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107th Paris-Roubaix - HIS

France, April 12, 2009

Complete live report

Live commentary by Bjorn Haake

10:59 CEST   
Hello and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage, today from the Queen of Classics, Paris-Roubaix. It's a pretty short race today, over 52.9 kilometres. Oh wait, that's only the combined length of the famous cobble stone – or pavésecteurs.

The total length is actually 259 kilometres until the riders arrive in the famous vélodrome of Roubaix. What's left to say? Enjoy Easter Sunday in the hell of the north, as this race is nicknamed!

11:07 CEST   
Here is the start list for today. Number one is of course worn by Tom Boonen, as the defending champion.

He will try to get a third win in Roubaix and for that he relies on a custom bike. Cyclingnews' tech wizard James Huang was able to dissect the machine and give us some insight why Boonen has the right tool to win today.

Tornado Tommeke with Specialized bike
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

11:15 CEST   
The riders started today at 10:50, with a short, 10-minute neutral roll-out from Compiègne. The sharp start was at 11:00. No need to kill yourself in the beginning, though. Paris-Roubaix is all about experience and gauging your efforts for the right moment.

We expect the major players to hide until the famous section of the Trouée d'Arenberg, and that's not until km 164. The first section of cobbles is at km 98, at Troisvilles. That sector is named 27 and most riders won't like that number. Not because they are superstitious, but it means there are still 26 more pavé secteurs to come...

11:16 CEST   
Eager to discuss today's race with fellow cycling fans? Here is the official Paris-Roubaix thread in our forum.

11:27 CEST   
We have already gotten email from Bucharest, Romania. Docan hopes it will be Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) to prevail today. The likeable Spaniard has indeed good chances, with his aggressive style. He just needs to bundle it to go at the right moment, something he doesn't always do.

But then he is a very intuitive rider, as he told Cyclingnews. Read more about it in our Paris-Roubaix news.

11:38 CEST   
Paris-Roubaix came into existence thanks to Théodore Vienne and Maurice Perez, who had the vélodrome vision. The race track opened in 1895 and a year later Vienne and Perez managed to have a race from Paris to Roubaix and have the finish in the vélodrome.

The track is an essential part of Paris-Roubaix and fortunately it looks like it will survive, despite heavy construction in the area to build a new indoor track.

Roubaix without the track or without cobble stones is like a fish without water. A group called Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix (the friends of Paris-Roubaix) was founded in 1983 to ensure the continued existence of enough cobble sections.

After world war II there were many efforts in place to pave the cobbled roads, as it was considered not so chic to have the rough roads.

Now les amis are fighting hard to keep the roads as bad as possible, so to speak.

11:58 CEST   
How is the weather? For those who always hope for something like a repeat of the 1994 Tchmil-can't-see-his-face-because-of-all-the-mud performance, there will be disappointment. The Roubaix weather forecast says 17 degree and partially cloudy.

12:01 CEST   
Thanks to Kevin for an update from the Arenberg forest, where he is waiting at secteur number 17. "Fences on the right and freshly tilled mud on the left make for a three-metre wide path. Ground is muddy and the pavé has a layer of silt on them making it very slippery, even for those walking."

Maybe some spectacle after all, but we hope the inevitable crashes won't be severe.

12:19 CEST   
Ryan from Brisbane is supporting Heinrich Haussler.

Haussler had an exceptional spring and will be looking forward to let the spring campaign end on a high. The only problem is that the Cervélo TestTeam rider is tired after a long spring.

Hopefully he can keep it up for one more race before taking a well-deserved break.

12:22 CEST   
We don't have any info from the current situation right now. But we do know that the riders faced the first obstacle after only five kilometres of racing.

Workers from Continental tire manufacturer were protesting against the planned shutdown of the plant. Fortunately this incident didn't impact the riders too much.

Maybe it was also a protest for every team to use Continental?

12:26 CEST   
Andrea is checking in from the Isle of Lewis & Harris in the western Isles, Scotland. "I hope for a sunny day in France, like it is here at the moment and wishing Ben Swift - Katusha was riding. I remember coaching Mr Swift at Manchester Velodrome when he was eight years old!"

Indeed Mr. Swift is riding exceptionally well these days. If you look through the País Vasco results, often you don't have to go down the results sheet very far to see his name.

These kind of roads are in demand today
Photo ©: Bert Geerts
(Click for larger image)

12:31 CEST   
We are finally receiving some information. A group of 11 riders is away: Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step), Kasper Klostergård (Team Saxo Bank), Angelo Furlan (Lampre - N.G.C.), Steven Cozza (Garmin - Slipstream), Gregory Henderson (Team Columbia - Highroad), Yoann Offredo and Wesley Sulzberger (Française Des Jeux), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Servais Knaven (Team Milram), Steve Chainel (BBox Bouygues Telecom) and Andreas Klier (Cervélo TestTeam)

12:34 CEST    63km/196km to go
The gap is not huge, around one minute. There are several cobbles specialists in the group, such as Klier, Knaven and Chainel.

