Fabian Cancellara may just be having the best week of his life. After an incredible victory at last weekâ€™s Tour of Flanders, the Swiss strongman powered away from the field on the tough cobbles of Paris-Roubaix to solo to victory in the last 50km, giving Cancellara his second career win at the “Queen of the Classics.”
This yearâ€™s edition of Paris-Roubaix was billed to be one of the most exciting, after last weeks duel between Belgian Tom Boonen (Quick-Step) and Cancellara on the cobbles of Flanders, many expected a strong showing from the defending champion Boonen, as a favorite for the race with something to prove. Boonen has won the event the past two years, in 2008 and 2009 as well as in 2005.
Apparently, Boonen felt the pressure, attacking with 60km to go. The move sparked panic in the field, and after a few unsuccessful attacks and counter attacks, a group of 25 riders emerged off the front, which included most of the favorites for the day. Cancellara, Boonen, Hincapie, Hushovd, and Flecha, among others, were all there.
Sebastian Hinault (Ag2r La Mondiale), Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma-Lotto), and BjÃ¶rn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) sparked the move that would send Cancellara off the front on his way to victory. As Hinault barely dangled off the front, Hoste and Leukemans bridged, followed closely by Cancellara, who would continue on the attack to drop the trio on the cobbles.
With 44km to go, including nine tough cobble sections, Cancellara had quickly built a 21 second lead. Boonen was desperately looking for help in mounting a chase, but with no takers, Cancellara went into time-trial mode, hitting a 1:30 lead with 35km to go, as it became increasingly clear that Cancellara was going, going, gone, and the race was now for second place.
Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), Roger Hammond (Cervelo), Thor Hushovd (Cervelo), Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky), Leukemans and Boonen then emerged as the contenders for the remaining two podium spots. Flecha and Hushovd made an escape from this group together, opening up a 1:00 lead over Pozatto, Leukmans, Boonen, and Hammond with 10km to go.
Despite their best efforts, Flecha and Hushovd could never make up the lost time to Cancellara, only shrinking the gap to around 2:30 in the final kilometer, leaving the Swiss superstar plenty of time to celebrate has he made his way around the famed Roubaix velodrome.
Hushovd came in second, nearly 2:00 behind Cancellara, with Flecha taking third. Hammond was fourth to roll in, trailed by a disappointed Boonen, nearly 3:00 behind the winner.
American George Hincapie (BMC), who many considered to be a pre-race favorite, had a tough day on the bike. After riding with the leaders for most of the day, Hincapie fell out of the front group and quickly slipped back shortly after Cancellara launched his winning attack. The Paris-Roubax veteran would finish 29th, over 7:00 off the leader in his 14th start of Roubaix.
Hincapie was the only finisher of the seven American riders that started. Teammates Tyler Farrar, Steven Cozza, and Danny Pate (Garmin-Transitions) all failed to finish within the time limit while Hincapieâ€™s BMC teammates, John Murphy and Jackson Stewart, were also defeated by the infamous Roubaix cobbles. Bjorn Selander (RadioShack) was the other American to start, but he too had to abandon.