Friday Group Ride #17

Roubaix! Roubaix! Allez! Roubaix!

I don’t know. It just came out. So … here we are. For some of us, the biggest weekend of the cyclo-spectator year. The Queen of the Classics. The Hell of the North. A Sunday in Hell. Other, clever monikers incorporating the word ‘hell.’ Go on. Make up some of your own. It’s fun.

Paris-Roubaix, which actually starts in Compiégne, north of the French capital, and ends in the velodrome at Roubaix, consists of 28 cobbled sections (see the RKP Roubaix t-shirt here for the full list of cobbled stretches) connected by bits of proper pavement. The pavement serves as respite from the suffering, and allows the riders who have been dropped, crushed, crashed, mechanicalled or otherwise beaten by the cobbles, to regain their senses and climb into a team car or the broom wagon.

I could go on and on (ask my wife), but my hyperbole would be as a smear of embrocation against the elements. Not up to the task.

Here is a list of favorites (some more favorite than others, obviously): Cancellara, Boonen, Hushovd, Flecha, Farrar, Eisel, Maaskant, Pozzato, Breschel, Hincapie, Hoste. The dark horses: Everyone else.

Paris-Roubaix sometimes yields to the strongest rider, but other times bestows its glory on the luckiest. If you’re both strong and lucky, you’ll win. Maybe.

Anyway, let’s do something special for this most special of Group Rides. Let’s say, the first person to name the podium finishers correctly (and in correct order) wins the aforementioned Roubaix t-shirt. We will have one winner, the first up with the right answers. So name your podium … now.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Ransom

    Hincapie, Boonen, Cancellara.
    Utterly uninformed, not well thought-out… Some combination of hope and guessing.

  2. SinglespeedJarv

    Damn you yanks, I’m hours late getting into this one. So as all the obvious combinations have gone, I’m going to have to think weird to get that t-shirt. I’m thinking inter-team rivalry will result in an early “Musseeuw Move”, then a mechanical wrecks Cancellara’s day as he bridges from behind with Boonen, the pair of them having dropped the last of the rest on Carrefour. Sans Fab, Boonen catches Breshcel just before Sector 1. Breschel goes for a long one and , clearly knackered, Boonen only just manages to come around him to win by half-a-bike. Behind, Cancellara regained the chase only to puncture out of contention on Sector 2, Millar had been looking good for soloing to third before running out of gas and being caught by the chasing group. In the end Farrar takes the sprint for third, from Eisel, Hammond (rueing his moments inattention when Boonen rode him off his wheel) and Hincapie (who bottled it again).

  3. travis

    Out of pure hope he finally does it:

    1-George Hincapie

    I think the only way George is going to win though is if Boonen and Cancellara have bad days.

  4. Lachlan

    well it’s been mid-high teens temperature in Paris today… (low-mid 60s??)… and as far as I can tell Roubaix’s similar.

    Sunny and medium winds, so even though temps only marginally warm, should have been quite good mud-drying weather.

    I’ll be surprised if there’s much of a mudfest tomorrow… more dust and deep carbon rims, than had it been wet : o )

    …but then predicting the weather is never a good idea in Northern France!

    1. Padraig

      Okay, on the off chance that Lachlan got it wrong (his prediction, not the weather), I’m surprised that no one has picked what I thought would be the single most common and (seemingly) obvious choice:
      1. Boonen
      2. Cancellara
      3. Gilbert

      Now, I’d prefer to see Cancellara do the double, but so far he doesn’t sound as hungry for Roubaix as Boonen does.

      It’s going to be funny if I win my own T-shirt. Kidding. If someone else wants that pick, that’s fine by me.

  5. wvcycling

    Paris-Roubaix is such an event to me that I hype myself for it the Sunday before. I doubt I will sleep in order to catch the live airing of it here on the EST (-5:00). I even purchased Paris-Roubaix: A Journey Through Hell this year (even though I’m unemployed) due to my own self-induced excitement. P-R is one of the few things that can actually meet my lofty, and over-glamorized fantasies of how awesome something will be.

  6. cs124

    1. Hoste (solo)
    2. O’Grady
    3. Flecha

    Boonen beats Hincapie for 4th.
    Fab and Matti found on Monday morning checking out of a Formule1 just off the route.

  7. cthulhu

    @lachlan: marathon?

    Another superb race by Cancellara. Too bad Boonen was asleep and far too far at the back of the group as Cancellara attacked. As impressive as his win was, I’d have prefered a bit more of man against man fighting on the cobbles.

    But, although I really liked Flecha, today I lost all respect for him and quite a lot in regard of Pozzato. They already gave up after Cancellara gained a 20 sec lead and were already speculating on the second place, though despite his attacks Pozzato might really not have had the legs, and did not fully supported the group in the chase. I can completely understand the anger Hoste and Boonen expressed during the race.

