Who would ever have thought Tom Boonen, twice a Paris-Roubaix winner, a King of the Classics, would develope an interiority complex? Swiss champion Fabian Cancellara has officially given him one. Hope there’s a good shrink in Mol, Boonen’s hometown.
Second to the Saxo bank rider in the recent E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Boonen again just missed the top step of the podium in today’s Tour of Flanders. The man they call Spartacus simply powered away from Tornado Tom and almost breezed — if that’s possible in such a brutal race — to a solo victory.
Boonen did everything right, was on incredible form, read the race perfectly but simply had no answer when Cancellara put the hammer down. Imagine the strength it takes to ride Tom Boonen off your wheel after about 200k in the saddle.
The man was unstoppable, a force of nature, a relentless killing machine. Yes, he was Chuck Norris on a Specialized. Even when his bike broke down he simply tossed it to the side of the road, grabbed a new one and kept going. Just like he tossed off Boonen, Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
Cancellara took a tip from the ladies who raced the Ronde yesterday: launch the attack on the Molenberg climb. That explosion killed almost everybody with Boonen barely able to hang onto Cancellara’s wheel — like a scene out of Cliffhanger with Stallone.
Race commentators all saw the same astonishing thing: Boonen taking shorter pulls, being forced out of the saddle and gritting his teeth as Fabulous Fabian rolled smoothly along like it was a training camp spin. Tom Boonen, the man so used to being in charge of the torture, was dying.
When Cancellara attacked Boonen with 18 kilometers to go, it was a simple wave goodbye. Like when you’re riding with a buddy but you need to get home sooner than him so you bolt.
The time trial world champion crossed the line 1:15 ahead of Boonen — who was already asking Quick Step boss Patrick Lefevere about the insurance deductible for mental health coverage.
George Hincapie put in his usual steady, strong performance to take 6th place. You can always count on Hincapie to ride well but fall just short of the win. (Same goes for Leif Hoste.) We’re a huge fan of Big George but he wasn’t born with the killer instinct of an Armstrong. Then again, who is?
Speaking of Armstrong, his stomach problems are gone as he rode at the front, even driving the chase at one point. A fine test for the 38 year old who no doubt picked up a few tricks for making Spaniard Alberto Contador suffer on the cobblestones in the 2010 Tour de France.
Garmin’s Tyler Farrar wins the best American hard-man award for his 5th place finish. Yeah, Chuck Norris sends you props. The versatile rider’s career continues to look even more promising and impressive. He can sprint with the best and he’s not afraid of an all-you-can-suffer buffet in Belgium. A buddhist Tom Boonen in the making.
Argyle genius Jonathan Vaughters will have to seriously consider building a classic team around him. Scotsman, David Miller also put in an impressive ride and nearly bridged up to Boonen and Cancellara. It’s been a great year for Millar who has taken his riding to a higher, more consistent level so far this season.
There’s still time for Tom Boonen to recover and beat Fabian Cancellara in Paris-Roubaix. As Boonen said in his post-race comments, Cancellara had reduced him to “the best regular rider of the peloton.”
It will require a tremendous effort to beat him, perhaps starting with a few sessions on the couch with a sports psychologist.