Tom Boonen’s remarkable run of form continued on Sunday as he became only the second rider to win the Paris-Roubaix classic for a fourth time here Sunday. The 31-year-old Belgian star made his break with 55 kilometres of the famous race remaining, and left his rivals trailing in his wake as he crossed the line 1min 39sec ahead of Frenchman Sebastien Turgot. Italy’s Alessandro Ballan was edged into third place.
Having already won at Roubaix’s famous velodrome in 2005, 2008 and 2009, Boonen’s latest triumph sees him equal the record for the most victories in the Queen of the Classics, held by his compatriot Roger de Vlaeminck, a four-time winner in the 1970s. Boonen also becomes the first man to do the double of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix twice, having also achieved the feat in 2005, and he admitted afterwards that the manner of his triumph makes this one of his best yet.
“I think today was one of the best days in my career. Normally I have to use my sprint in races like this and it is always much safer to save some energy for the finish,” he said. “Because if you put everything into the break and you get caught then you will be in trouble. But being a little bit older I tried not to panic and pushed it as hard as I could. It was a little bit crazy. It is not something I often do, but I think today was the perfect day to take a risk.”
“I just thought, I already have Flanders, so why not try to get a fourth Paris-Roubaix as well. “With the wind it was not easy, and I might have been in trouble if a rider like Filippo Pozzato had been able to catch me coming into the Carrefour de l’Arbre, but once I had a minute’s lead I realized that I could do it.”
The wind apart, the rather tame weather conditions had rendered the 110th edition of the Queen of the Classics less treacherous than it might otherwise have been. However, a 12-man breakaway group, which led by over four minutes at one point, came to grief following a crash at the entrance to the tricky Arenberg cobbled sector, just over 80 km from the finish.
Arenberg is one of the toughest of the 27 different cobbled stretches that puncture the route of this race as it winds its way north through the countryside from Compiegne. Despite the difficulty of the course, few leading riders fell by the wayside, with Pozzato, considered before the race to be Boonen’s most likely challenger, the biggest name to abandon. Norway’s Thor Hushovd saw his hopes hit when he went down with just under 60 km to go, and Boonen then broke away from a group controlled by Team Sky, before continuing to extend his lead despite seeing Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate Niki Terpstra drop off the furious pace being set by the Belgian.
Boonen’s lead soon topped one minute, and he arrived well clear of his rivals to take the acclaim of the crowds at the packed Roubaix velodrome. His win is the 55th by a Belgian in what is arguably the toughest of all the spring classics. Turgot, of Team Europcar, gave the French crowds something to celebrate as he edged out Ballan in a sprint for second place, while Juan Antonio Flecha of Spain took fourth place.