Boonen’s imperious form continued in the ‘Hell of the North’ (AFP/Getty Images)

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Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) rode into the record books with a dominant solo victory at Paris-Roubaix. The 31-year-old Belgian rode the final 52km alone to win by 1:39 over a five-man chase group led across the finish line in the Roubaix velodrome by Sébastien Turgot (Europcar). Alessandro Ballan (BMC) rounded out the podium for third place in a photo-finish with the Frenchman.

With the victory Boonen equals Roger De Vlaeminck’s all-time win record of four victories in the Hell of the North, and for the second time in Boonen’s career he’s claimed the Tour of Flanders/Paris-Roubaix double in the same season.

A sunny, dry day for Paris-Roubaix

Right after rolling out of sunny Compiègne the attacks came thick and fast as riders sought to make the early escape. A huge group of 25 rider wasn’t allowed much distance as the peloton kept riding at high speed. Finally, after 70km of fast-paced, aggressive racing, a group of 12 riders rolled off the front and the peloton let them go. The group consisted of Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Nissan), Kenny De Haes (Lotto-Belisol), Frederik Veuchelen and Bert Jan Lindeman (Vacansoleil-DCM). David Boucher (FDJ-Big Mat). Michael Morkov (Team Saxo Bank), David Veilleux (Team Europcar), Dominic Klemme (Argos-Shimano), Laurent Mangel (Saur-Sojasun), Aleksejs Saramotins (Cofidis) and Grischa Janorschke (Team NetApp).

The pace in the peloton dropped off after covering the first two hours at a rapid 48km/h clip and as a result the 12 escapees gained a lead of four minutes in no time. Sky and BMC worked in the peloton to keep the gap under five minutes as they didn’t have a man in the lead group.

The break’s advantage over the peloton remained the same until the riders hit pavé section 21, Aulny-lez-Valenciennes – Famars. In front Saramotins flatted but near the front of the peloton there was a crash. Many riders were held up by those who hit the deck and blocked the road. The biggest casualties were Dutchmen Tom Stamsnijder and Tom Leezer. French veteran Fréderic Guesdon (FDJ-Big Mat) and young prospect Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) were also hindered by the crash and they failed to come back to the peloton.

Arenberg forest looms large

The Sky team led the peloton at high speed towards the Arenberg forest with its notorious, grueling pavé sector. The passage started dramatically as in front Janorschke crashed hard, taking Popovych and Van Keirsbulck down with him. In the peloton top favorite Tom Boonen set the pace, soon to be helped by teammate and French champion Sylvain Chavanel.

At the back of the peloton outsiders like Grégory Rast (RadioShack-Nissan) and George Hincapie (BMC) suffered flats. Once out of the forest eight riders remained in the lead with less than two minutes on the peloton. The eight surviving riders from the early break included Boucher, Veuchelen, Lindemann, Morkov, Veilleux, Klemme, Mangel and Saramotins.

After the Arenberg forest several attacks were launched from the peloton and suddenly Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) was up the road together with Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Jimmy Casper (AG2R-La Mondiale), Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ-Big Mat), Sébastien Turgot (Europcar) and Maarten Wynants (Rabobank). The six collected half a minute on the peloton but on pavé section 14 Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) took a strong pull to lead the peloton back to the six in the chase group. With such aggressive racing from the peloton the breakaway group didn’t stand a chance and at the feed zone, with 68km to go, there was a complete regrouping in front.

Omega Pharma-QuickStep goes long

During this tactical moment in the race Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) profited to sneak away with fellow French riders Mangel, Ladagnous, Turgot plus Switzerland’s Michael Schär (BMC) ahead of pavé section 12 in Orchies. Turgot blasted away on the cobbles from the lead group when Chavanel flatted. Meanwhile, in the peloton Boonen accelerated and only Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) was able to keep up. The duo caught up with Turgot at the end of pavé section 12. Soon afterwards Terpstra and Ballan bridged up as well, creating a five-man leader’s group.

Once back on asphalted roads there was no cooperation in this group and then the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team staged a coup as Boonen went up the road together with his lieutenant Terpstra. The situation initially looked awkward, though, as Terpstra was unable to keep up with his team leader on the 5-star pavé section 11 of Auchy-les-Orchies – Bersée. With approximately 52km to go Boonen was up the road on his own.

Behind him in the chase group co-favorite Pozzato misjudged a corner on the cobbles. The Italian star crashed into Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM) and both riders lost valuable time while Boonen collected half a minute on the first chase group.

Can Boonen do it?

