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103rd Paris-Roubaix - PT

France, April 10, 2005

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Commentary by Jeff Jones with additional reporting from Gerard Knapp and Hedwig Kröner

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 11:00 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:30 CEST

10:53 CEST   
Welcome to Hell, or more precisely, the Cyclingnews commentary position somewhere north of Compiegne, from which we are bringing you the 103rd edition of Paris-Roubaix live. Well, nearly.

Despite the ominous forecasts, it's actually not a bad day down in Compiegne, and the sun is out at the start, which should please most of the riders. The wind is blowing from the west-northwest at about 20 km/h, which means a crosswind for much of the day.

The parcours of Paris-Roubaix has changed a little this year, with a few sectors of cobbles taken out around the Wallers-Arenberg forest region. Although these are usually the critical points of the race, the alternative route is still quite tough, according to the riders, and even contains a few hills. There are 26 cobbled sections in all, starting at Troisvilles at km 97 and finishing with the one at Roubaix (km 257) before the riders enter the famed Roubaix velodrome. The most difficult sectors, according to the organisers, are at Quievy (km 106.4, 3700m), Aulnoy-lez-Valenciennes (km 149.7, 2600m), Haveluy (km 172.4, 2400m), Warlaing - Vrillon (km 186, 2400m), Mons-en-Pévèle (km 212, 3000m), Cysoing - Bourghelles (km 233, 1400m), Camphin-en-Pévèle (km 240, 1800m), and Le Carrefour de l'Arbre (km 242.6, 2100m).

The riders to look out for today include Tom Boonen (Quick.Step), defending champion Magnus Bäckstedt (Liquigas-Bianchi), Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto), Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile), George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) and Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo), to name a few. After the first couple of cobbled sections, we'll know who the contenders are in the Queen of the Classics.

11:05 CEST    0km/259km to go
The riders roll out of Compiegne at 11:00 for a 4 km neutral section before the race begins on the outskirts of the town. It's 10 degrees and a bit cloudy, although there are some patches of blue sky showing through. There are some more ominous looking grey clouds on the horizon though.

The fact that it was not raining at the start put the riders in a good mood, and most were relaxed and happy with the state of affairs. The Australian contingent, including O'Grady, Wilson, Vogels, Roberts and Hayman, were all mucking around, pushing each other out of the way. All in good fun though.

11:09 CEST   
Frank Vandenbroucke (MrBookmaker) didn't start this morning, because he was in hospital suffering from food poisoning that he got last week. His aim was going to be to reach the feed zone today, but maybe his stomach rebelled against that idea. Apparently, he was allergic to the medication he was taking to treat the effects of the food poisoning.

11:17 CEST    5km/254km to go
Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel) didn't start either. There were 191 riders on the start line.

Vandenbroucke's replacement in MrBookmaker was Francesco Planckaert.

In the neutral zone, there is already a crash! Victor Peña (Phonak) came down, but he's back in the bunch again.

11:20 CEST    7km/252km to go
There's an attack initiated by the Ag2r team, which gets 100 metres on the peloton. 15 riders are involved.

11:25 CEST   
Despite the removal of what was considered the most dangerous section of cobbles on the Paris-Roubaix parcours - the dreaded Forêt d'Arenberg - the lead rider for French team Cofidis, Stuart O'Grady, believes Sunday's epic race could actually be harder without the famously-brutal section.

After checking out the new sections of the parcours that organizers have added to replace Arenberg, the Australian expects the race to have a different level of intensity. "Before you could feel the race would chill out a bit (after Arenberg), as the race would then enter good sections of asphalt, they would take in some food and drinks and then prepare for the next section. But now, they've replaced it with absolute goat-tracks, it's constantly twisting left and right; there just no place to recover," he said. "It's just going to be full-on."

You can read the rest of Cyclingnews' interview with O'Grady here. Note to other media: please do not copy our interviews without permission.

O'Grady was also in a good mood at the start when we spoke to him. "I woke up feeling real. good this morning. I'm ready to have a good go at it."

11:26 CEST   
The 15 man break started by Ag2r has come back.

11:36 CEST    20km/239km to go
Four teams and 31 riders were given blood tests by the UCI this morning. The teams tested were Credit Agricole, Ag2r, Bouygues Telecom and T-mobile. All riders were cleared to start.

The race has been quite aggressive from the start, and Linas Balciunas (Agritubel) is the latest rider to attack. He has been caught.

11:40 CEST   
Victor Peña, the first rider to crash, has abandoned.

11:44 CEST   
We spoke to Discovery Channel's Roger Hammond this morning, to ask how things were after he broke his thumb in Gent-Wevelgem. The British champ was his usual self, and pointed out that he rode this race and finished third with a broken thumb last year!

"Last year, the first cobbled section was really hard. The second one started to be ok, and by the third sector, the cobbles made my thumb go numb. I hope it will be the same this year. If I make it to the first sector, there's a good chance I'll make it to the finish."

Roger explained that he hadn't changed anything in his position for this race.

11:45 CEST    25km/234km to go
Erwin Thijs (MrBookmaker), Stéphane Berges (Agritubel) and David Herrero (Euskaltel) have a small gap after 25 km. There is a fourth rider with them too.

Thank you.

11:52 CEST    30km/229km to go
The fourth rider in the break is Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), and this is looking like a serious move. The four have 45 seconds after 30 km.

11:56 CEST    34km/225km to go
Loyd Mondory (Ag2r) and Glenn D'Hollander (Landbouwkrediet) are trying to catch the four riders ahead, and trail by 25 seconds. The peloton is hovering at 40 seconds.

12:00 CEST    39km/220km to go
The four leaders, Lang, Thijs, Berges and Herrero, still have 25 seconds on the nearest chasers at the 38 km points. This has been a quick start, given the cross/headwind. But that's to be expected - it's Paris-Roubaix after all!

12:06 CEST    43km/216km to go
Davitamon-Lotto's Henk Vogels is a rider who has the perfect build for Paris-Roubaix. The Aussie will be in the service of his teammate Peter van Petegem and Nico Mattan today. Cyclingnews' Anthony Tan spoke to him a couple of days ago, just after he had come back from a course reconnaissance. "There are sections which are vicious and the climbs - by that I mean small rises in the roads that when you're on cobbles feel like mountains - in between sections are going to sort things out," Vogels predicted.

Vogels applauded the move to exclude Arenberg: "I think Arenberg is like a tree standing in the middle of a descent - it's just something you have to avoid," he said dryly. "You know with the history of my falls, I don't want to see anyone crash."

12:07 CEST   
The two chasers, Mondory and D'Hollander, were caught after 36 km, and the four leaders now have 25 seconds on the bunch.

12:13 CEST    48km/211km to go
The lead riders have averaged 45.5 km/h in the first hour, which is good going into a headwind. There's still another 50 km to go until the cobbles start, so they want to have a bit more of a buffer over the peloton than they've got now. It's only 30 seconds between Gussev's quartet and the bunch.