  8. SinglespeedJarv

    @cthulhu really? Is that the way you saw the race? That’s a bit harsh on Pozzato because I didn’t see him attack all day, in fact he spent most of the time at the end catching back up after being dropped. I think he knew, having been ill that he wouldn’t have the legs and choose the appropriate tactics. That is, get to the end and hope that it comes down to a sprint. Similar for Flecha, I think he knew he wasn’t the strongest, at the time Cancellara attacked he didn’t appear to be holding wheels well and once Cancellara had even a handful of seconds knew that he wouldn’t be able to get across to him. I think they all thought that, even Boonen by the look on his face.

    If you’re having a pop at Flecha and Pozzato, why not at Hushovd and Hammond. Two strong riders from the same team, would have thought the onus should have been on them to try and get back to Cancellara, but they didn’t.

    I competely understand the anger that Hoste and Boonen showed because they, along with all the others, knew they had cocked-up as they watched Cancellara race away from them. They would all have had a sinking realisation that their only chance of winning was down to intervention from The Gods of the Mechanical. Leukemanns and Hoste had the best shot but they couldn’t hold his wheel, so how were they going to get back up to him?

    Boonen had a shocker, clearly strong he must have been sulking to go to the back and let Cancellara ride off, his face was a picture. Lefevere really needs to re-think his team, because Quick-Step were never a tour team, but now aren’t much of a classics team either, don’t expect to hear much from them for the rest of the year now.

  9. cthulhu

    Morning Jarv.

    OK. I admit I was a bit harsh on Pippo. I did write, maybe he wasn’t fit enough, and it seemed that that was really the case, but it was eminent, each time he was in front the group lost more time. So i will take that all back in regard of Pozzato.
    But Flecha it was really clear he was going for second after Cancellara went away after he even let the gap open.
    Cervelo, on the screen it looked like they were doing their share, since both appeared at the front doing their turns, but reading this morning’s L’Equipe, where Hushovd admits going for second after the breakaway reverses everything.
    So exchange Hushovd for Pippo and we got it right.

  10. Lachlan

    @cthulhu : no marathon for me.. did see it while out for a ride though…. causes the predictable traffic nightmare ; o )

    As for racing for 2nd… its true it sucks. But with a larger group like that its kind of inevitable. Even from my amateur race days it always seems you either need a big group with enough team mates to properly chase together, or a smaller group that really work hard together. Mid sized groups are hard as people sit in as if in a bunch and working hard at the front just sets them up to attack.

    And bear in mind big Thor has not had a great build up either, so hard to imagine he would take on too much of an all out chase with a big group on the wheel.

    Really the thing is Boonen has had good build up in the early season, has had form… but just isnt at the same level as FC right now. And he was kinda slow to react when FC went… knowing the recent form he should have jumped as soon as he saw a red streak flying up to the front of the group and off into the distance…. instead he kind of slowly worked his way up to the head of the group: Too late mate!

    Great race. And after a great Flanders : o )

  11. Touriste-Routier

    While racing for second sucks, how were they supposed to catch Cancellara? Most of the group didn’t have the legs or had recently put in some hard efforts. Cancellara attacked at the perfect time, and opened a gap instantly. You just don’t catch the world’s best time trialist too often, especially late in a race that long, where you don’t have the benefit of teammates to do or share the chasing.

    Flecha impressed and slightly disappointed me. I thought he rode a reasonably aggressive race, but he really handed 2nd to Hushovd. Not that he really had a chance in the sprint, but you certainly don’t need to lead him out and give him the short way around the track to the finish. But than again after 260k of racing, my mind would probably malfunction as well.

    Hammond impressed me again. He rode well in support of Hushovd and still had it to out sprint Boonen to the line.

  12. George

    Don’t you think that Boonen over did himself? He was chasing every single break that went personaly.

    That just isn’t tactically sound when you’ve been finishing second to Fabian all month. To think that Boonen coud burn that kind of energy while Fabian sat on his wheel…

    It just seems foolish. Quickstep needs to change tactics. A little bit of sitting on and letting Saxo Bank Chase down some breaks would have done Boonen good.

  13. Lachlan

    +1 on Hammond
    Great ride.
    Great (and underrated) rider. Always there or there abouts in the tough classics.

    Zipp must be happy, three 303’s in the top 4 riders… a far cry from some earlier year’s PR disasters!

  14. dvgmacdonald

    @George – It didn’t look to me like Quickstep screwed up the tactics as that they didn’t have the horses. The last 2 years Devolder’s had amazing form this time of year. Last year they had Chavanel going great. This year Boonen was basically isolated once the real moves started going. So, he had to chase (and yesterday it looked like mostly by himself).

    Also, Cancellara looks unbeatable right now. I don’t know who could keep up with him. I sincerely hope this guy’s clean. He’s a great champion, and I don’t know if I could take another of those going down to cheating accusations.

  15. Big Mikey

    FC is no doubt the strongest rider going right now, but does it make sense that, what, 9 of the strongest guys around couldn’t catch him in 50k? I’m not buying it. I saw Boonen looking for help (after he chased attacks that he should have let Saxo cover), but not finding a lot of assistance.

    If they help pull FC back, it’s 10 or so guys together for long enough to animate the race differently and have a chance at winning.

