio into the velodrome, but the Italian's forces as well as his natural dispositions could not prevent the super-strong Boonen to pass him easily inside the last curve. The Belgian won 30 metres in front of Cancellara, who managed to pass Ballan within the last metres to the line. Dutch prodigy Maaskant finished an outstanding fourth.

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