Steve Chainel is a cyclo-cross specialist and has done well in his ProTour debut this spring
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

12:41 CEST   
Chainel is a young talent who was in several breaks in some of the Spring Classics and also was in the decisive 29-man group in stage 1 of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. On the occasion he talked to Cyclingnews and told us that his father came up with the unique French first name Steve, "because he was a big fan of Steve McQueen."

12:44 CEST   
The first winner of Paris-Roubaix was German Josef Fischer in 1896. He completed the 280km route at an average speed of 30.162 km/h). Before you say you can do that, too: Use an equivalent bike to do it...

12:54 CEST    79km/180km to go
People are wondering about George Hincapie's chances today. The American has come as close as second place, but also had his fair share of bad luck. In 2006 his steerer tube broke and he fell into the ditch and out of the race.

Will 2009 be his year? His teammates are ready to support him.

Along the same lines Mark in Brighton is wondering if he finishes on the same bike he started with and having had none of it try and insert itself into him?

We don't know the answer to that, but we do know that Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) will NOT arrive on the same bike as he starts with. He is using two bikes (not at the same time), one for the nice roads and then he will change to one for the cobbles.

He should be about ready to hop off and switch, the first cobble section comes in less than 20 km.

13:00 CEST   
Forum member Tim can't think of Paris-Roubaix without picturing Sean Kelly. The Irishman won in 1984 and 1986 and finished third in 1985.

Tim reminded us on our little forum game to win a Paris-Roubaix DVD.

And no Tim, we cannot add a cobble stone to the DVD. Those are exclusively for the winners of hell. For those who don't know, the winner's trophy in Paris-Roubaix is very simple, a square cobble stone. But it is one trophée that many riders are after.

13:09 CEST   
The gap of the 11 riders has increased by 15 seconds, to 1:15. With riders like Klier and Knaven it, the peloton doesn't want them to give too much lee-way. After all, Knaven is a Paris-Roubaix winner (2001). And Klier showed in Gent-Wevelgem that he is on good form, finishing fifth.

13:11 CEST    91km/168km to go
We are some five kilometres away from the first cobble section in Troisvilles. Soon the warm-up face is over.

13:18 CEST    96km/163km to go
Slight correction to the front group, it is Maarten Wynants and not Wouter Weylandt for Quick Step.

The front group hits the cobbles in Troisvilles.

13:28 CEST   
Werner from Helsinki also names Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam) as his favourite, along with Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha) and Marcus Burghardt (Team Columbia - Highroad).

Good choices, we have to say, although Hincapie will be Columbia-Highroad's main rider and may restrict the German to a supporter role. But depending on race situation, Burghardt certainly will get his chance.

13:30 CEST    107km/152km to go
Gatis Smukulis (AG2R La Mondiale) is chasing behind the 11 leaders. Good luck with that. Smukulis may bridge up, because the gap is small, but the lead group may also be gobbled soon, with the race becoming faster.

13:34 CEST   
The peloton rides over the cobbles of Quievy - it wobbles a lot, even the motorbike with Laurent Jalabert on it.

13:36 CEST   
Klier gets a bottle from a Cervélo TestTeam soigneur and they are not going slowly. It's a prefect handover.

The break is off the cobbles, the bunch still on the 3.7km long secteur.

13:36 CEST   
The gap has actually grown substantially, to 3:36

13:37 CEST    114km/145km to go
Vacansoleil is pulling on the front.

Elmiger has crashed and is now trying to get back to the bunch.

13:40 CEST   
Gatis Smukulis has been caught back, and the 11-man break has almost four minutes.

13:41 CEST   
The bunch has left secteur 25 - 24 to go.

13:43 CEST   
The riders enjoy mostly a tailwind on their northerly journey. The break switches the lead in a clock-wise rotation.

The peloton is a bit more chaotic, which is partially because some of the riders getting gapped over the cobbles are trying to get back.

13:45 CEST    119km/140km to go
We see George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad) near the front, as well as Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step). The latter grabs a bottle from his soigneur on the right hand side of the road. The helper then has to jump away quickly, as the bunch comes by in high speed.

Chavanel throws the old bottle to his left.

13:46 CEST   
Guillaume Blot (Cofidis) is at the back of the field, trying to keep in line. The first-year pro was in a good break in the Omloop Hey Nieuwsblad/Het Volk.

13:46 CEST   
The gap is going up as the kilometres go down. Now it is over four minutes.

