The prospect of another Boonen-Cancellara showdown at Paris-Roubaix this Sunday, April 8, disappeared along with the Swiss rider’s chances in a crash at last weekend’s Tour of Flanders
Tom Boonen’s spotless spring has seen him prove he is more than capable of making the big breaks in the big races, and that he possesses the best sprint in the peloton after six hours of racing.
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The Belgian, aiming for his fourth win in the race, will have to deal with the headache of being the big favourite this weekend. Though not quite as big as the task facing teams hoping to break his Omega Pharma-Quickstep team’s stranglehold on Belgian one-day races.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) last won Paris-Roubaix in 2009
In Edvald Boasson Hagen, Ian Stannard, Matt Hayman and Juan Antonio Flecha, Sky have four riders who can potentially break into the top ten, but none are proven race winners; the closest any came was Flecha who finished second in 2007.
BMC’s Thor Hushovd was quiet last weekend at Flanders, but has made no secret of the fact that the winner’s cobble at Roubaix is what he most wants in his trophy cabinet. For good or ill, he’ll have team mate Alessandro Ballan looking to climb up the podium too.
But as Johan Vansummeren proved last year, Paris-Roubaix is a race that can quite happily throw out the form book and let the 50km of cobbles decide who is worthy champion of the ‘Hell of the North.’
Paris Roubaix 2012: The race
That nickname, ‘Hell of the North,’ comes from the utter devastation witnessed by the race when it first ventured back to the Franco-Belgian border after the Great War in 1919. But the 50km of cobbled farm tracks, those that force the riders into absolute purgatory for nearly seven hours, are no less worthy of the moniker.
The first of the pavés of Paris-Roubaix comes nearly 100km into the race before the sectors become increasingly frequent as the riders snake their way towards the famous finish in the velodrome in Lille suburbs.
The infamous Trouée d’Arenberg, 2.5km of the most devilish cobbles that can put an end to a rider’s chances in an instant, awaits with 80km to race. The Carrefour de l’Arbre and Mons-en- Pévèle that follow, both over 2km long, will also take their toll.
This weekend there’s the prospect of a wet race for the first time in ten years, making the parcours even more treacherous than usual. Paris-Roubaix favours the strong, the brave and the fortunate; this weekend will be no different.
The Trouée d’Arenberg: 2400m of unpaved madness ready to smash the peloton to pieces
The cobbled sections (point in race/name/length/difficulty)
Start: 0km Compiègne
27 97.5km Troisvilles à Inchy 2.2km ***
26 104km Viesly à Quiévy 1.8km ***
25 106.5km Quiévy à Saint-Python 3. 7km ****
24 111.5km Saint-Python 1.5km **
23 119.5km Vertain à Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon 2.3km ***
22 126km Capelle-sur-Écaillon à Ruesnes 1.7km ***
21 142km Aulnoy-lez-Valenciennes – Famars 2.6km *****
20 145.5km Famars à Quérénaing 1.2km **
19 149km Quérénaing à Maing 2.5km ***
18 152km Maing à Monchaux-sur-Écaillon 1.6km ***
17 163.5km Haveluy à Wallers 2.5km ****
16 172km Trouée d’Arenberg 2.4km *****
15 178.5km Millonfosse à Bousignies 1.4km ***
14 183km Brillon à Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes 1.1km **
185.5km Tilloy à Sars-et-Rosières 2.4km ***
13 192km Beuvry-la-Forêt à Orchies 1.4km ***
12 197km Orchies 1.7km ***
11 203km Auchy-lez-Orchies à Bersée 2.6km ****
10 208.5km Mons-en-Pévèle 3.0km *****
9 215km Mérignies à Avelin 0.7km **
8 218km Pont-Thibaut à Ennevelin 1.4km ***
7 223.5km Templeuve – L’Épinette 0.2km *
224km Templeuve – Moulin de Vertain 0.5km **
6 230.5km Cysoing à Bourghelles 1.3km ****
233km Bourghelles à Wannehain 1.1km ***
5 237.5km Camphin-en-Pévèle 1.8km ****
4 240.5km Carrefour de l’Arbre 2.1km *****
3 242.5km Gruson 1.1km **
2 249.5km Willems à Hem 1.4km **
1 256.5km Roubaix 0.3km *
Finish: 257.5km, Roubaix velodrome
Total cobbles: 51.5km
Thursday, April 5: Cloud, 10 °C
Friday, April 6: Sunny intervals, 11 °C
Saturday, April 7: Cloud and light rain, 7 °C
Sunday, April 8: Cloud and rain, 9 °C
Paris Roubaix 2012: Ones to watch
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma – Quickstep)
It’s been vintage Tommeke so far this year, cherry-picking the races he fancies and helping out his team with the races he doesn’t. He’ll be a marked man, but his sprint finish will force others to attack.
Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing)
Looking strong despite the shadow cast by the Mantova investogation. Ballan is BMC’s form rider at Roubaix. He’ll need to finish alone though to have a chance.
Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini – Selle Italia)
There’s an Italian renaissance going on at Farnese-Vini and Pippo made the bergs of Flanders look easy last weekend. There are questions marks over his tactics, if not his form, but we won’t be too surprised if there’s some day-glo yellow on the podium.
Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing)
His 55th place at Flanders could be seen as sign of the former world champion’s lack of form, or an instance of him keeping his powder dry. He certainly lacks any standout results in 2012, but that is no different from last year where he came eighth.
Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
He’ll be Boonen’s deputy so could see his chances limited but the French champion will still be an integral part of Patrick Lefevere’s plan for Sunday. Chavanel in the break and Boonen in the bunch: it’s a team manager’s dream.
Matti Breschel (Rabobank)
The Dane looks to have put his injury problems behind him and is a good bet for a top ten, though perhaps doesn’t quite have the spark to force the selection and light up the race.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
He was left disappointed at Flanders when he got caught behind a crash at the foot of the final time up the Paterberg. The Norwegian is going well in 2012 but has only ridden Roubaix once before: three years ago in 2009.
Ian Stannard (Sky)
Held back by his big frame last weekend, the flat parcours of Roubaix could be Stannard’s time to shine. One of just two Brits competing (with team mate Jeremy Hunt the other), the powerhouse from Chelmsford is our best chance.
Luca Paolini (Katusha)
Katusha’s ageing Italian has plenty of experience behind him and has been a regular face at the front of the peloton this spring. Made an audacious but unsuccessful attempt to bridge to the leaders at Flanders and could be in the mix this weekend.
Also watch out for
Juan Antonio Flecha
Paris-Roubaix 2012: Teams
Ag2r La Mondiale
Farnese Vini-Selle Italia
The beauty of the Hell of the North: Johan Vansummeren wins alone in 2011
Paris-Roubaix: Recent winners
2011: Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Cervelo
2010: Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank
2009: Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep
2008: Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep
2007: Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC
2006: Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC
2005: Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep
2004: Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi
2003: Peter van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Domo
2002: Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites
Paris-Roubaix: Last year’s top ten (2011)
1. Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin Cervelo
2. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard Trek
3. Martin Tjallingii (Bel) Rabobank
4. Gregory Rast (Swi) Radioshack
5. Lars Ytting Bak (Den) HTC Highroad
6. Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC
7. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) HTC Highroad
8. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Garmin Cervelo
9. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Sky
10. Matthew Hayman (Aus) Sky
Paris-Roubaix 2012: TV Guide
Paris-Roubaix will be shown live by digital channel British Eurosport
Sunday, April 8 2012, 13.10-16.00, Paris-Roubaix LIVE, British Eurosport
Monday, April 9 2012, 10.30-11.30, Paris-Roubaix highlights, British Eurosport
Monday, April 9 2012, 23.00-23.30, Paris-Roubaix highlights, British Eurosport