12:18 CEST   
Cyclingnews spoke to CSC team director Scott Sunderland this morning before the start: "The least you can say is that we're ready. We've come prepared, with fantastic new Cervelo bikes, especially made for this race - and I'd say they'll be retired after today. We've put special True Tempo forks on them and 'Paris-Roubaix-pedals' - it's easier to clean the mud out of the cleats. The Zipp wheels and Vittoria tyres are specifically picked for this race also. And to increase the comfort for the riders - well, as far as that's possible here - we've got gel padded tape for the handle bars. Alain Gallopin and Bjarne Riis will be driving my 4x4 team car which is ideal for this type of parcours. I've warned Alain already not to put too many dints in it! (laughs)

"Along with two other CSC team members, I'll be stationed on critical points, with spare wheels and bidons. This is a race of attrition, guts and a pinch of luck. And we want to give our riders the best possible conditions for as many of them as possible to get to the last 70/60km, where they can be of excellent assistance to the three team leaders for today: Lars Michaelsen, Allan Johansen and Vladimir Gussev. It's important for them to have that help (a wheel, drink, etc.) if needed, not in the last kilometres, but at the crucial points in the last 70km.

"Every rider starting here knows this parcours, some even by heart. That doesn't make the difference. The difference is made in how you are able to ride that parcours: wet or dry, with wind or without, the weather conditions play a vital role in this race. The luck factor is there too; you can puncture three times today but in "good" spots and still ride the finale for the win; or you can puncture only once but at the wrong moment in the wrong place and your race is over and done with. That is Paris-Roubaix."

12:23 CEST    53km/206km to go
A new counter attack has gone off the front of the peloton in pursuit of the four leaders, who had 1'15 at km 50. The move contains Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros), Sébastien Chavanel (Bouygues), Florent Brard (Agritubel) and Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis) and they are at 35 seconds from the leaders. As usual, the French riders are quite active in the early breaks in this race. Also, Barredo has been the attacking rider of the spring. He was in last week's escape at the Tour of Flanders, and also came third in the GP Pino Cerami after a 170 km breakaway.

12:27 CEST   
A correction: It's Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) in the break, not Vlad Gussev (CSC). Gussev's presence was purely a product of my infertile imagination.

12:33 CEST    57km/202km to go
The leaders race through St-Quentin with scarcely a backward glance. They're all intent on gaining as much time as possible before the fun starts. The four chasers have caught the leaders at km 52, to form an eight man group with Erwin Thijs (MrBookmaker), Stéphane Berges and Florent Brard (Agritubel), David Herrero (Euskaltel), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros), Sébastien Chavanel (Bouygues) and Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis). The peloton is now at 3'00.

Magnus Bäckstedt gets a puncture, but quickly gets a change and is back in the peloton. Last year, while riding with Alessio-Bianchi, Bäckstedt didn't puncture once, and went onto win the race. In fact, the only rider on the team to have mechanical problems was Tafi. They were all riding 28mm tyres though...

12:38 CEST    62km/197km to go
The gap has now blown out to 4'50 as the eight leaders make good their escape.

12:48 CEST    69km/190km to go
The eight leaders now have 9'00 at km 66, and will not be seen again for a while. Up front, Sebastien Chavanel punctured, but got a wheel change and is back in the break.

12:56 CEST   
We spoke to Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) before the start today, and the Spanish classics man was in good spirits. In Fassa, he will share the lead with his teammate Fabian Cancellara, who placed fourth last year. "Fabian and I know each other really well," said Flecha. "We work really well together. We both feel very strong and we know that we'll have a good race. It might be difficult because everybody will be watching us. My personal aim is definitely top three."

12:58 CEST    75km/184km to go
As the kilometres tick by, the gap seems to increase at a rapid rate to the eight leaders (Erwin Thijs (MrBookmaker), Stéphane Berges and Florent Brard (Agritubel), David Herrero (Euskaltel), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros), Sébastien Chavanel (Bouygues) and Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis)). At the last time check at km 69, it was 11'00.

13:09 CEST   
Rolf Aldag (T-Mobile) is riding his 15th(!) Paris-Roubaix this year, and the veteran had one goal in mind: "I just want to stay intact and do the best job I can," he told us at the start. Rolf's best finish in this race is ninth, which he has achieved on three separate occasions.

13:12 CEST    84km/175km to go
The peloton is picking up speed now, but is still all together as it pursues the eight man break. The skies are grey but it's not raining at the moment.

13:15 CEST   
We also talked to Erik Zabel (T-Mobile), who finished 3rd in P-R in 2000. "Everybody dreams about the podium," he said. "I was there once so it might not happen again. But I certainly wouldn't mind..."

13:17 CEST    89km/170km to go
The maximum lead of the leaders was 12'05, but now it's come back to 11'30 as the peloton picks up the tempo.

13:19 CEST    94km/165km to go
The second hour was ridden at around 43 km/h, making the average speed 44 km/h for the first two hours. Fassa Bortolo is on the front of the peloton, along with Lithuanian champ Thomas Vaitkus. Quick.Step is well placed, as is Hammond (Discovery), Aldag and Wesemann (T-Mobile), Boonen (Quick.Step)...

13:20 CEST   
The leaders are in Troisvilles, about to hit the first of 55 km of cobbled torture. To quote a certain Italian poet: "Before me nothing but eternal things were made, and I shall last eternally. Abandon all hope, all ye who enter." Good luck guys!

13:22 CEST    97km/162km to go
Fassa has really upped the tempo, and now Hincapie can be seen riding up the gutter to move forward. The race for position as begun!

The eight leaders hit the cobbles with just under 11'00. This first sector is 2200m long. It's pretty dry though, with some dark clouds on the horizon.

13:23 CEST    99km/160km to go
Barredo is chasing back on after having a bike change just before the cobbles. They ride through a slippery patch of mud. Barredo is not quite on the wheel.

13:25 CEST   
Cyclingnews' Les Clarke spoke to Rabobank's Matt Hayman on Friday. Paris-Roubaix is Hayman's favourite event, and he has ridden the Queen of the Classics four times previously - twice in the dry, and twice in the wet. "It could get very messy if there's rain this year, but I'm glad we're not riding through Arenberg [the course has been changed for 2005], especially if it does rain. I've ridden through there before and it's pretty scary."

Like many of the riders in the peloton, Hayman has been sick recently, and in the last days has experienced a nasty fever. But such is his desire to ride his favourite race, that he's putting this bout of ill-health to one side in order to race on Sunday. "I'm still deciding to run it," he said, "But I really want to ride this race because it's the last race of my Classics campaign. I'm not doing Amstel Gold or Flèche Wallonne, so Roubaix is my focus until the Giro."

Click here for the full interview with Matt

13:27 CEST    101km/158km to go
The Fassa boys continue to drive the bunch. Now Magnus Bäckstedt can be seen in second wheel, then Henk Vogels and Tom Steels for the Lotto team.

Hincapie is up the front now. He told us this morning, "There are some race tactics planned but it's a race of attrition. So if you have good luck and good legs, the main thing is just to save as much energy as you can for the finish. The strong guys will make the difference in the last 20-30 km. And these guys are Cancellara, Flecha, Van Petegem and Bäckstedt. We have Eki, Leif and myself, so we also have a good team."