13:47 CEST   
"It has been a hard two weeks with De Panne, Flanders and Wevelgem, all of them are high risk races," said Garmin Directeur Sportif Johnny Weltz to Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown this morning in Compiègne. "We have all come through."

The team is stayed at a castle near the start of the race.

"We want to lower the tension, we want to sleep well and keep it low-key. We had a nice weekend there after the 'war' in Belgium. We have to the start relaxed and loaded for the day."

"A top ten would be a success for the team. It is a very high-stress and high-risk race. We'll keep Maaskant focused on getting more experience and then he can return to win it some day."

13:50 CEST   
The break is on secteur 23, Vertain. It is only 2.3 kilometres long. Steven Cozza (Garmin - Slipstream) is the tail-end of the group.

13:51 CEST    122km/137km to go
Elmiger doesn't look so good. His shorts are ripped, revealing a lot more of his left leg than we care for. He also bleeds from his left elbow, his white arm warmers are rolled down.

13:53 CEST    123km/136km to go
The break has switched to a counter-clockwise rotation.

The bunch hits the cobbles number 23. Massimiliano Mori (Lampre - N.G.C.) hits them literally, although he falls to the side and lands in a ditch rather softly.

13:54 CEST   
"It is good to finally be here on race day, we are wall prepared," said Columbia Directeur Rolf Aldag to Brown.

"It is difficult at dinner the night before, there is a lot of nervousness. What you don't want to do is tell your old stories when riders broke their collarbones or hips.
"The boys were were watching YouTube last night, a video of me riding through Arenberg. They asked why I was going so slow, but I could not tell them that I just saw Johan Museeuw smash his knee or Steffen Wesemann go unconscious. I just laughed and said 'I was taking it easy.'"

How will the teams beat Quick Step? "We have Eisel, Boasson Hagen, Hincapie and Burghardt. We have our chances but we have to play it right to win, it is not like we have a rider like Tom Boonen, who if you get him to the vélodrome he will win.

"We can't be on the defensive like in the Tour of Flanders, once you have two guys out there from Quick Step you are in trouble. That should not happen."

13:56 CEST   
Some rain yesterday has left Paris-Roubaix this year at perfect conditions - as perfect as it gets anyway. There is not much dust kicked up. Yet now the sun comes out and short sleeves are the best choice.

13:57 CEST    125km/134km to go
The riders dropped on the cobbles are trying to catch back on. So is Yaroslav Popovych (Astana), but he wasn't dropped - he actually crashed.

13:59 CEST   
The peloton looked small for a little bit, but it has grown back up. Each sector they will lose a few until only a handful or less are left in Roubaix.

The leaders hit number 22, 1.7km long.

13:59 CEST   
Elmiger gets a deserved break. He stops and gives his rear wheel to teammate Lloyd Mondory (AG2R La Mondiale). Mondory is off and Elmiger waits for his team car.

14:01 CEST   
Wynants sits at the back of the lead group, riding smack in the middle, where things are slightly smoother.

Offredo is back now, too. He was a bit dropped, but fights hard to stay in contact.

Current situation

  • Maarten Wynants (Quick Step), Kasper Klostergård (Team Saxo Bank), Angelo Furlan (Lampre - N.G.C.), Steven Cozza (Garmin - Slipstream), Gregory Henderson (Team Columbia - Highroad), Yoann Offredo and Wesley Sulzberger (Française Des Jeux), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Servais Knaven (Team Milram), Steve Chainel (BBox Bouygues Telecom) and Andreas Klier (Cervélo TestTeam)
  • Peloton at 3.40

14:04 CEST   
Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing Team) sits at the back of the group. No doubt many Americans will cheer on the team. Cyclingnews' Peter Hymas had a closer look.

14:07 CEST   
"It is a race unlike than any other race," Christian Prudhomme said to Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown. "It seems like it not of modern times, yet it is part of today's racing.

"On the last reconnaissance of the press, there were six mayors from the local area. They were so concerned about their sectors. One village rebuilt 150 metres of pavé sector within 36 hours.

"It is thanks to these guys and Les Amis who keep this race going. They are proud of their region."

It is the 107th edition of the race. "Paris-Roubaix is the most dramatic race in cycling. It is a race unlike all the others. I don't know what will happen in the race, but I can tell you that this race is much bigger than the riders. When you win Paris-Roubaix you are not the same rider."

14:11 CEST    134km/125km to go
Silence-Lotto has come to the front. They are definitely trying to finally come up with a good result.

One win for Cadel Evans so far, that's not the balance they wanted to have.

14:16 CEST   
The acceleration by Silence-Lotto has caused a bit of carnage behind. The peloton is still quite large and it looks a s all the favourite are in it. But 120km before the finish, things are getting serious.

Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto) is in second position. He has a perfect view on everything, because he is so darn tall!

14:16 CEST    138km/121km to go
The leaders hit secteur 121, Verchain-Maugré à Quérénaing. It is 1.6km long

Continental tire protested the planned shutdown of its plant, but the start was not delayed by much
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

14:18 CEST   
Saxo Bank feels sorry for the two Lotto riders and has taken the front with almost the entire squad.

14:19 CEST   
Scot David Millar was at the start with his right arm wrapped up. He broke it during the final stage of Paris-Nice.

Millar is not a rider for the Northern Classics, even if his arm was healed. "I have no advice for these guys, it is not my place," said Millar.

He is following the race in the team car for fun this year. He hopes rattle of the cobbles will not disturb his injury.

14:20 CEST    141km/118km to go
The peloton hits sector 21 about four minutes after the 11-man group.

14:22 CEST   
It goes quickly, the leaders hit number 20, Quérénaing à Maing. It is 2.5km long and has three stars. There are five stars total, with five being the highest difficulty. It is based on length, how bad the cobbles are and where in the race the sector is.

14:26 CEST    144km/115km to go
The average speed is somewhere close to 42 km/h, as we have covered 144km in about 3:25. David asks if that sounds reasonable to us. Let's put it this way, I think it sounds correct. Not sure if it is reasonable, although a higher speed helps a bit to make things smoother.

14:28 CEST   
The peloton is all over the place now that they hit one rough section after the next. Liquigas is pulling hard.

The break - on sector 19 - looks a bit more organised.

14:31 CEST    148km/111km to go
We have the Australians and New Zealanders glued to our coverage, thanks to Wesley Sulzberger (Française Des Jeux) and Gregory Henderson (Team Columbia - Highroad).

Sulzberger told Cyclingnews before Gent-Wevelgem that he will still do the Amstel Gold race, then take a break. "I have to see if I'll be in a body bag or of I'll come out OK."

Current situation

  • Maarten Wynants (Quick Step), Kasper Klostergård (Team Saxo Bank), Angelo Furlan (Lampre - N.G.C.), Steven Cozza (Garmin - Slipstream), Gregory Henderson (Team Columbia - Highroad), Yoann Offredo and Wesley Sulzberger (Française Des Jeux), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Servais Knaven (Team Milram), Steve Chainel (BBox Bouygues Telecom) and Andreas Klier (Cervélo TestTeam)
  • Peloton at 3.25

Based on today's showing he looks OK. No body bags are riding near the front. The break still looks fairly fluent.

14:33 CEST   
Enrico Franzoi (Liquigas) is on the front. The Italian smells cyclo-cross... Some riders are already gritting their teeth in the break now, as the bunch takes a sweeping right turn.

14:35 CEST   
Thanks for writing in, looks like Flecha, Hincapie, Hushovd and Cancellara are other popular picks.

Cancellara will just have to make sure his bike holds up. In the Ronde he broke a chain when he stomped on the pedals up the Koppenberg. And in Gent-Wevelgem he dropped out of the front when he punctured.

14:36 CEST   
Attack by a Skil rider and immediately the bunch becomes alive again, after a short lull coming off the last cobbles.

14:38 CEST   
Hopefully no there is no train coming now. Not that it would bother the riders, because they are going underneath the bridge. But some spectators are on top, next to the rails and hold up a sign Vive le Nord.

14:41 CEST   
The Skil rider is back, but Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto) tries also. Lotto definitely needs to do something, but maybe it's a little early? At any rate, it keeps the pace high and that's bad news for Berik Kupeshov (Astana), who is trying to catch back on, after getting some bottles.

14:43 CEST    155km/104km to go
The bunch is split over a road divider, then comes back together. One rider storms up on the sidewalk to pass a few people. Some of the spectators are jumping to safety.

14:44 CEST   
Four stars in form of secteur 18, Haveluy à Wallers, is coming up. The break hits it full speed. 2500m of pain.

14:47 CEST    159km/100km to go
There are large fields left and right and the French are out for their Easter stroll. They stand left and right, wave flags and clap for the riders.

The bunch has also reached number 18. Some kids sit on giant hay bales and watch from a safe distance.

14:49 CEST   
Looks like Arvesen of Saxo Bank has punctured.

Offredo accelerates over the cobbles, but the others quickly get back to him.

Further behind in the peloton David Boucher is finding it too hard to keep up.

14:50 CEST   
We see George Hincapie and Bernhard Eisel.

Now there is a crash, with several BMC's involved

14:52 CEST   
Sébastien Hinault (AG2R La Mondiale) sits on the side if the road, his head down. Looks like he is done.

