Tom Boonen showed the rest of the peloton all how it's done this past Sunday, taking his third Paris-Roubaix title in style, winning solo after a war of attrition with some of the biggest names in the sport. Riding free out of an elite group of six with about 20 kilometers to go, Boonen powered away from a chasing Filippo Pozzato, who was powerless to bring back the Belgian down the stretch.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Boonen was lucky to avoid a decisive crash on the day that involved all of the riders except him and the Norwegian, Thor Hushovd. Juan Antonio Flecha, attacking through a cobbled turn, went down just behind Boonen and Hushovd, bringing Lotto riders Leif Hoste and Johan Van Summeren with him. Only moments later it was Hushovd who fell just behind Boonen around another turn, leaving the Belgian all alone at the front of the race. Pozzato, slowed by Flecha's crash, mounted a valiant chase, but was unable to resist the will of Boonen over the final 15 kilometers.
Boonen's win was a huge one for the Belgian super star, as it at once made all of his critics silent. Now that he has a monument in his pocket on the season, Boonen can relax ahead of the July Tour de France, where he'll hope to compete for the green jersey competition in the three week stage race. In the meantime, he'll enjoy his hard-earned win, and the relief he'll feel after taking the huge win should carry him through the rest of the season on a positive note.
For Boonen's adversaries, it was another year of watching a stronger rider take a much desired win at Paris-Roubaix. Leif Hoste, always close but never good enough to win, was in tears as he crossed the finish line for 4th place. Hushovd meanwhile will look back and wonder what could have been after crashing, while hopefully "Pippo" Pozzato will realize that to win a race you must attack. He followed Boonen's wheel for two weeks straight going back to last week's Tour of Flanders, and all he has to show for it is 2nd place at Roubaix.
Sentimental favorite George Hincapie meanwhile, although hopeful ahead of Roubaix, came up short once again, struck down by bad luck at an inopportune time. The American flatted on one of the key stretches of cobbles, and was unable to chase back to the leading group of six. Hincapie has at least one more chance left to win at Roubaix or Flanders in 2010, but it is looking more and more that time has passed him by. Going forward, he may have to be happy helping one of his teammates win a future edition.
Boonen's win should serve as an example of what it looks like when a truly deserved champion wins a race. Boonen depended on only himself for victory, and made the race from start to finish. He single handedly chased down many of the early attacks, and made the decisive acceleration when the race reached its most heated point. He'll bask in the glory of winning the "Queen of the Classics" for the third time, triumphant after a win that he took, rather than a win that was given to him.