Tour of Lombardy Merckx

Boonen Joins The Greats
Dateline 8-Apr-2012
Tom Boonen’s victory today at Roubaix gives him four career wins - so equalling the record held by the great Roger De Vlaeminck; the winner four times between 1972 and 1977. However Boonen’s win comes straight after his successive victories in E3, Wevelgem and Flanders. Still checking the record books - but this looks like a feat unequalled in the long history of these races. Formidable...

And in the Junior race it was Denmark’s Mads Wurtz Schmidt who won alone by almost a minute - but Jon Dibben did take the 3rd podium spot and so add to the GB juniors’ great record in this event.

ps Breschel did not ride even though he was listed as a favourite on some betting web sites. And the same thing happened last year!

Betting at 6-Apr-2012

1. Boonen
2. Pozzato
3. Ballan
4. Chavanel
5. Hushovd
6. Flecha
7. Boasson Hagen
8. Degenkolb
9. Vanmarcke
10. Terpstra

2012 - The Day Draws Near
Dateline 6-Apr-2012
Tom Boonen’s win in Flanders last week has not moved him away from top spot in the betting - but now Pozzato and Ballan have jumped up into the top 3. If either of them win then it will be the first Italian victory since Andrea Tafi in 1999. Similarly if Chavanel wins it will be the first home victory since Guesdon in 1997.
Other bookies have Breschel in the top 10 (even though there was a rumour that he was not starting) and Van Summeren making a late run 11th place when I last checked. But it is very long odds against any British podium placings since - with Thomas at the track worlds and Hammond without a team - only Ian Stannard and Jeremy Hunt make it on to the start list.
And just to make life a bit more difficult for this year’s starters there is a possibility that there will be rain just before or even during the race - rather than the dry, dusty - and even hot - races of recent years. The cobbles are horrific in the dry - but hell in the wet!

Betting at 31-Mar-2012

1. Boonen
2. Cancellara
3. Hushovd
4. Chavanel
5. Flecha
6. Pozzato
7. Boasson Hagen
8. Van Avermaet
9. Terpstra
10. Boom

2012 - Another Year’s Favourites
Dateline 31-Mar-2012
Still a week to go but the favourites are already firmly established in the betting. In fact the top three riders are the same as last year - except Boonen is now back at the top.

Since Tom is also riding high in the betting for the Ronde tomorrow it might be worth waiting until nearer the start before putting down any money. How the Tour of Flanders plays out will have an impact on the predictions for Roubaix and there has been few riders who were able win both in a single year. So results, accidents and even the weather forecast could change the list of favourites - but how about Van Summeren coming back to win for a second time?

Update 1-Apr-2012 Tom Boonen’s win today in the Tour of Flanders - and a broken collar bone for Cancellara - must mean that the list of favourites gets shuffled. How about Terpstra, Chavanel, Pozzato and Flecha in the final group? But wait! We still need to know what the weather will be ...


Geraint Thomas (Sky Professional Team) won here as a Junior in 2004 - but in the 2011 Paris-Roubaix it was a long, hot and dusty ride only to be eliminated from the result by the 5% time limit rule.


Sector 12 includes a building what was once the local abattoir... with the iconic French bar close by. (Map co-ords 50.479756° / 3.235229°)


