Roger De Vlaeminck, the man formerly known as Mr. Paris-Roubaix.
After a crushing and dominant performance, Tom Boonen equals De Vlaeminck’s four victories in the Hell of the North and becomes the first rider to twice pull off the Flanders-Roubaix double.
After attacking over 50 kilometers from the finish and winning by a margin of 1:39 minutes, Boonen takes over the title Mr. Paris-Roubaix. “[Attacking from so far out] is not something I often do,” Boonen said. “But today was the perfect day to take a risk. When I arrived at the front with Niki, I thought, ‘Why not try?’”
Ballan fought back but was beaten for second in a photo finish that could realistically been called a dead heat. It was the only moment of drama once Boonen had a minute on the chase group. The biggest losers — Flecha and Lars Boom who both worked so hard to chase Boonen but finished 4th and 6th respectively.
As we at Twisted Spoke noted a few days ago, this was Flanders, part 2, the sequel. We didn’t think anyone but Boonen, Ballan or Pozzato had a shot at the victory. If not for the unfortunate crash of Pozzato, a Flanders podium repeat was a high probability. Worth noting that it was only the man from Farnese Vini who had the horsepower to keep up with Boonen when he hit the gas on pavé section 12 in Orchies. Consider Turgot the unexpected Pippo replacement.
Resting at home in Switzerland with his pregnant wife, Fabian Cancellara must have been impressed with Boonen’s ride. It was the kind of hammer blow that Spartacus delivers on the cobblestones. Boonen went from far out and simply rode away. Somebody check for a motor.
It might have seemed crazy to attack that far out but who could argue with Boonen’s results or decision-making so far this season — wins in E3, Ghent-Wevelgem and Flanders. He knew he felt fantastic and when he saw the opportunity, he didn’t hesitate. When you’re at that level of confidence, you’re both physically and mentally stronger than everyone.
While it would seem that a chase group that included four riders from Sky had a good chance of shutting Boonen down, you only had to look at the difference in pedaling styles. Boonen was flying, the others just mashing the pedals. Every time Boonen hit another section of stone, the gap went up.
In fact, this edition of the Hell of the North had a strangely anti-climatic feel — especially after last lear’s stunning tactical surprise with Johan Van Summeren winning over Cancellara. There was no rain and speeds were super high and Boonen rode a cobblestone time trial.
The only suspense was for second and third but even that had a muted quality. After all, Flecha had already come in second, third and fourth. Ballan, aka Mr Mantova, has now taken third place three times! Boredom must be setting in.
We had the impression that Lars Boom was really the only interested rider in the chase group. When Turgot came out of nowhere to steal second, Flecha hardly bothered to react. That’s not to say these guys didn’t hammer it, just that at this point in their careers, only the win mattered.
Honorable mentions: Slyvain Chavanel should get an award for rock solid teammate. His work for Boonen was steller — as was the support from Niki Terpstra. Lars Boom was impressive and with a bit more luck would have taken the final podium spot.
The bad-ass award goes to Flecha, riding the Hell of the North with a hand injury that still hadn’t fully healed. Kudos also to BMC’s young Taylor Phinney who rode his first big boy pants edition of Paris-Roubaix (not the lightweight U23 version) and finished a terrific 15th. And how can we forget Big George Hincapie riding his 17th P-R? Finally, who the frite is Sébastien Turgot? Big chapeau to you, mon vieux.
With Cancellara out with injury and Pozzato misjudging a corner and crashing hard, this was Boonen’s race to lose. He crushed it. Turgot had perhaps the best description of that triumph: “”It was almost a miracle what he did.”
Out with old De Vlaeminck, in with the new boss. Tom Boonen is Mr. Paris-Roubaix.