13:29 CEST   
It's a real fight in the peloton now as everyone wants position before the cobbles. It's almost like the last few km of a big race, and we've still got 160+ km to go! Bäckstedt is doing well and so is Vogels, who are both in the front rank.

13:30 CEST    103km/156km to go
The gap has fallen from 12'05 to 9'40 now as the peloton approaches the first pave sector. Discovery moves to the front as well, but no team can stay there for long. Now three T-Mobiles.

13:31 CEST    104km/155km to go
Who's this? A RAGT rider - Nicolas Reynaud - leads the bunch onto sector 1. He even has a small gap - that'll be good for the publicity. One of his teammates is in last wheel. What symmetry!!

13:33 CEST    106km/153km to go
The Cyclingnews Humvee reports from just ahead of Troisvilles that the wind is getting stronger, always from the WNW, and there are a few spots of rain. A local reckons it's going to rain at any moment.

Crash! A RAGT rider is down in that slippery mud section - it's Ludovic Martin. His teammate Reynaud is still leading the peloton along sector 26.

The eight leaders are finishing sector 25 now.

13:35 CEST   
Petito takes over from Reynaud with three T-Mobiles behind him, and Cancellara.

The leaders exit sector 25 at Viesly just as the peloton finishes sector 26. There are already riders chasing back on after that first section.

13:37 CEST    108km/151km to go
There are about 25 riders off the back of the bunch in various groups. Aart Vierhouten is one of them.

The leaders are now on sector 24 at Quievy (3700m). It's the longest in the race. Most riders are on the centre of the cobbles, but some are choosing the right hand gutter.

13:40 CEST    108km/151km to go
The eight leaders have 8'46 on the bunch with 150 km to go. Coyot is riding in the small chainring on the cobbles - but it isn't likely to be a 42 tooth ring. For some Paris-Roubaix tech features, click here.

Herrero is dropped from the break on this long sector 24.

13:42 CEST   
The peloton is now on sector 25, led by Petito again. A Landbouwkrediet rider is also up front. They take a slippery, muddy corner quite gingerly. It's still a fairly big bunch, despite the chasers.

Mavic is providing neutral service today on its motos, as usual.

13:44 CEST    113km/146km to go
David Herrero chases back on after the cobbles, and clutches his fingers which are sore. Riding over cobbles is murder on your hands, even with thick gloves, and padded bar tape.

Laszlo Bodrogi is off the back of the bunch, along with a good 30 others.

The gap is 7'35 and falling fast.

13:45 CEST   
The bunch is now on sector 24 at Quievy, with a Liquigas rider leading the bunch single file. Wesemann is right on his wheel. CSC's Lars Michaelsen is right up there too.

13:48 CEST    112km/147km to go
Wesemann now leads at a steady tempo, right behind the lead moto. Vaitkus is right up there in second wheel. And now Hammond takes over. He probably won't feel his thumb now.

Dierckxsens has a puncture.

13:49 CEST    113km/146km to go
Andrea Tafi, riding in his special cobbled jersey, has a puncture, but he's back on his bike and flying through the rear end of the peloton. He gets a wheel from a teammate, but the Sauniers haven't been much use to him at the moment, as he's going faster than them!

13:52 CEST    116km/143km to go
Tafi is suffering as he nears the end of sector 24. A teammate is there for him at last, and he should get back onto the peloton. The bunch is clumped together at the front with a very long tail. Hammond, Barry and Hincapie are the top three.

They hit sector 23 at Quievy-St Python, 1500m long.

13:52 CEST   
A Tafi teammate is towing him back to the peloton, but he's taking his time. Discovery certainly aren't easing up on the front! Fortunately, it's not too muddy here, just dusty.

13:56 CEST    119km/140km to go
Campagnolo Electric's big day
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
Click for larger image
Tafi is finally at the back of the bunch after the end of sector 23. The peloton is flying! Robert Hunter is at the back. He's riding with Campagnolo electronic today.

Steven de Jongh punctures.

13:57 CEST   
1997 winner Fred Guesdon has punctured, and needs a spare bike. He's on his way again. Very fast change!

13:57 CEST   
Guesdon is using the caravan to get back on, and now a teammate waits for him. It's Ludovic Auger.

13:59 CEST   
The bunch is riding through the feedzone at Solesmes, and most riders slow to grab their musettes. Lampre is at the front now.

The break still has a good 6 minutes.

Lampre's Daniele Bennati has abandoned.

14:00 CEST    122km/137km to go
The leaders are on zone 22 at Escarmain (1500m). The eight names: Erwin Thijs (MrBookmaker), Stéphane Berges and Florent Brard (Agritubel), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros), Sébastien Chavanel (Bouygues) and Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis).

14:02 CEST    124km/135km to go
Thos Hushovd (CA) is cruising along near the back of the bunch. We spoke to his teammate Brad Wiggins before the start today, and he told us, "It's a very anxious race with an unknown outcome. There's no guarantees...anything can happen. Which is why it's a very memorable moment getting to Roubaix. If you do get into the velodrome, that's what makes this race so special. My riding so far has been difficult, because I have been going through hard personal times as my partner has had a difficulty pregnancy. There were several interruptions in my training. But now my first son has been born and his name is Ben.

"For this race, Thor [Hushovd] is in great form and so the team will look after him, staying really close to him. If he punctures, because sometimes the spares can't be replaced as fast, we will stay close and give him a wheel.

14:03 CEST   
The bunch has regrouped a bit after the first few cobbled sectors, and now Cofidis is riding a steady tempo.

14:05 CEST    125km/134km to go
Michael Barry (Disco) and one of the Cofidis riders are on the front of the peloton, riding in the wind. Ahead, the break is starting to look tired.

14:09 CEST    127km/132km to go
Vogels leads the bunch onto sector 22, as there is another crash! Steels, Dierckxsens, Devolder are all down. Dierckxsens has to wait a long time for a wheel. Steels got one from Wim de Vocht. His two teammates are setting a steady tempo in front though.

14:10 CEST    129km/130km to go
Poor old Ludovic Martin punctures his front wheel. He takes it out and throws it in the grass, because he'll have a long wait for one. He was in an earlier crash too.

Three Lottos are on the front, but not riding too hard as to allow Steels to get back on.

14:11 CEST   
Steels is back on now.

The eight leaders are riding along sector 21 (Vertain, 1900m). The clouds are getting darker as they race through the flat, green fields of northern France.

After three hours, the average is 42.5 km/h.

14:12 CEST    130km/129km to go
Puncture for Jimmy Engoulvent (Cofidis). His team car is near the front of the caravan, so it doesn't take long to get a wheel. He's on his way again.

14:14 CEST    132km/127km to go
Engoulvent is getting back on, slowly. Discovery has assumed the position in front again, with Tony Cruz making tempo. Hulsmans and Baumann are also there.

The break still has 6'57, so the gap hasn't fallen much lately. The bunch reaches sector 21 at Vertain.

