News Shorts – 11th April, 2012

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Last week’s headlines in Pro Cycling news and what’s coming up…


Boonen puts his stamp on cycling; Classics stats; Monsieur Paris-Roubaix?; Spectacular season; A convincing win; What was Pozzato thinking?; Mads Schmidt; Guesdon retires; Sánchez wins País Vasco; Ardennes Classics; Durbridge wins Sarthe;

Boonen puts his stamp on cycling

Tom Boonen (OmegaPharma-Quick Step) put his stamp on Paris-Roubaix, the season and cycling on Sunday in France.

The Belgian dominated the race by riding the final 55 kilometres solo and arriving with 1:39 minutes over second place finisher, Sébastien Turgot (Europcar). The win was his ninth of the season and added to other hard-man wins in the E3 Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem and Tour of Flanders. It also established his place in cycling’s history books.

“I realise I could be considered one of the best classics riders of all time,” said Boonen. “My career’s not over yet, I’ll see where it ends.”

Niki Terpstra fails to hold on to the wheel of Tom Boonen

Classics stats

Boonen has won Flanders and Roubaix a total of seven times. Add that to his wins in Ghent-Wevelgem, three, and he has 10 classics. It’s a far cry from the great Eddy Merckx’s 27 wins, but it puts him in the list with some heavy hitters.

Classic wins:
27: Eddy Merckx
14: Rik Van Looy
13: Roger De Vlaeminck
12: Jan Raas
11: Johan Museeuw & Sean Kelly
10: Fausto Coppi, Francesco Moser & Tom Boonen

(L’Equipe sports newspaper compiled the list. It doesn’t count semi-classics like E3 Harelbeke or the defunct Championship of Zürich.)

Bernard Hinault out sprints Roger de Vlaeminck and Francesco Moser during Paris Roubaix in 1981

He is the only cyclist to win the big cobbled monuments seven times, three times in Flanders and four in Roubaix. Museeuw won them six times (3 + 3); five times for Van Looy (2 + 3), Merckx (2 + 3) and De Vlaeminck (1 + 4); and four for Gaston Rerby (1 + 3) and Rik Van Steenbergen (2 + 2).

Boonen pointed out that he is the only rider to win the Flanders-Roubaix double twice. His first won both in 2005, forming a group of 10 with Fabian Cancellara (2010), Peter Van Petegem (2003), Roger De Vlaeminck (1977), Rik Van Looy (1962), Fred De Bruyne (1957), Raymond Impanis (1954), Gaston Rebry (1934), Romain Gijssels (1932) and Henri Suter (1923).

Monsieur Paris-Roubaix?

Boonen become the second cyclist in history to win Paris-Roubaix four times, equalling the record set by Roger De Vlaeminck 35 years ago in 1977.

“I wasn’t really thinking about this record,” Boonen said afterwards in a press conference, just outside of the velodrome. “I was working hard to be on my top level in these two weeks. I was happy to be here in good shape and not having any crashes in the early season. When I won E3 Prijs, I thought ‘great.’ And then I won Flanders, where you have to have good luck as well.”

Roger de Vlaeminck was the first cyclist to win Paris Roubaix on four occasions.

Last Sunday, Boonen joined a group of five riders who’ve conquered Flanders a record three times. He holds the record for E3 Harelbeke wins at five.

De Vlaeminck took his Paris-Roubaix wins in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1977, Boonen in 2005, 2008 and 2009. Fans cheered Boonen as ‘Monsieur Paris-Roubaix’ when he approached the press conference, a title that was once reserved only for Belgium’s De Vlaeminck.

“I knew beforehand that he would join me in the record books. It wasn’t Tom’s fault, but he had no opposition,” De Vlaeminck told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.

Ahead of the race, he said, “For 35 years, from 1977 to 2012, I have been the only one to win it four times. The time is ripe for Boonen.”

Boonen’s palmarès do not match De Vlaeminck’s. He ruled the classics in the second half of the 1970s. He is one of three riders to win all five of cycling’s monuments: Milan-San Remo, Flanders, Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Lombardy.

Spectacular season

Boonen is enjoying his best season since 2005 and 2006. In 2005, he won two stages in the Tour de France and the World Championships. As he said, though, the season is not over yet.

“What are my goals?” he said ahead of Roubaix. “I want to win the nationals because it’s in my home town this year. The Olympics and the Worlds again. The Worlds parcours are really nice this year in Holland. I have a lot of experience there, racing on those climbs.”

Boonen now leads the season rankings, almost double the points of Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) in CQ Ranking.

1 Tom Boonen (OmegaPharma-Quick Step) 1438
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) 726
3 Simon Gerrans (GreenEDGE) 711
4 Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 708

A convincing win

Boonen won Paris-Roubaix with a gutsy solo attack. He and team-mate Niki Terpstra left rivals Filippo Pozzato, Alessandro Ballan and Turgot behind.

“It was a little bit crazy,” Boonen said of his move, which was recorded at 55 kilometres to race. “It was not something I often do, but I think that it was the perfect day to take risks. I already had my big win that I’d been working for in the last seven months. I said to Niki, ‘I already have Flanders, so why not try to win Roubaix in a very special way?'”

