April 11, 2004
Paris-Roubaix 2004 – Compiègne – Roubaix : 261 km
Like the brutal trench warfare in WW1, it’s bound to be an pitched battle across the wet and windy cobbled farm roads of Northern France this Sunday,
April 11, 2004
Paris-Roubaix 2004 – Compiègne – Roubaix : 261 km
Like the brutal trench warfare in WW1, it’s bound to be an pitched battle across the wet and windy cobbled farm roads of Northern France this Sunday, from the Chateau of Compiegne to the Roubaix Velodrome. This year, as the 102nd edition of Paris-Roubaix, often called the Queen of the Classics draws nigh, Paris-Roubaix is wide open affair with no clear favourite. Certainly 39 year old Johan Museeuw, the current King of the Classics, (Quick.Step-Davitamon), in his penultimate pro race must be at least everybody’s sentimental favourite for Paris-Roubaix. Slated to retire next Wednesday at the Grote Scheldeprijs, GP de l’Escaut, Museeuw currently has 101 career wins, including 11 World Cup victories, more than any active rider. Museeuw was most recently 15th at the Tour of Flanders World Cup last Sunday and is currently over his early season intestinal and back in good form. To win Paris-Roubaix, the more experience the better, and with three wins already in his palmares, Museeuw could take his fourth win Sunday to equal his fellow Belgian Roger De Vlaeminck, who dominated the Queen Of the Classics in the 1970’s, winning four times in six years (1972-4-5-7). Johan has a great team in Quick.Step-Davitamon but if he fades, watch out for his teammate Tom Boonen.
Magnus Bäckstedt earned the crowning achievement in his career so far with a hard-fought victory in Paris-Roubaix, the Queen of the Classics. Bäckstedt entered the Roubaix velodrome in the company of three men, all possible victors in a sprint: Roger Hammond, Fabian Cancellara, and Tristan Hoffman. Bäckstedt and his team knew he would be a contender, but the victory still brought tears to his eyes.
As Bäckstedt’s daughter Elinor jumped in his lap, chirping “I’m so proud of you, daddy!” the big Swede began to marvel at his own accomplishment.
“I can’t believe I won it,” he said simply. “My plan for the race this morning was to keep an eye on Museeuw, Van Petegem, Wesemann, and even on Tom Boonen. While doing that, I made sure to stay out of the wind and out of trouble, and I didn’t have one puncture. When it came down to a group of four, I realised I had a chance of a lifetime to win Paris-Roubaix. I didn’t hesitate when I saw a gap open up on the inside (in the velodrome). Once I got through they gave me a little gap and that was it.”
While second place is perhaps the biggest mixed blessing of them all, Tristan Hoffman found reason to be satisfied with his race. “I’ve been trying to prove myself for many years now, and I feel like I’ve been successful doing that with my results,” he explained. “There was nothing that could be done about Magnus, but at least that leaves me one more goal to focus on in the next few years.”
Meanwhile, it was just one week ago that British national champion Roger Hammond told Cyclingnews that a major classic like the Tour of Flanders was the next big step and he hoped only to continue a steady progression. After earning the third step on the podium in the fabled Roubaix velodrome, Hammond’s tune had certainly changed. No doubt he was frustrated not to win, but he has made his mark as a man to watch in the biggest, toughest races in Europe.
“It’s incredible,” Hammond told Cyclingnews. “To turn into the final corner into the velodrome in the lead group, knowing I was still in with a chance of winning Paris-Roubaix…It was a dream come true. Okay, I messed up the last 200 metres, but I did 260 kilometres correct. If I could change things, I would, but in the heat of the moment you have to make a decision. I made the decision to go when I wanted to, but I just wasn’t strong enough and that’s all.”
How it unfolded
The usual nervous series of breakaways marked the opening of the race, which sped north from Compiègne over a 100 kilometre warm up before the first section of pavé in Troisvilles. Early riders on the attack included Salvatore Commesso and Giosuè Bonomi of Saeco, Ag2r-Prévoyance’s Erki Pütsep, Erwin Thijs of Lotto-Domo… but none could create a move that really stuck. It took another round of attacks from the Saeco duo to get the first real gap, taking Guillaume Auger (RAGT Semences-MG Rover), Michael Albasini (Phonak) and Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) with them. Finally this quintet put some distance on the peloton as it approached the first pavé.
By the time the bikes rattled over the stones for the first time, the leading five had moved some five minutes clear of the field, which was clearly none too worried about the morning break. Steadily over the first few sections, Albasini and Auger dropped off the pace and the break began to separate, as the heavily favoured Quick.Step-Davitamon team began to assume its position at the head of the field. By the first feed zone in Solesmes their lead was down to three minutes, and after 140km of racing there were just two men ahead: Commesso, on the attack all morning, and Geert Van Bondt (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), who had bridged up to the escape and helped Commesso persist in his effort. Finally after 160 kilometres, Commesso and Van Bondt were reeled in as the peloton powered toward the crucial Arenberg Forest.