A Milram rider walks back towards the 'road' The crash threw him quite off-course.

14:52 CEST    161km/98km to go
Arvesen is there and in fact the entire Saxo team is on the front again. Cancellara must be feeling well.

14:54 CEST   
To avoid confusion, Eisel and Hincapie were not involved in the crash. However, one of the favourites was, Martijn Maaskant (Garmin - Slipstream). He is now paced back by teammates Michael Friedman and William Frischkorn

14:55 CEST   
It also looks Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) went down, whereas Juan Antonio Flecha is still near the front.

14:57 CEST    165km/94km to go
Chavanel is taking over the lead work for Quick Step.

The leaders hit the Trouée d’Arenberg! A ton of people are out. Henderson sits in last. This is a five-star sector.

14:58 CEST   
The cobbles are indeed a bit slippery, as noted by a reader earlier.

14:59 CEST   
A rail road crossing and now the peloton hits the Arenberg, not too far behind the break.

14:59 CEST   
Crash in the centre part of the peloton

15:00 CEST   
As soon as they hit the Arenberg there was a crash. Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam) looks to be parked on the side of the road, with torn shorts

15:02 CEST   
The leaders are off the Arenberg, with Sulzberger trying to hang on.

Quick Step with Boonen is on the front. Hincapie, Quinziato, Flecha, Cancellara are there.

15:03 CEST    169km/90km to go
Nope, it was not Haussler who crashed. He accelerates towards the end of Arensberg and comes out 2.05 behind the break.

15:05 CEST   
It was unfortunately Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) who crashed. Cervélo still has several riders in the second group, which is maybe 25-30 riders strong.

15:11 CEST   
This morning Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé caught up with a nervous looking Johan Van Summeren. The tall Belgian from the Silence-Lotto team explained that to him Paris-Roubaix was one of the most important races of the season. "I'm really nervous. I know that I can do well but there are so many things that can go wrong," Van Summeren said.

15:14 CEST   
Saxo Bank, Cervélo and Columbia-Highroad still have several riders in the group. Sylvain Chavanel and Stijn Devolder lead a chase a few seconds back

15:15 CEST   
More confusion about the Cervélo rider who crashed. It was neither Haussler nor Hushovd, both are in the Boonen group. Hushovd takes a strong pull at the front.

15:17 CEST    178km/81km to go
The Devolder group makes contact with the Boonen group right when they hit sector 16.

The gap is still 1.36 to the front runners.

Columbia-Highroad takes over the front now in the second group.

15:20 CEST   
When Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé walked up to the Columbia team bus this morning in Compiègne he noticed that everybody was in good spirits. General manager Bob Stapleton was all excited for the Queen of Classics. "Personally I'm a bigger fan of the Ronde van Vlaanderen but that's my personal opinion.

"A rider who wins here benefits from that for his contract negotiations for the next five years. For Hincapie there are not five years left though but we're all hoping that he can pull it off," Stapleton said. Mister no chain was in good moods as well and was asked how he preferred to win in Roubaix. "Arriving alone on the vélodrome would be enormous but if I would win with one centimetre that would be fine too; I'm not that picky," Hincapie said.

15:21 CEST    181km/78km to go
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Columbia - Highroad) sits at the opposite end of his Highroad team. Boasson Hagen is at the back of the second group, whereas his teammates, including Hincapie and Eisel, are pulling on the front.

15:23 CEST   
The group sits up, it's chat time. This means the gap may go up again, from its current 1.35

Devolder has to change his bike.

15:24 CEST   
Michael Schär (Astana) attacks on the front.

Devolder is using the cars to move forward and back onto the group.

15:26 CEST   
Devolder is back in the group, after quickly grabbing a bottle from the car.

Weylandt keeps Schär in check.

1997 champ Frédéric Guesdon (Française Des Jeux) returns from a flat tyre.

15:28 CEST    186km/73km to go
Marcus Ljungqvist (Team Saxo Bank) is further behind and the commissaire car doesn't help him in his quest to get back. The red car blocks the narrow road, forcing Ljungqvist to a stand still. He tries to get his big gear going again.

15:29 CEST   
Flat for Hincapie! He is on sector 15.

It is not a very fast wheel change.

15:29 CEST    186km/73km to go
Hincapie is back up and follows the cars.

The Quick Step-led group is not going all out, so he should be able to get back.

15:32 CEST   
Eisel and Boasson Hagen wait and pull Hincapie back up. Thanks to David, who gave us the update on the Cervélo crash. It was Hayden Roulston and Brett Lancaster who went down.

15:35 CEST    189km/70km to go
The break is still a good 90 secs ahead. Klier is pulling over to let Klostergård get some wind.