Boonen attacked with Terpstra at 56 kilometres to race, ahead of the Auchy-lez-Orchies sector. On the sector, Terpstra could not hang with his team leader. He saw him ride away and into the history books at 53.2 kilometres remaining. His gap over the chasers grew to 1’30” under 10 kilometres to race.

According to L’Equipe, it was the second longest escape in Paris-Roubaix’s recent history.

Kilometres solo ahead of Roubaix win:
62: Andrei Tchmil in 1994.
55: Tom Boonen in 2012
50: Fabian Cancellara in 2010
45: Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle in 1992
44: Eddy Merckx 1973
41: Felice Gimondi in 1966 and Johan Museeuw in 2002.

What was Pozzato thinking?

Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini) appeared to be the only challenger to Tom Boonen ahead of the race, but that changed during the race. He seemed to have lost the grit and determination that he had when he returned from a fractured collarbone in February.

Filippo Pozzato crashing on the cobbles of Paris-Roubiax

David Millar, watching from home, may have summed it up when he Tweeted, “Pozzato, SO f**cking Italian.” He seemed to be referring to the way Pozzato looked behind him at Ballan and Turgot instead of immediately jumping on the Boonen Express at 56 kilometres out.

“They were not second- but third-rate riders Boonen was up against,” said De Vlaeminck. “Take Pozzato. If you want to win then in the last hundred kilometres you shouldn’t drift one centimetre from Boonen’s wheel. … A sad affair.”

Farnese Vini sports director, Luca Scinto said, “I congratulate with Boonen, but Pozzato was a ‘bischero’ (a little bit stupid).”

Pozzato crashed with 50.8 kilometres to race and abandoned around 20 kilometres later. He refused to speak after the race and only communicated via in a press release.

“It was matter of seconds,” Pozzato said. “I didn’t follow Boonen and Terpstra immediately. However, in three BMC riders and four Sky riders were also in the group; I thought they’d be able to close the gap.”

At the moment when Boonen attacked with Terpstra, Pozzato only had Ballan and Turgot for company.

Mads Schmidt

Mads Schmidt became the first Dane to win the Junior Paris-Roubaix since its beginnings 10 years ago. Two hours before Boonen won, the 18 year-old sprinted clear of France’s Anthony Turgis and Brit Jon Dibben.

The 119-kilometre race covers 16 sectors of cobbles, including the Arenberg Forest. OmegaPharma professional, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck won the race in 2009 and Geraint Thomas (Sky) in 2004.

Schmidt also won the junior time trial world title in Copenhagen last year.

The Under 23 Espoir version takes place later in the year. Taylor Phinney is the only one to win it twice in 45 editions. He raced his first pro edition this year and placed 15th.

“You’re completely exhausted coming into the velodrome, but it’s what people dream about,” the BMC Racing rider said at the finish. “It’s definitely a special feeling.”

Guesdon retires

The last shower Frédéric Guesdon will have in the infamous showers of Roubaix

Frédéric Guesdon (FDJ) ended his career in Paris-Roubaix, 17 years after turning professional and 15 years after winning the race in 1997.

“I wanted make an impact on the race, but I leave with more disappointment,” Guesdon said in the velodrome. “It’ll take some time for it to sink in, but I have time now.”

The 40-year-old Frenchman crashed and punctured in the race, but placed 88th, 18’52” behind Tom Boonen. He wants to continue with FDJ as sports director, but the team does not currently have a vacancy.

Sánchez wins País Vasco

Despite a win by Daryl Impey (GreenEDGE), Spaniards dominated the País Vasco stage race last week. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) won the final time trial on Saturday in the rain and toppled over-night race leader, Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha).

Rodríguez held on for second overall and Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) placed third. Several Ardennes Classics favourites also rode well, including Simon Gerrans, Damiano Cunego, Michele Scarponi, Chris Horner, Tony Martin and Ryder Hesjedal.

Ardennes Classics

The Amstel Gold Race kicks off a week of Ardennes Classics on Sunday in the Netherlands.

“I never raced Amstel and I don’t have any goals there,” said Boonen. “I just want to help my team-mates.”

Philippe Gilbert winning last year's edition of Amstel Gold Race.

“Flanders went well for me; I want to return to win,” Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) told the Italian press. “Now I want to have a go in Amstel with Vincenzo Nibali.”

The riders face Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège next Sunday. Last year, Philippe Gilbert won all three. BMC Racing team-mate Cadel Evans said he will go to help Gilbert, but he won Flèche Wallonne himself in 2010.

Durbridge wins Sarthe

Luke Durbridge (GreenEDGE) took his first pro victory by winning France’s Circuit de la Sarthe stage race on Friday. He placed 20th in the final road stage to defend his overall lead.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said in a press release, “to come out with the win in only my second race in Europe.”

The Australian took control mid-race with a win in the 6.8km time trial over Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank). Team-mate Daniel Teklehaymanot (GreenEDGE) placed 12th in the time trial. Teklehaymanot helped control the final stage with GreenEDGE’s only other rider, Pieter Weening. Weening escaped up the road and Durbridge followed Teklehaymanot’s wheel.

“Daniel and Pete rode incredibly this week,” Durbridge said. “The whole week was great for me – both the riders and the staff kept things really relaxed.”

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