14:17 CEST   
Another crash!! Someone rides into the mud and about 10 riders come off. It's carnage when the race hits the mud. Steels is down again and has two men with him. But they're not getting going very quickly. Van Petegem is also down!

Allan Davis is sitting in the mud, in a pool of water, not wanting to move. His race looks over.

14:19 CEST    135km/124km to go
Van Petegem is waiting calmly without a bike, but he can't get one in a hurry. That's the problem with this race.

Davis hasn't moved from his muddy pool. What a disaster for these two, in particular Lotto. PVP and Roesems are on their way again - 40 seconds behind the fourth peloton.

The leading bunch is not hanging around - they are split into four bits! PVP has got his work cut out to get on, and he's even leaving Roesems behind. He looks in pain too.

14:20 CEST    136km/123km to go
Roesems takes over and De Peet gets some shelter. Bad luck for the 2003 winner, who clearly has a lot of pain in his right wrist.

The break has 6'00 with 123 km to go. Bunch split into lots of bits.

14:22 CEST    137km/122km to go
Steels has waited too, and PVP's group has Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis) and Aaron Kemps in it.

The front peloton is about 25 riders strong now, with several groups chasing. What a mess! It's not even raining, but that means when you do hit a muddy section, it's a nasty shock.

14:23 CEST   
Petito and Hulsmans lead the front part of the peloton, which has Flecha, Cancellara, Wesemann, Ekimov, Boonen and Kirsipuu in it.

Hincapie flats.

14:25 CEST    139km/120km to go
They're now climbing, and everyone is hurting. The bunch is on sector 20, at Du Buat and Preseau. PVP's group of five hasn't got back on yet.

14:26 CEST    140km/119km to go
Eki does a turn on the front, riding in the grass on the middle of the cobbles. He has Wesemann next to him, with Zabel also up there. Petito, Bäckstedt are also near the front.

The break is at 5'35, and the second peloton is another 2'00 behind the first peloton. That's not good for PVP.

14:27 CEST   
This pave sector is uphill, and is really making it tough at the back. PVP is struggling in the big chainring, going past Steels. He can see the second(?) peloton in front, but he is not enjoying himself.

14:29 CEST    141km/118km to go
Roesems encourages PVP and they keep going, catching dropped riders all the time as they race through sector 20. But Davitamon-Lotto is looking like the Legion of the Damned today.

14:30 CEST    142km/117km to go
Roesems is doing his best to get De Peet back to the front bunch. Steels is there too. It's the first peloton that they can see, so they should be able to close that last 30 seconds gap.

Glenn d'Hollander (Landbouwkrediet) has taken a flyer out of the peloton now.

14:32 CEST   
D'Hollander is motoring along, and he has a good gap now. PVP is getting some work down on his shoes, which are covered in blood after the crash. His bunch has grown to 20 riders.

14:34 CEST    143km/116km to go
A few spots of rain are starting to fall now as PVP moves back to the front of his group. The peloton is now quite large again, and it should be possible for PVP to rejoin. But it's a minute.

Sebastien Minard (RAGT) is in pursuit of d'Hollander, who waits for him.

14:35 CEST    144km/115km to go
De Vocht is now leading PVP's group, trying to close that 1 minute gap.

The break in front are at Preseau, the second part of sector 20.

14:36 CEST    145km/114km to go
The chase group has made contact with the caravan. De Vocht, Roesems, Steels and Van Petegem are the chasers, along with another 15 hangers on.

Hincapie rejoined the front peloton after his puncture.

14:38 CEST   
D'Hollander and Minard are 30 seconds ahead of peloton 1 and about 5'00 behind the eight leaders.

Van Petegem's group is nearly on the front peloton now, as Steels drives it hard.

14:39 CEST    146km/113km to go
They're baaaack! Davitamon-Lotto's top man Peter Van Petegem is back in the peloton at Artres. But that chase will have hurt him.

14:40 CEST   
The big peloton hits the second part of sector 20 at Preseau (2000m). Ivanov and Wesemann are showing the pink jerseys at the front. Also Knaven and Hulsmans are there with Boonen. Looks like Matti Breschel is up there for CSC, and Gianluca Bortolami for LAmpre.

14:42 CEST    149km/110km to go
Back to the leaders, who are still working smoothly as they reach a smooth section of road. All are concentrating on doing their turns, staying out of the wind. They've been away since km 25.

14:44 CEST    150km/109km to go
The leaders are on sector 19, the five star rated Aulnoy-lez-Valenciennes (2600m) section. Five stars = tough riding. Herrero is hanging in there, riding on the side of the road where it's smooth. He's no dummy!

The gap: 5'20 to d'Hollander and Minard, and 5'45 to the peloton.

14:45 CEST   
The crowds are thicker on this sector, and there are plenty of Flemish flags flying. It's a bit muddy on the edges.

14:46 CEST    153km/106km to go
The leaders exit sector 19, which is downhill and very rough at the end. They hit sector 18 at Famars almost immediately. The fun never stops in Paris-Roubaix.

14:48 CEST    154km/105km to go
Seb Chavanel gets a puncture on the cobbles and has to get a wheel change. Herrero is off the back again too.

D'Hollander and Minard have been recaptured by the peloton.

14:49 CEST   
Herrero is chasing back on in a big gear. Chavanel is still on the cobbles. He's knackered, it looks like. The break is down to six.

A crash in the peloton - Martin Elmiger (Phonak). He looks OK though, and gets some assistance before getting on his bike. It's so hard to gain speed on the cobbles. He can't get his foot in the pedal because of the mud.

14:50 CEST    154km/105km to go
The six leaders are now on zone 18 at Famars, chased by Herrero and Chavanel.

14:52 CEST    155km/104km to go
Six leaders: Erwin Thijs (MrBookmaker), Stéphane Berges and Florent Brard (Agritubel), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros), Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis). Herrero is chasing them.

Three Lotto boys (De Vocht, Vierhouten, Van Bon) are now at the front of the peloton, except for Roesems and Mattan, who are near the back. PVP is somewhere in the middle. They're on sector 19.

14:54 CEST    157km/102km to go
De Vocht sets the tempo at the end of sector 19, but now there's another one coming up almost straight away. Dierckxsens and Tafi are a fair way behind in the peloton. There are some very sore riders at the back.

Chavanel is still chasing the break after breaking his saddle. One of the Mavic guys is standing on top of the car adjusting a saddle on a spare bike to Chavanel's height!!

14:55 CEST   
Chavanel now gets some assistance from the window of the Mavic car as he hits sector 17 at Artres - Querenaing (1400 + 2500m). This is fairly easy, as there's a bit of dirt to ride on on the side of the road.

14:56 CEST    158km/101km to go
The bunch exits sector 18 with the three Lottos still on front. Michaelsen (CSC) is in fourth wheel next to Wesemann. The tempo is not too high, but the bunch is very strung out.

14:59 CEST   
Van Petegem and Steels are off the back of the bunch, and PVP is in a lot of pain. His race looks to be over: sore back and sore wrist. Steels is waiting, but surely he'll stop.