The gap remained at nearly half a minute when reaching pavé section 10. Boonen made it through the unforgiving 3km-long stretch at Mons-en-Pévèle while the peloton split apart behind him. The Sky team had the numbers in this seven-man group, featuring Flecha, Boasson Hagen andHayman. The other riders in the group were Ballan, Ladagnous, Boom and Terpstra. They were caught by seven more riders with 40km to go while Boonen’s lead had grown slightly to 40 seconds. The seven riders who bridged up were Ian Stannard (Sky), Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Barracuda), Luca Paolini (Katusha), Jacopo Guarnieri (Astana), Matteo Tosatto (Saxo Bank), Wynants and Turgot. Stannard did all he could to bring the gap down but instead Boonen hit pavé section 7 with a gap of 50 seconds on the chase group of 14 riders.

The Belgian struggled to get the gap over one minute but he eventually got it on the cobbles of Cysoing à Bourghelles (pavé section 6), with 27 km to go. At the same section there were a couple of accelerations in the chase group featuring Flecha, Boom, Ballan and Vansummeren but these were all neutralized by Terpstra.

Boom switched bikes on the asphalted roads towards the last important pavé sections of Camphin-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre where Boonen’s lead had grown to 1:20 on the chase group. Boom bounced back from his mechanical and steamed passed the group to launch a solo counter-attack. Flecha, Ballan and Ladagnous followed the Dutchman a little further back. For the first time the gap dropped but once Boonen finished the cobbles of the Carrefour de l’Arbre he still had 1:10 on Boom.

The Flecha, Ballan and Ladagnous group regained contact with Boom to form a four-rider chase, but they now seemed resigned to racing for second. The group lost horsepower at 13km remaining as Ladagnous flatted, while in front Boonen looked as smooth as ever across the pave as the distance to the Roubaix velodrome grew ever shorter.

Boonen kept his three chasers at bay and with 4km to go his lead stood at 1:32. The Belgian powerhouse soon cracked a smile for the cameras inside of 3km to go and he soon had the velodrome in Roubaix all to himself as he soaked up the adulation from the crowd and savoured every second of his triumphant 1.5 laps of the track for his fourth Paris-Roubaix victory.

