Boonen wins third Paris-Roubaix
ROUBAIX, France |
ROUBAIX, France (Reuters) - A superb show of strength helped Tom Boonen complete a hat-trick of wins at the Paris-Roubaix cycling classic on Sunday.
The 28-year-old Belgian, who won in 2005 and last year, became the eighth rider to achieve the feat in the 107 editions of the Queen of the Classics after eclipsing his rivals in the 259-km race featuring 52.9 km of punishing cobbled sectors.
In the finale, his challengers crashed, suffered punctures or lost ground as they tried to keep up with the former world champion.
Before Boonen, other Belgian cycling greats such as Eddy Merckx, Rik van Looy, Roger de Vlaeminck and Johan Museeuw had also bagged three victories on Paris-Roubaix.
Italy's Filippo Pozzato was second 47 seconds behind with Norway's Thor Hushovd coming home third 30 seconds further back.
"With all the crashes today, it was very hard, it took time for the last break to take shape," Quick Step rider Boonen told reporters.
"After Arenberg, I had a puncture and took another bike, I did not feel too well at that stage but in the finale, the others looked even worse while I kept the momentum.
"The last hour was very hard with the crashes and the fight with Pozzato. It was a battle between great riders."
The most famous one-day cycling race was marred when an official motorcycle ran into the crowd around 60 km from the end, injuring 10 spectators, three of them seriously according to organisers.
Held in cloudy but dry weather, the race was animated from the start in Compiegne.
Ten riders, including 2001 Dutch winner Servais Knaven, broke away early on but were caught when the big fight started with 60 km to go.
Boonen and his team mates stepped up a gear about 50 km from the end, testing their rivals on each of the 27 cobbled sectors.
Swiss Fabian Cancellara, the 2006 winner, was dropped with 25 km left and Boonen found himself in a six-man break with two Silence-Lotto riders, Leif Hoste and Johan van Summeren, Pozzato, Hushovd and Spain's Juan-Antonio Flecha.
Despite a mechanical problem with 30 km to go, Boonen found himself on his own up front after the Carrefour de l'Arbre, an often decisive cobbled section of the race, in which three of his breakaway companions crashed.
Flecha hit the tarmac first, followed by Hoste. Hushovd then lost his balance on a turn, leaving Boonen alone in the lead.
Only Pozzato was left to challenge the Belgian, but the former Milan-San Remo winner did not have enough strength left to catch him.
(Editing by Julien Pretot and Sonia Oxley)
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