Stefan van Dijk (MrBookmaker) crashes on a corner, but trying to get his bike in order, yelling at a gendarme for moving him out of the way of the cars.

15:00 CEST   
The bunch, led by Quick.Step's Bram Tankink, is on sector 17. Wesemann is still in second wheel. Impressive.

PVP and Steels are somewhere in the caravan now. PVP's jersey is torn and he is almost crying with the pain. That crash had serious consequences.

15:03 CEST    161km/98km to go
Van PEtegem has abandoned. He rides with Tom Steels to the team car and limps inside. End of race for De Peet.

Chavanel is 1'23 behind the seven leaders now.

15:05 CEST   
Van Petegem's teammate Van Bon has taken over in front of the peloton, which is on the second part of sector 17.

Chavanel is chasing the break on sector 16, and not making much ground. He is at 1'30 and the peloton is at 4'50.

15:06 CEST    162km/97km to go
There are actually six leaders: Herrero is not with them. The break consists of: Erwin Thijs (MrBookmaker), Stéphane Berges and Florent Brard (Agritubel), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros) and Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis).

15:07 CEST    163km/96km to go
The T-Mobile gang hit sector 16 with four men in front. Wesemann and Zabel are always there, as are Erik Baumann and the big Marcus Burghardt.

15:08 CEST    164km/95km to go
Commesso is in fifth wheel, Boonen is about halfway down the peloton.

Chavanel is now 2 minutes behind the break, and 2'40 ahead of the bunch.

15:11 CEST    166km/93km to go
Burghardt now leads the bunch off the sector. Herrero has nearly been caught by the bunch, and Chavanel will probably follow soon after. Yep, he's waiting, pedaling slowly.

More drops of rain, but it's still not heavy yet. Barredo is yelling at the riders to rotate the opposite way.

15:13 CEST   
Hayman is now leading the peloton for his captain Marc Wauters.

The six leaders are riding across a bridge over the motorway. Coyot grabs something to eat quickly.

15:15 CEST    169km/90km to go
Thomas Voeckler is at the back of the bunch, taking his tricolor arm warmers off and giving them to his team car. It's pretty steady at the moment.

15:15 CEST   
Tafi is in the second row now as the bunch really slows. This will give the break a bit more room. They've done well to stay out there so long.

15:16 CEST   
Chavanel has gotten off his spare bike, standing beside the road to wait for another one. He gets one very quickly. That was a costly saddle break. He'd still be at the front of the race if it wasn't for that.

15:17 CEST   
For those wondering, Allan Davis did abandon after his crash, which was the same one that took out PVP.

15:19 CEST    171km/88km to go
Chavanel is in the caravan now, he could get back on if he wanted to.

In front of the peloton, it's Tony Cruz and Michael Barry (Discovery) and Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) leading. There are a good 70 riders here still, including most of the favourites.

15:20 CEST    173km/86km to go
The six leaders hit zone 15 at Haveluy (2400m), a four star section. Where's the mini bar, pay movies and room service? That's at the end of the sector...

15:22 CEST    172km/87km to go
Herrero is back in the peloton now.

Quick.Step and Discovery jerseys are moving to the front. There is a sense that the race will get hard soon... The break still has 5'21.

15:23 CEST    174km/85km to go
Nick Nuyens and Michael Barry are the leaders of the peloton. Knaven is up there too, with Cruz and Boonen. De Jongh moves up, as do Mattan and Vogels. Mattan is almost on the moto and says, "Hey, the moto is here, what can I do about it?". Quite true!

15:25 CEST   
Thijs leads the break across the cobbles at Haveluy, with Brard on his wheel, then Lang, Coyot, Berges and Barredo. They exit the sector, all together. Their lead has hovered around 5 minutes for quite some time.

15:27 CEST    176km/83km to go
The peloton slowly strings out along sector 15, led by T-Mobile. It's not a hard tempo though. Hayman is up there in about fourth wheel, near Knaven. Wesemann looks great, in second wheel, as usual.

15:28 CEST   
D'Hollander and Ventoso are being shelled, but should survive this section.

Enrico Franzoi (Lampre) accelerates and gets a gap. He's a 'cross specialist. He doesn't keep it going though.

Mauro Gerosa and Tony Cruz have crashed on the cobbles. They both look pretty beaten up.

15:29 CEST    178km/81km to go
Cruz gets a push from a local fan and is on his way through the dust. His bike is buggered though, so he'll have to get assistance.

The leaders have 4'52 with 82 km left. The tempo has increased at the front of the peloton, as Vierhouten drives.

Lang has a problem, either with his bike or with his legs.

15:30 CEST    179km/80km to go
Lang is totally dropped as the leaders hit zone 14, Hornaing - Wandignies (3700m). Five leaders now: Erwin Thijs (MrBookmaker), Stéphane Berges and Florent Brard (Agritubel), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros), Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis).

It's raining just a little bit.

15:32 CEST    180km/79km to go
Hushovd is up into third wheel in the peloton, led by two Rabobanks. Hayman is definitely doing a good job today.

The rain is not enough to make the cobbles wet yet, otherwise it will get very nasty.

15:32 CEST   
Thijs is on the front again - he's the strongest of the break at the moment.

15:33 CEST    181km/78km to go
Bortolami is going back to the front of the bunch after a mechanical(?). Devolder and D'Hollander are the two last riders.

I front, it's Hulsmans and Pozzato leading. Then Knaven and Boonen and one of the Liquigas riders there. Bäckstedt also.

15:35 CEST    182km/77km to go
Seb Chavanel is also at the back as the bunch hits sector 14 with a bit of venom. Boonen is now right up there in third wheel. This sector twists and turns a bit. It would be a nightmare in the wet.

15:37 CEST    183km/76km to go
CSC's Lars Michaelsen is having a good ride today as well - always up the front, but not doing any work. He is very experienced.

Crash! It's Christophe Detilloux (Francaise des Jeux). He ends up in a ditch and hurts his back. He's trying to get back on his bike.

Pozzato lifts the tempo with Boonen, Michaelsen, Hincapie, Bäckstedt on his wheel! A gap!! Flecha, Cancellara and Van Bon are chasing. Then Hushovd and Zabel.

15:37 CEST    182km/77km to go
The peloton is splintering as this group of five goes off the front. The break still has 4'15. Pozzato, Boonen, Michaelsen, Bäckstedt and Hincapie are the five.

15:39 CEST   
Pozzato is dropped after that acceleration as Boonen does a strong turn. He looks back and sees Van Bon coming up. Michaelsen, Hincapie and Bäckstedt are with him. Cancellara, Flecha and Pozzato are the next chasers.

15:41 CEST    184km/75km to go
Michaelsen takes over as they exit sector 14. The two Fassas with Pozzato are close behind. Then about 20 seconds to the next bit of the peloton, which has Hushovd and Wesemann in it.

Now it's Bäckstedt driving.

Tafi is somewhere at the back of the bunch. It's not going to be his day today.

15:42 CEST    186km/73km to go
Tafi is motoring along, trying to regain the peloton. But it's not a good time to be off the back.