Behind, there is another crash at the back of the group, when two riders hit a divider on a right-hand bend. It seems to look worse than it is.

15:36 CEST   
It is Boasson Hagen's first time in Paris-Roubaix and he shows it. Instead of pulling Hincapie back he has a hard time keeping up.

15:36 CEST   
Knaven goes off the front group. The 2001 winner is the first to leave sector 13

15:37 CEST   
The Hincapie-Highroad train has made it back

15:39 CEST   
The pace is increasing again, with Saxo Bank taking over the pulling.

Wiggins sits in the back of the group, as they hit a very long, straight highway.

15:42 CEST    194km/65km to go
Wiggins is struggling. He tried to hang on to some riders, but they are getting dropped all together. Horrillo, who crashed earlier, is coming back to the front.

Cancellara takes a pull, that'll bring the speed up.

15:42 CEST   
Boonen has a watchful eye on Cancellara

15:45 CEST   
The second group hits secteur 13, Beuvry.

Boonen looks strong, he sets the pace on the front. Little gaps open up here and there

15:46 CEST    196km/63km to go
About six or seven riders are ahead at the end of number 13.

A motorbike crashes into some spectators!

Flecha and Quinziato are there with Boonen.

15:49 CEST   
The gap isn't big enough and a few riders catch back on.

Haussler is there, Vansummeren, Cancellara, Weylandt. Six or seven are on the front, but just a few seconds ahead.

15:49 CEST   
The Boonen group catches the break of the day

15:49 CEST   
And Boonen attacks right away!

15:51 CEST   
But that was just to test if the others are paying attention. Pozzato is also in this group, but Cervélo once looks again very good.

Klier takes the front

15:52 CEST   
The Highroad train seems to be derailed. The only rider near the front group is Henderson, who was in the front group.

15:54 CEST   
Cervélo is leading over the next cobble section.

Knaven pays for his long effort and drops back.

Weylandt attacks, with Haussler in his wheel.

15:54 CEST   
A few other riders jump and we have a group of five, about 100m ahead of the Boonen group.

15:56 CEST   
The riders who went clear are Kasper Klostergård (Team Saxo Bank), Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas)

15:57 CEST    203km/56km to go
Quick Step doesn't like the set-up, so they chase behind. Weylandt sits in on the front group and doesn't take a pull. The gap is about 15 seconds.

16:01 CEST   
Klostergård has some power gels in his jersey pockets. He will need them, after his efforts in the break. Haussler is driving hard. He checks back over his shoulder and doesn't pay attention, almost colliding with Quinziato. A short shake hand, then they hit sector 11, in Auchy.

16:02 CEST   
The group behind includes Matti Breschel (Team Saxo Bank), Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto), Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto), Bernhard Eisel (Team Columbia - Highroad), Frédéric Guesdon (Française Des Jeux), Andreas Klier (Cervélo TestTeam), Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam), Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha)

16:02 CEST   
But not for long, as Boonen attacks again!

16:03 CEST   
He draws Hushovd and Pozzato with him. The trio closes the gap to the front in no time.

16:03 CEST    207km/52km to go
Chavanel also tries to bridge

16:05 CEST   
Chavanel manages, but brings the others back. We have one large front group again.

16:06 CEST   
Boonen tries again, but now it is Cancellara who forces a slight split. But legs are still sort of fresh and nobody gets a real break going.

16:08 CEST   
Chavanel attacks over the sidewalk, with Haussler right behind him. That almost causes a crash, but those two don't stay off the front either.

16:09 CEST    211km/48km to go
The leaders hit the next five-star sector, the Mons-en-Pévèle. 3km of pain. The group is still together.

16:11 CEST    212km/47km to go
Unfortunately we have no update on the crash of Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam)

Hincapie is now in a larger group, with Burghardt. Big George pulls on the front, they are one minute back.

16:12 CEST   
Boonen attacks once again! Pozzato is right on him, as well as Flecha and Hushovd

16:13 CEST   
Hoste and Van Summeren claw themselves back up. Quinziato is trying hard, the others are further back.

16:15 CEST   
The riders have gone off the cobbles. Quinziato is still chasing. Lotto has two riders in the move, will it finally be their race?

The gap to the Haussler group is about 200m

16:16 CEST   
This could be the winning move. Saxo Bank has missed and is trying to come back now, they have three riders in the group behind.

Current situation

  • Johan Van Summeren and Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha)
  • Group including Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam), Matti Breschel (Team Saxo Bank), Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank), Kasper Klostergård (Team Saxo Bank), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) at 0.24
  • Peloton with George Hincapie (Columbia-Highroad) at 1.00

16:20 CEST    219km/40km to go
The front group is flying, taking quick turns at the front. That will make it hard for the Saxo guys to come back. They have to do all the work, as the group behind has all riders who are represented in the front, except for Quinziato. But he hangs off the back, recovering from his effort to bridge solo.