Full results

1Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep5:55:22 2Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar0:01:39 3Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team  4Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling  5Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quickstep  6Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:01:43 7Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Team Saxo Bank0:03:31 8Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling  9Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin – Barracuda  10Maarten Wynants (Bel) Rabobank Cycling Team  11Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team  12Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat  13Grégory Rast (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan0:04:23 14Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC Racing Team  15Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team0:04:37 16Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat  17Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia  18Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  19Jimmy Casper (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  20Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  21Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Saur – Sojasun  22Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Movistar Team  23Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Astana Pro Team  24Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep  25Damien Gaudin (Fra) Team Europcar0:04:58 26Hayden Roulston (NZl) RadioShack-Nissan  27Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep  28Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne0:06:22 29Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Barracuda  30Jean-Lou Paiani (Fra) Saur – Sojasun  31Gustav Larsson (Swe) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team0:06:25 32Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin – Barracuda  33Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:06:27 34Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat0:07:46 35Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (Den) Team Saxo Bank  36Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team  37Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team  38Saïd Haddou (Fra) Team Europcar  39Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  40Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team  41Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) FDJ-Big Mat  42Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling  43George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team  44Johan Le Bon (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller0:07:48 45Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:07:50 46Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team  47David Veilleux (Can) Team Europcar0:09:09 48Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team0:09:11 49Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team0:09:37 50Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team  51Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling  52Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  53Stuart O’Grady (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team  54Dominique Rollin (Can) FDJ-Big Mat  55Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team  56Christian Knees (Ger) Sky Procycling0:11:07 57Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team  58Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  59Michael Morkov (Den) Team Saxo Bank  60Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  61Rudiger Selig (Ger) Katusha Team  62Alexander Porsev (Rus) Katusha Team  63John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos – Shimano  64Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre – ISD0:13:05 65Arnaud Labbe (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  66Jesse Sergent (NZl) RadioShack-Nissan  67Leonardo Fabio Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  68Gael Malacarne (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller  69Julien Fouchard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  70Blaz Jarc (Slo) Team NetApp  71Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Team NetApp  72Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank  73Kenny De Haes (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team  74Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team  75Jens Mouris (Ned) GreenEdge Cycling Team  76Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Katusha Team  77André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team  78Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank  79Jon Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi  80Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Team Europcar  81Laurent Mangel (Fra) Saur – Sojasun  82Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team  83Bert De Backer (Bel) Argos – Shimano  84Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Garmin – Barracuda  85Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep0:17:17 86Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Sky Procycling  HDReto Hollenstein (Swi) Team NetApp  HDMarkus Eichler (Ger) Team NetApp  HDRuben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi  HDChristophe Laborie (Fra) Saur – Sojasun  HDRonan Van Zandbeek (Ned) Argos – Shimano  HDRamon Sinkeldam (Ned) Argos – Shimano  HDRoger Kluge (Ger) Argos – Shimano  HDDominic Klemme (Ger) Argos – Shimano  HDKristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  HDGregor Gazvoda (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale  HDRafai Chtioui (Tun) Team Europcar  HDJuraj Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale  HDYuriy Krivtsov (Fra) Lampre – ISD  HDDmytro Krivtsov (Ukr) Lampre – ISD  HDLuke Roberts (Aus) Team Saxo Bank  HDJaroslaw Marycz (Pol) Team Saxo Bank  HDDavid Boucher (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat  HDFrédéric Guesdon (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat  HDMartin Mortensen (Den) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  HDKris Boeckmans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  HDMarco Haller (Aut) Katusha Team  HDJens Keukeleire (Bel) GreenEdge Cycling Team  HDMarkel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan  HDChristopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Procycling  HDRoberto De Patre (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia  HDDennis Van Winden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team  HDJack Bauer (NZl) Garmin – Barracuda  DNFTimon Seubert (Ger) Team NetApp  DNFMichael Schwarzmann (Ger) Team NetApp  DNFAndré Schulze (Ger) Team NetApp  DNFGrischa Janorschke (Ger) Team NetApp  DNFLaurent Pichon (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller  DNFMathieu Halleguen (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller  DNFSébastien Duret (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller  DNFJean-Luc Delpech (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller  DNFGuillaume Blot (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller  DNFFlorian Vachon (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller  DNFNico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  DNFEgoitz Garcia Echeguibel (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  DNFEdwig Cammaerts (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  DNFPablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi  DNFAdrian Saez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi  DNFAlan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi  DNFPierre Cazaux (Fra) Euskaltel – Euskadi  DNFRicardo Garcia Ambroa (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi  DNFYannick Talabardon (Fra) Saur – Sojasun  DNFStéphane Poulhies (Fra) Saur – Sojasun  DNFRony Martias (Fra) Saur – Sojasun  DNFJérémie Galland (Fra) Saur – Sojasun  DNFPablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team  DNFRuben Plaza Molina (Spa) Movistar Team  DNFFrancisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team  DNFJesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team  DNFValentin Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  DNFDmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  DNFAssan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  DNFDmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  DNFTom Stamsnijder (Ned) Argos – Shimano  DNFTom Veelers (Ned) Argos – Shimano  DNFRomain Lemarchand (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  DNFSteve Houanard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  DNFMartin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale  DNFAlexandre Pichot (Fra) Team Europcar  DNFYohann Gene (Fra) Team Europcar  DNFAlan Marangoni (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  DNFKristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Cannondale  DNFEdward King (USA) Liquigas-Cannondale  DNFMauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  DNFFederico Canuti (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  DNFOleksandr Kvachuk (Ukr) Lampre – ISD  DNFMassimo Graziato (Ita) Lampre – ISD  DNFDavide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre – ISD  DNFVitaliy Buts (Ukr) Lampre – ISD  DNFMatteo Bono (Ita) Lampre – ISD  DNFJonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank  DNFWilliam Bonnet (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat  DNFPim Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  DNFAliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr) Katusha Team  DNFVladimir Isaichev (Rus) Katusha Team  DNFFrederik Willems (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team  DNFMarcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team  DNFMaarten Neyens (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team  DNFGreg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Belisol Team  DNFJens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team  DNFSander Cordeel (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team  DNFMatthew Wilson (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team  DNFTomas Vaitkus (Ltu) GreenEdge Cycling Team  DNFSvein Tuft (Can) GreenEdge Cycling Team  DNFBrett Lancaster (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team  DNFBaden Cooke (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team  DNFYaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack-Nissan  DNFGiacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan  DNFTony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan  DNFDaniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan  DNFJeremy Hunt (GBr) Sky Procycling  DNFLeonardo Giordani (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia  DNFOscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia  DNFThomas Bertolini (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia  DNFCristiano Benenati (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia  DNFLuca Ascani (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia  DNFFilippo Pozzato (Ita) Farnese Vini – Selle Italia  DNFDanilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team  DNFCoen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team  DNFGuillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep  DNFMatteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep  DNFIljo Keisse (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep  DNFSébastien Rosseler (Bel) Garmin – Barracuda  DNFJacob Rathe (USA) Garmin – Barracuda  DNFAndreas Klier (Ger) Garmin – Barracuda

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