The rain is a little heavier now as the leaders hit sector 13: Warlaing - Vrillon (2400m). The cobbles are wet. Oh dear.

15:44 CEST   
The chasers have come together and there are eight riders clear of the peloton: Boonen, Pozzato (Quick.Step), Bäckstedt (Liquigas), Hincapie (Discovery), Michaelsen (CSC), Mattan? (Davitamon-Lotto), Flecha, Cancellara (Fassa). They are 3'14 behind the break.

15:44 CEST   
It's Van Bon there for Lotto, not Mattan. Lang is also there, but he's not long for this move. Sorry about the terrible pun.

15:46 CEST   
The leaders and chasers are on the same sector now, sector 13 where it's wet at the beginning. Another big crash. Zabel is caught up in it, as is Commesso. No-one looks to be too badly hurt though.

The peloton is 30 seconds behind the eight counter attackers. Lang has been dropped, as has Pozzato.

15:49 CEST    190km/69km to go
The break is on relatively dry roads now, 3'00 in front of seven chasers: Boonen (Quick.Step), Bäckstedt (Liquigas), Hincapie (Discovery), Michaelsen (CSC), Van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto), Flecha and Cancellara (Fassa). We're missing a T-Mobile and Rabobank presence here. They're working pretty well together. The next part of the peloton only has 20 men in it, Rabobank in front. Wesemann is there, as is Voeckler.

15:50 CEST   
The counter move is working nicely together, and it has most of the favourites. Cancellara has shoved his sunglasses up into his helmet so he can actually see. The gap: 2'44, with the peloton at 3'24.

15:52 CEST    192km/67km to go
The chasers are on zone 13b at Tilloy - Sars-et-Rosières (2400m). It's raining a bit again, but not hard enough yet to make it slippery. Seven of the strongest riders in the race are here, so the peloton is not going to make much headway. Rabobank and T-Mobile have missed it. The next chase group has a lot of Quick.Steps in it, who aren't working. And Rabobanks and T-Mobiles. Voeckler is at the back. He'll give anything a go.

15:54 CEST   
Wauters is driving chase group 2 in pursuit of the group ahead. It's not over yet. The gaps: 2'27 to Boonen's group and 2'58 to Wauters' group.

15:55 CEST    194km/65km to go
A disaster for Leon van Bon, he punctures out of the break. That leaves six in the chase: Boonen, Hincapie, Flecha, Cancellara, Bäckstedt and Michaelsen.

15:56 CEST   
No sign of Hammond yet, but he might be in Wauters' chase group 2.

15:58 CEST    196km/63km to go
Van Bon is 20 seconds behind Boonen's group after his puncture, and 15 seconds ahead of Wauters' group of 30. But these six chasers aren't going to stop. They're all big motors. Hincapie chats to Cancellara at the back.

15:59 CEST   
Van Bon is back in the Wauters group, which also has Mattan, Wesemann, Vierhouten, and De Jongh in it.

16:00 CEST   
Some names in the second chase group: Hushovd, Kirsipuu, Wauters, Vogels, Van Bon, O'Grady, Knaven, Nuyens, Hoste, Hayman, Casper. And Voeckler, last wheel.

16:02 CEST    197km/62km to go
The five surviving leaders, Thijs (MrBookmaker), Berges and Brard (Agritubel), Barredo (Liberty) and Coyot (Cofidis) ride through Beuvry-la-Foret with about 2'00 of their once 12'00 lead. The chase behind is relentless though, as Boonen, Hincapie, Bäckstedt and co. work hard.

16:04 CEST   
Wim de Vocht hammers on the front of the second chase group along with Hayman, De Jongh and Van Bon. Hammond is nowhere to be seen in either of the front two groups.

The leaders are just 1'30 ahead of Boonen's group, and 2'00 ahead of the second chase group.

16:07 CEST    201km/58km to go
Bäckstedt pushes Hincapie back into the rotation, to try to keep things rolling. Hincapie is looking back, dropping to fifth wheel. Michaelsen is in sixth wheel.

The five leaders are on cobbled sector 12 at Orchies (1700m). Just 1'07 ahead of the first chasers.

16:08 CEST    202km/57km to go
The gap between the first and second chase group is 40 seconds, slowly opening out despite the best efforts of Rabobank, Lotto and T-Mobile.

16:09 CEST   
The CN road crew reports that this sector at Orchies is not good - there's mud and the cobbles are in bad shape.

Van Bon is trying to close the gap alone!

16:10 CEST    203km/56km to go
Boonen leads across the cobbles with Hincapie right behind. This still looks like the winning break, even though they haven't caught the leaders yet.

Van Bon is riding well, chasing alone.

16:11 CEST   
A puncture in the chase group messes up the momentum.

Van Bon is 1'00 behind the five leaders, and 20 seconds behind Boonen and co. Good riding by the Dutchman, who was in this move previously!

16:13 CEST   
The first chasers are doing short turns, with Bäckstedt looking a little tired. Everyone else looks fresh. Van Bon is now just 16 seconds behind the chasers. Wesemann and Hulsmans are next at another 30 seconds.

16:14 CEST    205km/54km to go
Thijs is still looking like the strongest rider in the lead break. They only have 25 seconds on the six chasers (Boonen, Hincapie, Bäckstedt, Flecha, Cancellara and Michaelsen). Then Van Bon at 40 seconds and Wesemann/Hulsmans at 1'00. Hulsmans isn't helping Wesemann chase of course, as he has Boonen in front.

16:16 CEST   
Van bon is now stuck. He should probably wait for Wesemann, as then they have a chance. They are riding on a brand new road now, just before the Auchy-lez-Orchies sector 11. Hulsmans will not work with Wesemann, who nevertheless asks the question.

16:17 CEST    207km/52km to go
Van Bon is now with Wesemann and Hulsmans.

The front riders are going slow, very slow on sector 11. Berges is leading on the cobbles, with the next chasers just 10 seconds behind, led by Boonen.

16:18 CEST   
Barredo is suffering on the back of the break, but it's academic now as they'll be caught very soon after some 180 km in front. Not bad!

16:20 CEST   
There's a full brass band complete with fancy dress and matching bandstand set up alongside the pave. These will be decisive sections as there is moisture in places and the roads off sector 11 are wet, but the rain has passed over.

16:21 CEST    209km/50km to go
Barredo has already been caught by the chasers, and now the rest of them follow at the exit of sector 11. Barredo is hurting to try to hold them. He can't. It's over.

16:23 CEST    210km/49km to go
We now have Erwin Thijs (MrBookmaker), Stéphane Berges and Florent Brard (Agritubel), Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis), Tom Boonen (Quick.Step), Magnus Bäckstedt (Liquigas), George Hincapie (Discovery), Lars Michaelsen (CSC), Juan Antonio Flecha and Fabian Cancellara (Fassa). Barredo is back on again.

The next chasers are Wesemann (T-Mobile), Hulsmans (Quick.Step) and Van Bon (Lotto).

16:24 CEST    211km/48km to go
Van Bon, Wesemann and Hulsmans are 37 seconds off the leaders as the rain starts to come down harder. The next sectors will be crucial - who will crack first?

