It’s the first time anyone has won the races in the same year since the ‘Gypsy’, Roger de Vlaeminck, in 1977. ‘Mr Paris-Roubaix’ must be secretly delighted that Johan Museew failed to match his record of 4 P-R victories, given his ambiguous recent comments about how he’d have no problems if his record fell.
There was no sign of the ‘Hellish’ mud and rain that often shapes the race. This year, dry, sunny conditions, coupled with a helpful wind produced equally dramatic dust clouds as the riders hammered along the 261km to Roubaix.
A big escape group of 14 went away early, representing many of the top teams (excluding Cofidis, who didn’t have the best of races, and Lotto-Domo, who did!). Antonio Cruz of USPS was present in that break.
Behind them, the usual Paris-Roubaix crashes and punctures bumped a number of the favourites, including Frank Vandenbroucke, who abandoned less than halfway with what seemed like a knee problem.
Just after halfway, a chase group featuring Wauters and Ivanov, took off after the leaders. The attentive Andrea Tafi immediately strung out the peloton in pursuit, as the race began to split up thundering over the cobbles at Haveluy. A few kms further on, the Arenberg Forest did more damage, reducing the leaders’ gap to around 2 minutes.
The Hornaing sector, at 80km to go, was to prove significant, as the Tafi-led peloton shed more riders and the gap to the tiring breakaways tumbled under 1 minute.
Now crucially, Museeuw punctured, and with every other favorite present (Pieri, PVP, Vainsteins) Tafi hit the accelerator. Museeuw was suddenly gapped, and the deficit grew ominously, Flemish fans beginning to suspect that it wouldn’t be their man’s day.
Attacks were coming regularly as Pieri tried to shake things up, but the seemingly tireless Tafi was equal to anything, upping the pace all the time. By 45kms to go, the early leaders were caught, and we were down to the final dozen who’d fight out the result.
Veteran Rolf Aldag attacked the leaders, joined by Pieri, and they flew into a half-minute lead; then Ekimov hurtled out of the bunch in pursuit, catching the two fugitives around 20kms out, instantly dropping Aldag.
Speeding through Carrefour de l’Arbre, Van Petegem made the decisive move of the race, romping clear of Wauters and Vainsteins with 16kms left. He caught Eki and Pieri just as Tafi punctured behind – no luck for the hard-working Tuscan.
PVP, Eki and Pieri pulled away and it was clear they’d contest the win between them. Ekimov made one of his trademark late dashes for the line but was marked by Van Petegem, 3 km out. Smart money would have gone on Pieri in the sprint, but Ekimov went first as the trio swung around the banking of the velodrome, and Van Petegem dived around him leaving no room for the Italian to come by.
A masterful finish from Van Petegem, after a perfectly judged race.
So, Marc Sergeant and the Lotto-Domo squad got one over on Patrick Leferve, whose best Quickstep rider was Servais Knaven in 7th – we’ve become so used to seeing Leferve celebrate at Roubaix, it came as a shock that he wasn’t standing with his arms around a winner’s shoulders.
Last home was Andreas Klier (Gent-Wevelgem winner) who rolled in 63rd, just over 24 minutes behind.
For the riders, there’s no more ‘Hell’ for another year. It’s only heaven for Van Petegem, who must be a heavy favourite to keep his rainbow-striped World Cup leader’s jersey all the way to Lombardy. That’s if his newfound resolve to avoid partying doesn’t wash out with the dust!
Paris – Roubaix (261 km) World Cup Round 3
1 Peter van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Domo 6.11.35 (42.1kmh)
2 Dario Pieri (Ita) Saeco same
3 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) US Postal-Berry Floor same
4 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank + 0.15
5 Andrea Tafi (Ita) CSC + 0.36
6 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Sidermec same
7 Servais Knaven (Ned) Quick.Step-Davitamon same
8 Danielle Nardello (Ita) Telekom same
9 Rolf Aldag (Ger) Telekom same
10 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Fassa Bortolo + 1.08
17 Roger Hammond (GBr) Palmans-Collstrop + 2.18
18 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole same
23 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) US Postal presented by Berry Floor + 2.28
24 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon same
26 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank same
33 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon + 4.33
52 Benoоt Joachim (Lux) US Postal presented by Berry Floor + 14.03