  16. Souleur

    first, Cancellara rode like he owned it, so I give him credit for a masterful ride.

    Second, when the break occured, it really was a culmination of Cancellara’s PRO move w/swiss precise timing and Boonens lack of attention, since he should have never given him room. There had to be a dozen or more people between them when Cancellara broke. That was Boonens bad.

    Boonens best chance is now to concede and concede like an ex-champ, then hope that everyone marks someone else while he rebuilds. Then he can ride and train w/anger and memories.

    On Thor, P-R really suits him, had it not been for that crash last year in which he, Tomke and Pozatto were in a break, it may had been different. That said, its a coulda, woulda, shoulda.

    Flecha, is really on right now. Whats next for this guy?? wow.

  17. Edski

    My twocents,

    Saxo was watching Boonen, and waiting for this opportunity, Boonen was wasting/ spending a lot of energy, maybe overconfident? Attack seemed a little far from the line, but FC is awesome right now. No one in the front group after FC attacked wanted to drag Boonen to the line, so didn’t chase too hard. Maybe a lot of them were racing for second right from the start and saw a way to get rid of Boonen.

  18. todd k

    When Cancellara attacks in does so in a resounding manner that produces huge gaps in moments. He also has the most dominant results this spring and it suggests he could easily back up his aggression. Toss in the notion that he is fine time trailer that can go out on a limb for long stretch. Combine these elements with the extreme physicality that PR demands from the body, and it was psychologically easy for his fellow competitors to resign themselves to racing for second place against Boonen.

    Cancellara is clearly in the form of his life, but his consistent results this spring speak volumes about mental discipline. He never let mechanicals get to him. He never let the tactics of others dictate his tactics. He never appeared anxious when his team plans are falling by the way side. He was focused and pounced on the opportunity when the circumstances presented themselves. Granted it is probably a fair amount easier when you know your form is at least as good as your best foe (and likely far better), but his string of victories this spring suggest to me he is not only physically superior this spring, but also mentally on another level.

  19. todd k

    They diminish it a tad Robot… but just a tad. Arguably it is not quite heroic to act on the bequest of the DS, but a rider responding to an observation his DS makes during a race still requires the rider to have the attentitiveness to be in the right position at all times to execute that moment when it arises. All the events leading up to and after seemed to be motivated by Cancellara making few mistakes and biding his time to make a definitive attack in comparison to the seemingly more responsive approach favored by Boonen.

    In the same cyclingnews interview Riis seems to acknowledge as much when he said: “Boonen made mistakes during the race. How many? Two can be too many. I think if you want to win this race you have to stay calm, relaxed and not stressed. Then go when you have to go.” I think Hincapie in RDV was another example of a rider’s inattentativeness costing him position. Cancellara seemed to have few of these instances during his spring campaign whereas other riders seemed more prone to them.

  20. Big Ring

    In regard to Cancellera’s final move in Roubaix yesterday I am still in shock in regard to what seemed or looked like a lack of effort put forth by Tomke and the other 8 riders? This group consisted of the best classics riders in the world. I don’t want to to take anything away from Cancellera’s super effort but that shouldn’t happen right?

    1. Padraig

      The fact that Riis told Cancellara when to attack doesn’t diminish the victory or the move itself. However, if you’re a fan of race radios, it is Exhibit A for why they should be used. If you don’t like race radios, that detail is sand in your eye. I’m not a fan of race radios for the most part, and so I’m a little frustrated, but I would like to think that if they were eliminated, the great riders would go back to thinking for themselves.

      Without the radios, how would that episode have played differently? It’s an interesting question. While all answers are suppositions, it’s fair to think that Cancellara would have been looking around a bit more, looking for Boonen to slip back. But perhaps Boonen wouldn’t have slipped so far back if he’d seen Cancellara looking around. Maybe there would have been more attacks overall. Or maybe, some nobody would have gotten away in a suicide move and stuck it to the finish.

  21. Lachlan

    Yep, I tend to think that being told by you director via radio that Boonen is at the back is not really so different to being given the tap on the shoulder by a team mate or seeing it for yourself. It’s still the same mistake by Boonen and capitalisation by saxo/Cancellara.

    It has always been a team sport for individuals after all : o )

  22. Big Ring

    Gotta disagree with you guys. Reading a race is a huge part of being a champion cyclist. We don’t really know if Fabian would have bolted on his own at that exact time without the help of Riis? And if Tommeke would have re-placed himself again at 2nd wheel we may have had a different race outcome. This doesnt diminish Cancellera’s effort at all but there was no shoulder tap or teammate placed at that time I believe…peace.


  23. Souleur

    Personally, I would like to see racing without radio’s.

    And with that, who is to say that Boonen’s DS wasn’t yelling in his ear to grab position? I can imagine how many ways that Boonen was getting the same from both his DS and belgian fans on the roadside encouraging him (only as belgians can) to get to the front. And, either way, to see Cancellara at that stage of the race respond with the vigor he did stated without doubt he deservingly won it and on that we all agree:-)

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