16:26 CEST    213km/46km to go
There is a peloton as well, which is regrouping again behind the two chase groups. The leaders are now on zone 10, Mons-en-Pévèle (3000m) with five stars. Flecha goes to the front and rides hard. The stones are slippery here, but the rain has stopped again.

16:27 CEST   
One by one, the early breakaway riders are being dropped. Only Thijs and Coyot are left with Flecha's group. And even they are being tailed off.

16:28 CEST    214km/45km to go
Flecha continues to drive on the Mons-en-Pevele sector, avoiding the mud whenever possible. Wesemann's chase group is at 36 seconds, then the peloton at 2'07.

16:30 CEST   
Flecha continues to hammer, but he doesn't know that Cancellara has punctured! That's a disaster for Fassa.

Berges is caught and dropped by the Wesemann/Van Bon train.

16:32 CEST    216km/43km to go
Flecha now realises it as he exits the sector. Cancellara catches Coyot at the end, and asks him to help. Cance is in full pursuit now.

16:33 CEST   
Brard and Barredo are being caught by the Wesemann/Van Bon train, which also has Hulsmans sitting on. Good move by Quick.Step, in case Boonen punctures.

The peloton is shattering slowly on the cobbles, but there are still a good 30 riders in it.

16:34 CEST    217km/42km to go
Flecha continues to work - surprising. He could wait for Cancellara, or at least not do any turns. Wesemann and co are at 55 seconds now, peloton at 2'44.

16:36 CEST    219km/40km to go
We now have five leaders: Tom Boonen (Quick.Step), Magnus Bäckstedt (Liquigas), George Hincapie (Discovery), Lars Michaelsen (CSC), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa). Thijs, Cancellara, Barredo, Coyot and Brard are chasing, then Wesemann, Van Bon and Hulsmans.

The leaders are on sector 9 at Merignies (700m).

Cancellara gets another wheel change and is even passed by Wesemann!

16:37 CEST    220km/39km to go
Back with the leaders. We have five very strong riders in front of the race, with last year's champion Magnus Bäckstedt now doing his turn. He looks good. Boonen also looks good, as do Hincapie, Michaelsen and Flecha. In fact, they all look good.

Cancellara has caught Barredo, who won't be much use.

16:38 CEST    221km/38km to go
Cancellara takes Barredo back up to Wesemann, Van Bon, Hulsmans and Brard, so we have six chasers. Coyot is somewhere up there too, in between the leaders and this chase.

16:39 CEST   
Flecha has stopped working - that could make things interesting. Hincapie is not happy with that. Flecha gets some advice from his team director.

16:40 CEST   
Coyot and Thijs are back with the Wesemann chase group.

16:41 CEST    222km/37km to go
The leaders hit zone eight at Pont-Thibaut (1400m) and Boonen nearly overcooks it on a corner as he leaders. Big crowds here.

16:42 CEST    223km/36km to go
These cobbles aren't too bad, although everything is relative at this point of the race. The chase group is now at 1'00 and the peloton at 2'50. Boonen exits the sector, having done most of it on the front. Flecha won't do any more turns.

16:43 CEST    224km/35km to go
The break is now on smooth, dry roads heading towards sector 7. Barredo has been dropped from the Wesemann chase group. This is hurting him a lot.

16:44 CEST    224km/35km to go
Flecha gets some help from his car to adjust the brakes. That'll be a bit more relief for him. Meanwhile, Bäckstedt's big motor hammers on the front of the break.

16:45 CEST   
Cancellara, Wesemann and Van Bon are driving their group, which also has Hulsmans, Brard, Coyot and Thijs in it.

16:47 CEST    225km/34km to go
Bäckstedt finishes his turn, then Boonen takes over. Bäckstedt slots into second wheel and does a short one. Boonen signals to Flecha to come through, and he obliges. Then Hincapie and Michaelsen. These are the five chosen ones today.

16:48 CEST    226km/33km to go
The gaps haven't changed much: The Wesemann/Van Bon/Cancellara group is at 56 seconds from the leaders, while the peloton (Vogels is in that for all you Vogels fans) is at 2'50.

The sun is out! Woo hoo!

16:49 CEST    227km/32km to go
Sector seven commences, Templeuve l'Epinette (200m) and Le Moulin de Vertain (500m). It's not a hard one.

16:50 CEST    228km/31km to go
Bäckstedt, looking really good today, is riding tempo on the front. Hincapie is sitting last wheel, trying to avoid the mud. But he's also strong. Boonen takes his cap off.

16:51 CEST    228km/31km to go
The chasers haven't really given up, but are slowly losing ground. It's 1'04 to the leaders with 32 km to go. Van Bon, Wesemann and Cancellara are the only ones working. The other four are sitting on.

16:53 CEST   
Flecha is now rolling through regularly. He's played the "My teammate Cancellara is coming back. Really, he is. He'll be here in a minute" card to its fullest extent, saving him a few turns.

16:54 CEST    230km/29km to go
It's quite sunny now and the roads are dry. Boonen and Bäckstedt have taken their arm warmers off. Michaelsen is sitting tight, probably the smartest and most experienced rider in this break.

16:56 CEST    231km/28km to go
The CN stretch limo reports from sector 6. The cobbles are dry here, and there are huge crowds.

Chasers are now at 1'10. It's probably over for them, unless a disaster strikes the leaders. Could happen.

16:57 CEST    232km/27km to go
The breakaways are all looking at each other, seeing who is strong. The chase is now at 1'32 and losing. Bäckstedt signals to his car for a drink.

16:59 CEST    233km/26km to go
Boonen leads onto zone 6 at Cysoing - Bourghelles (1300m). This is a four star sector, and is where the race could be made. Bäckstedt in second wheel.

17:01 CEST    235km/24km to go
The cobbles are really nasty here, but at least they're dry. Boonen accelerates slightly, and Flecha is gapped. But it's not much. Now Bäckstedt takes over as they exit the sector.

The chasers are now on sector 6. Coyot is sitting on the back behind Brard and Thijs. Van Bon, Wesemann and Cancellara are doing the work, as usual.

17:01 CEST   
Hincapie does a turn now as the sixth sector ends. All these five look very good. Who will attack first?

17:03 CEST    238km/21km to go
Thijs and Coyot are really struggling to hold onto the chasers. But they're hangin' in there! That's what you have to do in this race.

The leading five are close to sector 5, Camphin-en-Pévèle (1800m, four stars).

17:04 CEST    238km/21km to go
It's still status quo in front. All five are working, mostly doing their fair share. The chasers are at 1'44, and the peloton at about 3'00. Only three of the seven chasers are actually working: Van Bon, Cancellara and Wesemann.

17:06 CEST    239km/20km to go
Flecha looks good as he rolls through for his turn, then Michaelsen soft pedals through for his. Hincapie is next, sucking down a gel. Then Bäckstedt with that perpetual grimace on his face. And don't forget Boonen, who wants two big classics...