Lotto-Domo and Quick.Step assumed their responsibility as favourites to drive much of the pace, but as the field neared the forest it was T-Mobile’s lanky veteran Rolf Aldag who attacked alone to enter “the trench” ahead of the rest. Hot on Aldag’s heels was Van Petegem’s Lotto crew, with Leon Van Bon in prime position, and US Postal Service’s George Hincapie showing himself at the head of affairs just behind the defending champion Van Petegem.
The first real picture of who this year’s contenders might be emerged through the forest as Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) forced the pace and caught Aldag, bringing Van Petegem’s teammate (and second place in the Tour of Flanders) Leif Hoste, Tristan Hoffman Frank Høj and Lars Michaelsen (CSC), Van Bon, Hincapie, Stefano Zanini, Tom Boonen and… Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step). All of the big names of Paris-Roubaix were where they should be as the peloton pounded over the stones of the Arenberg forest, to an enormous cheer from the raucous, often inebriated, and very partisan fans lining the trench. By the end of Arenberg, some 20 riders were clear of a chasing group (including Jaan Kirsipuu and Ludo Dierckxsens) and the race to Roubaix was truly on.
Through pavé sections 13 and 12, Gent-Wevelgem winner Tom Boonen began to pour on the power, forcing a small break and putting the other leaders on notice that Quick.Step was looking to repeat its mid-week dominance. Shortly after, it was Kirsipuu, back up to the leaders, who attacked alone and pushed an enormous gear to gain some 20 seconds on the rest. Through the feed zone and onto more tough cobbles, the Estonian looked good but it was clearly too early for such solo heroics. Hincapie led the chase, with former USPS teammate Boonen just behind, as they drove through the Orchies pavé and kicked up the dust on the relentless push north to Roubaix.
At the exit of section 10 (Auchy-Lez-Orchies), Museeuw himself decided it was time to test the waters. The three-time Roubaix winner forced the pace and got a small gap with Bäckstedt in pursuit of Kirsipuu, but this was not the move to win the race. Seeing that he had at least forced the others to work behind him, Museeuw sat up and let the main group of favourites resume its course. Bäckstedt tested his own legs again, following a counter attack from Van Bon, but the elastic had yet to snap.
It was here that Roger Hammond began to realise his day might just be a big one. He attacked the lead group, along with Museeuw and Hincapie, before repeating the effort after Van Petegem came along for the ride.
“I realised after one of the tough pavé sections that I wasn’t yet at 100% [effort], so I attacked over the top of Museeuw,” Hammond told Cyclingnews. “I looked in his eyes and saw that he knew I was here. So I attacked again!”
Hammond’s double effort helped reduce the numbers in the front group, but once more it would be Quick.Step taking over the front positions. Boonen attacked several times, and managed to make a selection on the Bourghelles pavé, finding only Hincapie and Spain’s man for the northern classics, Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) on his wheel. This was a major move, with Boonen and Hincapie both coming off wins at Gent-Wevelgem and the Three Days of De Panne, respectively. They gave it everything they had, but first Leif Hoste bridged the gap, then the move was brought back.
Thanks largely to accelerations by Museeuw, what would be the winning selection was made after the difficult Carrefour de l’Arbe section of cobbles, as an elite group containing Hincapie, Hammond, Hoffmann, Bäckstedt, and Cancellara emerged ahead. Hincapie disappeared from the group, but the remaining five were clear to push home their slender advantage as the outskirts of Roubaix drew near.
Just when things looked solid, Museeuw found his luck failed in his final attempt to take a fourth Roubaix crown. A rear wheel puncture (and a less than perfect change) dropped him from the leaders definitively. Van Petegem rejoined Museeuw from behind, and though chasing hard and clearly in fine form, Van Petegem, Museeuw, Hincapie and others were now almost certainly out of the running with just 5km to race.
The lead four decided a sprint on the concrete velodrome would seal their fate, and Hammond, Bäckstedt, Cancellara and Hoffman flew into Roubaix to the enormous cheers of the crowd. Inside the velodrome, Museeuw’s drama drew gasps of disappointment as the Lion of Flanders was knocked from contention in a race he clearly had the legs to win. Van Petegem and Museeuw forced themselves free of the other chasers, but the move was more symbolic than anything, two great classics champions putting in a final effort in a never say die display of respect for the race.
Into the velodrome, the win was anyone’s guess. Hammond and Bäckstedt were both contenders for the sprint, but at the end of 260 kilometres it’s a different affair. Perhaps fearing his chances, Cancellara led into the velodrome with Hammond on his wheel. After the big Swiss rider’s acceleration, Hammond put in his own effort, but it was big Bäckstedt who churned through on the inside track of the final turn to take Sweden’s first ever Roubaix win. Otroligt!
