Until the last 18k of the race, this looked to be one the the greatest, closest, most dramatic finishes ever. You had Boonen, Pozzato, Hushovd, Flecha and Hoste all together, each with a real possibility of victory. It was going to be attack after attack and the suspense was going to be fantastic. Then Flecha crashes and takes out Hoste — a disaster that forces Pozzato to brake hard while Boonen accelerates away. Zing, zing and zing. Flecha, the man famous for his bow and arrow victory salute, shoots himself and puts an arrow in two other riders.
Fortunately, we still had Hushovd. Yes, two top sprinters taking it to the line on the velodrome. What better way to end the race? Except that Hushovd over-cooks a corner and crashes. Race basically over. Nothing left to do but watch Boonen cruise safely to victory and watch Pozzato fade behind him. Even the race for third was a foregone conclusion at that point –Hushovd beating a furious Hoste. Put Leif Hoste and George Hincapie on the same team and you have an all-star Paris Roubaix line-up of unlucky riders. You just know every year something bad will happen to them.
Yes, it was another terrible day at Roubaix for Hincapie. At this point, it’s a self fulfilling prophesy for George. He must get out of the team bus in the morning knowing disaster is near. The only question is where, when and how. A mechanical, broken handlebar, snapped chain, a ditch, a rider crashing right in front of him, a fan crossing the road, a pigeon flying into his spokes, a lightening bolt, an act of God — what’s on the menu this year? If there was one big, loose cobble in the entire race, George would hit it.
This year it felt strangely anti-climatic as he flats with 73 k to go. George looked calm as he waited for the mechanic to rip out his trashed wheel. I suspect that calm was closer to resignation. 73 k is a long way to ride knowing you’re already out of your favorite race and done for the year, all your training good for next to nothing. Just once I’d like to see George blow his stack, go berserk with anger, hurling the offending bike into the field. Watch him get down on his hands and knees and scream insults at each and every cobble. Maybe that would break the curse, exorcise the demon.