17:08 CEST    240km/19km to go
This move went away with about 80 km to go, and it was once eight riders strong, now just five. The next chasers are nearly at two minutes as they start Camphin-en-Pévèle (1800m) with Boonen in front.

17:08 CEST   
Boonen looks good as he tows the break along the rough stones, Michaelsen in second wheel. He signals for Michaelsen to take a turn, and the Dane obliges.

17:09 CEST    241km/18km to go
Boonen gets into second wheel though, as Michaelsen looks back and swings off into the gutter. Boonen again, Bäckstedt next, then Flecha and Hincapie. Boonen swings off now and Bäckstedt assumes the position.

17:10 CEST   
Bäckstedt accelerates out of a corner but immediately they are all onto him. Well, Michaelsen and Hincapie are gapped. Hincapie goes round and closes it. Then Michaelsen comes back.

17:11 CEST    242km/17km to go
The five are still together after Bäckstedt's acceleration. Now is the time to go, if anyone has any gas left. Flecha leads the break off the sector.

17:12 CEST    243km/16km to go
Sector 4, Le Carrefour de l'Arbre starts almost immediately. This is a five star sector measuring 2100m. Masses of people are lining the roads.

17:12 CEST   
The chasers are doing their best to keep it going, but are 1'55 behind the five leaders. Hushovd is chasing with another rider at 2'50.

17:13 CEST    244km/15km to go
It's still Flecha on the front on the Carrefour de l'Arbre. Boonen's in fourth wheel with Bäckstedt behind him. There's a lot of horsepower in this break.

17:15 CEST   
Flecha leads for a long time with Hincapie and Michaelsen right behind. No-one has attacked yet on this sector, as Flecha hammers. This is really nasty, rough cobbles. They take a muddy corner and all riders stay upright, riding through the tunnel of fans.

Michaelsen punctures. Terrible luck!

17:15 CEST   
The remaining four don't wait for Michaelsen. Even Bäckstedt is being dropped. Now Boonen hammers....

17:17 CEST    245km/14km to go
The exit the sector and start on sector 3 (Gruson, 2400m). Boonen leads and motors, really hard! Flecha and Hincapie can hold him, but Bäckstedt and Michaelsen are well off. Just three leaders. Boonen flicks back, and sees the damage.

17:17 CEST   
Boonen looks good as he rides on the tops with Flecha and Hincapie glued to his wheel. Bäckstedt is going backwards, but not as quickly as Michaelsen.

17:18 CEST    247km/12km to go
It's still Boonen driving. They're off the cobbles and Flecha takes over the pace making. Hincapie next. These three are it. Bäckstedt is at 10 seconds and losing. Michaelsen is nowhere to be seen. Oh dear, he's a long way back.

17:19 CEST    248km/11km to go
Boonen now in front, taking a drink. Flecha has his arms over the tops, but only does a short turn. Then Hincapie, also doing a short turn. Boonen is doing the longest turns.

17:21 CEST   
Hincapie is riding a great race, it could mean his first Roubaix victory. But Boonen is a hard man to beat. And Flecha is fast in the final kilometres too.

17:21 CEST   
Hincapie has never finished on the podium here, but he has a couple of fourth places. The podium is looking good for the Discovery rider.

17:22 CEST    250km/9km to go
The three leaders are all working well, no-one willing to attack yet. Hincapie looks to be soft pedaling a bit. But it's not easy to do that in a three man break. Boonen looks great too. Flecha looks the muddiest, so he gets points for that.

17:23 CEST   
The next sector is at Hem (km 251, 1400m). It's only one star though.

17:24 CEST   
Bäckstedt is still chasing, but he's going for fourth place. He's a good 50 seconds behind the three leaders.

17:25 CEST    251km/8km to go
Flecha grabs a drink as he does his turn. Then Boonen with Hincapie on his wheel. Boonen uses the elbow flick to get Hincapie to come through.

Bäckstedt is really suffering on his own.

17:26 CEST    252km/7km to go
They're on sector 2 at Hem now, with Flecha and Hincapie riding on the side of the road in the smooth, Boonen using the cobbles then switching back to the asphalt. They take the corners at good speed, Flecha leading all the way.

Michaelsen is still on track for fifth, at 1'15.

17:27 CEST    253km/6km to go
Flecha continues to drive with Hincapie second. Boonen is biding his time on this second last sector. Could it be a three man sprint in Roubaix? Or will the other two try last minute attacks. I mean other three - Boonen can attack too.

17:28 CEST    253km/6km to go
It's still Flecha in front as they exit sector 2. One more short section of cobbles, just before the velodrome.

17:29 CEST   
Boonen looks nervous as he flicks for Flecha to come through. Hincapie looks as cool as ever, but can he do what he did in K-B-K and win with a late attack?

17:30 CEST    254km/5km to go
The leading trio, the only survivors of the eight man move that went with around 80 km to go, are nearing Roubaix. They're on the outskirts, passing a golden arches sign. No time for fries though.

17:30 CEST   
They pass 5 km to go, all doing short but hard turns. Bäckstedt isn't coming back, and neither is Michaelsen. It's these three for the podium.

17:31 CEST    255km/4km to go
Does anyone have the legs to attack? They'll have to do it soon, as it's only 4 km to go.

17:32 CEST   
Boonen could be getting an armchair ride to the velodrome, as the others haven't attacked him yet. He's always watching them. It's tactical, but at a hard tempo still. Bäckstedt is at 1'00.

17:34 CEST    256km/3km to go
3 km to go and the three are still working together. Boonen is the most nervous. But he's the man to beat today.

17:34 CEST    257km/2km to go
2 km left and Boonen does a short turn. Hincapie does a shorter one, then Flecha. Still together. Amazing.

17:35 CEST    258km/1km to go
Last kilometre, and the last sector of cobbles. The crowd is going mad with anticipation in the velodrome.

17:36 CEST   
They're on the cobbles now, 300m, then the entrance to the velodrome. Hincapie accelerates, but Boonen is right there on him. Flecha in third wheel. They enter the velodrome.

17:36 CEST   
Hincapie leads as they go through the velodrome gates.

17:38 CEST    259km/0km to go
Boonen in second wheel, high on the bank, Then Flecha takes over with one lap to go. Hincapie in second, Boonen third. Half a lap, then it's Boonen who attacks first and easily wins Paris-Roubaix!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hincapie second, then Flecha!! Tom does the double!!!!!

17:40 CEST   
Boonen started his sprint with about 150m to go out of the saddle, then in, then out, and won clearly. Fantastic ride by the young Belgian.

Michaelsen rolls across for fifth at 2'45. Good ride by the CSC rider. Van Bon wins the group sprint for sixth.

That's all from us from the Roubaix velodrome, where we witnessed another great edition of the Queen of the Classics. Even if it didn't rain much. Join us again next Sunday for the Amstel Gold Race!


1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step              6.27.31
2 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery
3 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo
4 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas-Bianchi     1.09
5 Lars Michaelsen (Den) CSC                   2.28
6 Leon Van Bon (Ned) Davitamon-Lotto          3.45
7 Florent Brard (Fra) Agritubel
8 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo
9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
10 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Cofidis

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