For Johan Museeuw, who finished his last Roubaix (and penultimate race as a professional), the agony of a race-ending puncture could perhaps be smoothed over by the knowledge that at the end of his storied career he remained just as much a threat in the toughest one day race as he did at his peak. Entering the velodrome in the company of last year’s winner Van Petegem, Museeuw was greeted with a roaring ovation, and as he crossed the line arm in arm with his friend and rival, Museeuw let everyone know that he would go out as he wanted, as the classics rider of his generation.
1 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi 6.40.26 (39.11 km/h)
2 Tristan Hoffman (Ned) Team CSC
3 Roger Hammond (GBr) MrBookmaker-Palmans
4 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo
5 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 0.17
6 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Domo
7 Leon Van Bon (Ned) Lotto-Domo 0.29
8 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor
9 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon
10 Frank Hoj (Den) Team CSC
11 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Lampre
12 Leif Hoste (Bel) Lotto-Domo
13 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo
14 Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
15 Daniele Nardello (Ita) T-Mobile Team 0.36
16 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team 0.58
17 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 2.52
18 Frèdèric Guesdon (Fra) FDJeux.com
19 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile Team
20 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Team CSC
21 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Team CSC 2.56
22 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2R Prevoyance 3.50
23 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC
24 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi
25 Christophe Mengin (Fra) FDJeux.com
26 Rolf Aldag (Ger) T-Mobile Team 3.54
27 Jan Schaffrath (Ger) T-Mobile Team
28 Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
29 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 6.36
30 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 7.59
31 Robert Hunter (RSA) Rabobank
32 Thierry Marichal (Bel) Lotto-Domo 12.18
33 Servais Knaven (Ned) Quick.Step-Davitamon 12.19
34 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Lotto-Domo
35 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) FDJeux.com 13.19
36 Salvatore Commesso (Ita) Saeco
37 Stefano Casagranda (Ita) Saeco
38 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Lampre
39 Eric Baumann (Ger) T-Mobile Team
40 Murilo Fischer (Bra) Domina Vacanze
41 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank
42 Pedro Horrillo (Spa) Quick.Step-Davitamon
43 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi
44 Scott Sunderland (Aus) Alessio-Bianchi
45 Bekim Christensen (Den) Team CSC
46 Jorg Ludewig (Ger) Saeco
47 Thomas Eriksen (Den) Team CSC
48 Andy Flickinger (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance
49 Antonio Cruz (USA) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor
50 Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita) Lampre
51 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems
52 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Quick.Step-Davitamon
53 Bert Hiemstra (Ned) Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf
54 Nicolas Portal (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance
55 Nicola Gavazzi (Ita) Saeco
56 Sèbastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole
57 Grègory Rast (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems
58 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) Rabobank
59 Kristof Trouve (Bel) MrBookmaker-Palmans
60 Paolo Fornaciari (Ita) Saeco
61 Chris Peers (Bel) Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf
62 Allan Johansen (Den) Bankgiroloterij
63 Bart Voskamp (Ned) Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf
64 Beno�t Joachim (Lux) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor
65 Stephan Schreck (Ger) T-Mobile Team
66 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor
67 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Lotto-Domo 13.32
68 Steffen Radochla (Ger) Illes Balears-Banesto
69 Stefano Zanini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 13.33
70 Dario Pieri (Ita) Saeco
71 Erwin Thijs (Bel) MrBookmaker-Palmans 14.58
72 Michael Rich (Ger) Gerolsteiner
73 Roy Sentjens (Ned) Rabobank
74 Michel Van Haecke (Bel) MrBookmaker-Palmans
75 Alexandre Bazhenov (Rus) Domina Vacanze
76 Jacky Durand (Fra) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
77 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 20.37
78 Unai Yus (Spa) Brioches La Boulangere
79 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) MrBookmaker-Palmans 28.07
80 Alexandre Usov (Blr) Phonak Hearing Systems 31.03
81 Remco Van Der Ven (Ned) Bankgiroloterij 31.09
82 Andy Cappelle (Bel) Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf
83 Stèphane Berges (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance
84 Christophe Laurent (Fra) R.A.G.T. Semences-MG Rover
85 Renaud Dion (Fra) R.A.G.T. Semences-MG Rover
86 Johan Verstrepen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
87 David Derepas (Fra) FDJeux.com
88 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance
89 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
90 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Bankgiroloterij
91 Stijn Devolder (Bel) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 35.10
92 Bobbie Traksel (Ned) Rabobank 43.09
93 Jèrèmy Roy (Fra) FDJeux.com 51.08