16:21 CEST   
Boonen pulls and looks very strong. He lets Lotto take over and takes a drink.

The empty bottle goes off into the field on the right.

16:24 CEST   
Boonen goes all out over sector 8. The speeds are crazy high.

Columbia-Highroad is the loser for today. Even Eisel has dropped off and there are no Highroaders in the first two groups.

16:25 CEST   
It's wobbling alright. As Boonen tries to go after Van Summeren, his chain slips, but Boonen catches himself before crashing.

They are off the sector, with a 37-second lead.

16:27 CEST   
Hoste looks to be in trouble. He grits his teeth and doesn't look too happy, but he hangs in for now. He will have to attack, too - before Boonen does!

16:28 CEST   
The Hincapie group is already 2.30 back

Current situation

  • Johan Van Summeren and Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha)
  • Group including Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Andreas Klier and Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam), Matti Breschel (Team Saxo Bank), Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank), Kasper Klostergård (Team Saxo Bank), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), Frédéric Guesdon (Française Des Jeux) at 0.40
  • Group Hincapie at 2.32

16:33 CEST    227km/32km to go
The leaders pass a windmill which is doing alright, indicating some wind here. The accompanying sector is called Templeuve - Moulin-de-Vertain

16:35 CEST   
Boonen gets some advice from his directeur sportif. The gap is now one minute and that looks sealed as far as the top six go.

16:36 CEST   
Saxo Bank is still driving hard behind, but no help from Quick Step or Cervélo

16:37 CEST   
Boonen does a high speed bike change. His elbow is bloody and his shorts are dirty. He must have crashed, but he makes it back to the group quickly

16:39 CEST    231km/28km to go
Boonen is back in the paceline. Will the crash affect him in the end? He looks OK for now.

16:40 CEST   
The second group is 1.15 back. We have no more time gaps on the Hincapie group, but it doesn't look too good.

16:41 CEST   
Flecha hits the Bourghelles à Wannehain sector hard, but the others don't give him more than a couple of metres.

16:42 CEST   
It's four stars and 1300m long

16:43 CEST    234km/25km to go
The Saxo Bank led chasers hit the same secteur, already a minute and a half back.

16:45 CEST   
Van Summeren is pulling the group, hitting the next section of cobbles. Hoste sits on the back, as they go over the rough terrain.

16:47 CEST   
Saxo Bank has lost two riders off the chase, Klostergård and Cancellara. Quinziato and Guesdon need to chase now, with Breschel taking a break and sitting in.

16:48 CEST   
Pozzato hangs onto the team car for a split second, to get some advice. But he has to close the gap again, as the speed is still very high.

16:49 CEST    238km/21km to go
Flecha does it more subtle, getting a bottle from the team car and hanging onto the bottle.

16:50 CEST   
Lotto has good cards with two riders, but they need to make a move. So does Flecha. At the Carrefour de l'arbre? A few more kilometres and we will know.

16:52 CEST   
Pozzato beat Boonen in the E3 Prijs, but if a group comes to the velodrome with Boonen, the Belgian is the safest bet.

The gap is almost two minutes and Chavanel tries to escape, so he can secure a top ten.

But he is marked.

16:53 CEST    240km/19km to go
The four-star Champin (1800m) is sector 5, the one before the Carrefour. The leaders hit it, trying to use the side of the road for a smoother ride in the dirt. But of course there are spectators to deal with...

16:54 CEST   
Van Summeren pulls again, he does an amazing job for Hoste. All Hoste has to do is finish it off. Easier said than done.

16:55 CEST   
Flecha and Hoste go!

16:55 CEST   
It's what they need to do and they go when the sector ends. But the others close the gap.

16:56 CEST   
Of course Hushovd is a strong sprinter, too. But Boonen has good experience in the velodrome

16:57 CEST   
Ouch, the Carrefour starts and Flecha hits the deck in a left hander!

16:58 CEST   
Hoste and Van Summeren can not avoid crashing also. Pozzato gets by, just about.

16:58 CEST   
This happened at the back of the group, when Hushovd was accelerating at the front. Boonen goes after the Norwegian.

16:59 CEST   
The two work together, with Pozzato chasing.

16:59 CEST    244km/15km to go
Unbelievable, Hushovd crashes, too!

17:00 CEST   
Hushovd crashed into a 'soft' barrier on the right hand side. He picks himself up quickly, but gets passed by the Lottos.

17:00 CEST   
Boonen rides solo, with Pozzato still chasing

17:01 CEST   
The gap is eight seconds, as the two are off the Carrefour and onto the next sector

17:02 CEST   
Behind, Hushovd is chasing with Hoste and Van Summeren.

