Cancellara powers to Paris-Roubaix win
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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cancellara powers to Paris-Roubaix win

by Bjorn Haake at 11:12 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Race Reports and Results, Paris-Roubaix

Fabian CancellaraFabian Cancellara took a 48km solo flyer to finish alone in the famous velodrome of Roubaix,  two minutes ahead of Thor Hushovd and Juan Antonio Flecha. With his Flanders-Roubaix double in solo style within one week, the Swiss rider proved that he is currently a rider from another planet. His dominating style left an elite eight-man chase group in awe, simply pedaling for second place.

Cancellara shook his head in disbelief. "This is really beautiful. I was the strongest and wanted to shape the race." With his long solo move, he certainly achieved that and managed to win his third race since taking the E3 Prijs. "I am very content with this month," he modestly added.

Cancellara's decisive action came when he attacked to bridge up to a four-man move, at a moment when Boonen sat too far back. Leukemans was one of the four in the break. "I heard through the head phones that he was coming, but I didn't expect him to be so fast," Leukemans said to TV at the finish. "There were several turns on the cobbles and I had to accelerate every time to get back. I tried to stay on his wheel, but eventually I had to let him go."

Leif Hoste ended the day in eighth place, also part of that four-man move that was brought to a grinding halt by Cancellara himself. "When he passed me he immediately had ten meters," Hoste said to Sporza after the race. "Björn tried to hang on, but there was nothing you could do." Hoste had a tough start to the race, with teammate Wilfried Cretskens not starting because his sister had passed away the night before the race. The reflective Hoste was quite shocked about the incident.

In the race, he tried to forget about it and gave it all he had. "I am dead. I tried everything, but it didn't work out." He was still happy with his showing. "When Flecha went I flatted," he said. That was game over for the Belgian.

Flecha lost the sprint against Hushovd and Flecha subsequently clapped his hands as he crossed the line. He was quick to deny this was a gesture towards Hushovd. "No, I simply applauded the great course. This was a great race." Flecha had tried twice to get away from the Boonen group. His second move successful, but Hushovd, the power sprinter, stayed on Flecha's wheel. The Spaniard tried to dislodge Hushovd, but was unable to do so before the velodrome.

Boonen was so tired that he even lost the sprint against Roger Hammond for fourth place, with Leukemans in sixth. Boonen attacked three times, with Cancellara easily answering each of the moves. Boonen's teammate Stijn Devolder was unable to provide much help, having crashed twice before the real action started.

Pozzato was the first Italian to cross the line, in seventh place, and received a cobble stone as well. It was given out as an honor to Franco Ballerini, the former two-time winner who had died in February in a rally car accident.

"I rode in memory of Ballerini today. This prize is something special. I wanted to do a great race for him." Pozzato was really hoping to get an even better results, but the final was hard. "The last 30km I only did on grinta."

Remembering Ballerini

The race also started in memory of Ballerini, with a minute of silence. He had won the race in 1995 and 1998. Another notable change to past editions was the prohibition of drinking alcohol at the Carrefour de l'Arbre, the decisive section 15km from the finish. There had been too many incidents in the past year with unruly spectators.

The race started out somewhat calmly and it took until km 50 for a break to form, when 19 riders took off. Most teams were represented, so the peloton let them have a four-minute gap.

But starting with sector 23 in Vertain (km 119), the pace in the bunch gradually picked up. The Saxo Bank was mostly responsible for that, trying to put Cancellara in a perfect positition. At secteur 19, in Moncheaux, the gap was down to two and a half minutes.

With a good 100km to go, the race became quite hectic, with the cobble sections and traffic islands causing several crashes. Stijn Devolder and Bernhard Eisel were two of those affected, while Tyler Farrar suffered a flat tire.

This was a bad time to have a crash or a mechanical, as the pace picked up ahead of the first crucial sector, the Wallers-Arenberg forest. The break hit it with a good minute ahead of the favorites. Cancellara himself led the charge of the main group on the Arenberg, ahead of Boonen.

The front group broke in half, with the dropped riders quickly being caught from the bunch. After the Arenberg, the pace stayed moderate in the main field. The rest of the break continued to be about 45 seconds ahead. Unlike other years, the Arenberg section had not splintered the main field too much.

Small mishaps continued, with Jens Keukeleire going down around 85km from the finish. Cancellara had a flat ten kilometers later, but after a quick bike change had no trouble to get back into the peloton.

The subsequent cobble stone sections reduced the break to four riders (Jeremy Hunt, Chris Sutton, Adam Hansen and Maarten Wynants) as well as the gap (to about 15 seconds). In the peloton, rider after rider fell back, but all the favorites were still there after sector 14 in Tilloy, with 69km remaining.

The testing starts

With 65km remaining, Cancellara did a first test in sector 13, with Boonen and Flecha attentive. It reduced the group to a dozen riders for a brief moment. But with the break caught and others coming back up from behind, the group swelled up again.

With 60km it was Boonen who accelerated hard and created a small gap. But Cancellara also closed in again quickly. Boonen then stormed away again, entering sector 12. It took Cancellara a bit to catch back up, with the others in tow. Boonen attacked a third time at the end of the 11th sector, with 52km remaining.

At the end of the 11th sector it was Leif Hoste's turn to go, with 50km remaining. He was joined by Björn Leukemans and Sébastien Hinault.

Cancellara used a small gap that opened up while Boonen was sitting back and eating to accelerate hard. He motored up to the Hoste group and reached them at the beginning of the 10th sector, with 48km left. Boonen realized his mistake and pulled hard behind, cutting his group to pieces.

Leukemans was the only one able to follow Cancellara, albeit briefly. With Leukemans, Hoste and Hinault caught by the Boonen group, it was Cancellara versus eight (Boonen, Hoste, Hinault, Leukemans, Filippo Pozzato, Roger Hammond, Juan Antonio Flecha and Thor Hushovd).

Cancellara had a 25-second gap with 45km remaining. With eight sectors to go (38 from the finish) he had doubled his advantage. He gradually extended it and with 27km remaining, his lead surpassed the two-minute mark.

Flecha attacked hard out of the group, with 25km to go, with Boonen trying to close the gap. It took them almost five kilometers until Flecha was caught again. Hinault and Hoste dropped back, as Pozzato briefly had a problem as well. But the group had surrendered, allowing Pozzato to catch up again

As Cancellara passed the 20km to go banner he was two and a half minutes ahead. He was briefly in trouble when he hit a deep pothole, fortunately staying upright and not flatting. By the time he reached the Carrefour de l'Arbre, with 15km to go, he had over three minutes.

Behind, Flecha and Hushovd attacked in sector three (Gruson). A tiring Boonen was marked by Hammond, with Pozzato and Leukemans barely hanging on.

Flecha and Hushovd started to cut into Cancellara's lead, but not as quickly as needed. After the second sector, with six kilometers to go, the Swiss rider still had more than two and a half minutes. Flecha and Hushovd were ahead by a minute over the Boonen group.


1. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 6h35'10 (avg 39.2 km/h)
2. Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) at 2'00
3. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky)
4. Roger Hammond (Cervélo TestTeam) at 3'14
5. Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
6. Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) at 3'20
7. Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) at 3'46
8. Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma-Lotto)



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