There are a lot of people and one one of them also makes Pozzato crashes, trying to cross the road right in front of the Italian.

17:03 CEST   
Chavanel has attacked once again and is now riding with Haussler behind him.

17:03 CEST    247km/12km to go
Boonen is back on the paved part and has about 10 secs on Pozzato. 12 km to go.

The others are 45 secs back. What a crazy end to this race.

17:05 CEST   
The Lottos are going too slow for Hushovd, who gaps them. He checks back to see if they will put it in another gear. But they are already over two minutes back. Unlikely they will come back, except if all the others crash also.

After what we have seen today, that's a possibility...

17:07 CEST    249km/10km to go
Boonen has to go ten more km and he increases gap slightly, but consistently. It is now 15 secs.

The Hushovd group is at 0.42.

Boonen hangs over his machine and stomps on the pedals, his upper body weaving left and right.

Pozzato looks calmer, but he is still behind. Can he mount a comeback?

17:09 CEST    251km/8km to go
Boonen takes a left-hander at full speed. He briefly stops pedalling, puts his inside knee up, sweeps around and quickly starts his leg movements again.

17:10 CEST   
The gap had briefly dipped down to 13 secs, but is back up to 16.

Boonen hits the next-to-last sector, the Willems à Hem (1.4km). He looks determined

17:11 CEST   
Boonen uses as much as he can from the smoother parts on the outside, but some are blocked by spectators. Not crashing now, that'd be good.

17:13 CEST   
Boonen's ride is amazing, grabbing the bars on top and going all out.

Van Summeren dropped off the Hoste-Hushovd group.

The gap is up to 18 secs between Boonen and Pozzato, 48 to Hushovd

17:14 CEST    253.5km/5.5km to go
Boonen has less than six km to go. It is scary how he hits the corners, but it pays off. The gap keeps increasing and Pozzato looks beat now. The gap is 24 secs

17:14 CEST   
The fans cheer Boonen on, who still pushes the big gear like there is no tomorrow. The Belgian looks set for win number three

17:16 CEST    255km/4km to go
Boonen passes the four-to-go banner. The lead is up to 27 secs, the Hoste group is at 52.

He still looks determined and is not letting up the pressure on the pedals.

Pozzato still tries hard, but it doesn't look good for him.

17:18 CEST   
Hoste and Hushovd chase hard behind, but it will be only for the third podium step

17:18 CEST    256km/3km to go
Less than three to go, a ton of fans on the side of the roads in Roubaix wave little blue flags.

17:19 CEST   
With his crash marks over his arm and clothing, Boonen does look like he came straight from hell.

Van Summeren has pulled himself back and pulls the group with Hoste and Hushovd

17:20 CEST    257.5km/1.5km to go
Boonen hits the last secteur, but it's really smooth. It only gets one star...

17:20 CEST   
Boonen continues to pull hard, but he already makes a fist, knowing he won

17:20 CEST   
Boonen enters the velodrome

17:21 CEST   
He goes around on the inside. The bell rings, one more lap

17:21 CEST   
Boonen finally eases up and starts celebrating

17:22 CEST   
He raises his arms, then sees Pozzato come into the velodrome

17:22 CEST   
Boonen accelerates and sprints - he wants to enjoy the moment by himself and doesn't want Pozzato in the winner's pic...

17:22 CEST   
Boonen points to himself - he takes it!

17:23 CEST   
Pozzato claps Boonen on the shoulder as he rides by, saying "well done." Boonen acknowledges the congrats.

17:24 CEST   
Pozzato gets second. No surprise that Hushovd beats the Lottos, with Hoste right behind the Norwegian.

17:24 CEST   
Flecha comes in solo.

17:25 CEST   
Haussler and Chavanel enter the velodrome. Loud cheers from the French fans

17:25 CEST   
But Chavanel can't really do anything against Haussler. Still, Chavanel gets a top ten.

17:44 CEST   
Well, congratulations to Tom Boonen for his third victory, although we would have preferred less crashes in the end. Hushovd was slightly disappointed, saying that he had good legs and was the one who made the move.

Hoste was very emotional, having been reduced to fourth, in part by the crash from Flecha.

There is always drama in Paris-Roubaix....

That's it for today, we'll be back next Sunday at the Amstel Gold Race. Au revoir.

Provisional results

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step                      6.15.53
2 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha                       0.47
3 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo TestTeam                 1.17
4 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence-Lotto
5 Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Silence-Lotto               1.22
6 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank                  2.14
7 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo TestTeam            3.13
8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step                   3.15
9 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas                     5.00
10 Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank                5.29