First Hand Report
Dateline: 11-Apr-2011
Having had enough of “remote access” to the classics I used the weekend to take in the 2011 version of the Paris-Roubaix “experience”. The unseasonably dry, sunny weather was not the normal plot - but it was much appreciated; by me and the picnicing families if not the riders. With Sunday getting above the forecast 23 degrees C it was water bottles that were in short supply.
But first it was the Paris-Roubaix challenge over many the pave sections as the big race - even though it seemed as if some sections were covered in the reverse direction to the pros. This lead to teams out training for Sunday cutting through cyclo-sportives riders going the opposite way!
Sunday began, for me, with the Junior race starting at St Amand-les-Eaux - where some of the future Elite stars could be gaining valuable experience. Then it was quickly on to my chosen spot - Orchies. Not as popular as the Arenberg Forest or the Carrefour de l’Arbre - but my objective was to find somewhere with tough pave, plenty of light, not too many crowds and ease of access to / from a major road; not an easy combination. Orchies has the advantage - for the pedestrian - of a footbridge over the main A23 between
“Le Manoir” hotel / restaurant and the Chemin des Prieres cobblestones. This section of pave formed, this year, sector 12 in the countdown to Roubaix.
With the Juniors scheduled around 3hrs before the Elite things were pretty quiet and parking on the “wrong” side of the A23 was easy. A short walk across the footbridge and I was on the race route. In fact there was over an hour to spare before the race arrived at 12:40 and there was time to walk down the pave to the little group of houses at the next corner.
The race streamed through with the field already fragmented and spread out over 7 mins front to back. But the spot was not ideal for photos so it was time to head back. A few cars and recreational cyclists created a bit of activity but mainly it was a quiet rest on the grass verge. Then a couple of Moviestar riders appeared moving swiftly over the cobbles - clearly elite riders but looking too clean. One still had his race number so must have opted to miss most of the pave sections but ride on to Roubaix as training.
Another 30 mins pass with little activity. But then at exactly 15:00 the pro-elite race arrives. The leading cars and TV camera motorbike creating a dust cloud for the break to breathe in all the way. That’s why they all look so dirty at the finish!
Astana (Stangelj ?) is at the front followed by Rabobank(Tjallingi ?) in the left hand gutter while along the centre it’s FDJ followed by Sky (Hayman ?) and Omega Pharma Lotto. Nearer the back of the 30 or so riders is the tall figure of Johan Van Summeren
Just 12 seconds later the next group of 4 appear lead by Radioshack then HTC (Degenkolb), Rabobank (Leezer) and Garmin Cervelo (Rasch). Just a 2 second gap and it’s Damien Gaudin (Europcar) chasing alone photo... Then another 4 seconds and a big group with the world championship jersey clearly visible near the front along with BMC, Sky, Liquigas and Leopard jerseys. This looks like the favourites and they seem in control. It’s only 42 seconds to the front group and there are still 11 sectors to go. (picture below)
But things can go wrong - drastically wrong - in Paris-Roubaix. And as the back of the group goes by there is one rider stood at the road side. The Mavic neutral service team are changing the wheel of a Leopard rider. But before they sort things out the Leopard team car stops and the mechanic fits the right wheel. And it looks like it’s Stuart O’Grady that’s the victim. A long push gets him moving again - but that’s 16 seconds lost and former winner Stuart faces a long ride to Roubaix - only to be eliminated by the time cut-off (pictures below)



Then 18 seconds later Stijn Devolder comes through alone followed shortly by Kevin Van Impe on a spare bike. Then the next group appear. They are only 2 minutes behind the lead group but for them the racing is just about finishing. For the next 5 minutes small groups and solo riders go by but already the crowd is moving on. Some back home but others make the dash to Roubaix. It’s a good idea but the A23 turnoff for Roubaix is choked with traffic - so for me it’s drive straight on to the DFDS Norfolk Line ferry back to Dover - while listening to the race reports on the radio. A great weekend.
So Cancellara had to settle for a lower step of the podium - just like at Milan-San Remo and last weekend at Flanders. And Ian Stannard in 36th place was the best of the British with Bradley Wiggins at 90th being the only other given a finish time. Thank goodness I didn’t place any bets!

Juniors - Meanwhile in the Junior Nations Cup it was Florian Senechal of France that came home alone in 3:04:57. With GB’s Jon Dibben taking 4th place behind Alexis Gougeard (France) and Maarten Van Trijp (Netherlands) at just over 1 minute in arrears. So another good junior result but still a very big step up to the elite level.

British Podium Placings : Paris-Roubaix
Juniors (since 2003) - 4
U23 / Espoirs (since 1967) - Paul Sherwin 3rd
Pro / Elite (since 1896) - Barry Hoban 3rd, Roger Hammond 3rd

Upcoming Races
15-May-2011 Paris-Roubaix VTT / MTB
29-May-2011 Paris-Roubaix U23 / Espoirs

Betting 5-Apr-2011

1. Cancellara - Leopard
2. Boonen - Quick Step
3. Hushovd - Garmin
4. Breschel - not riding!
5. Flecha - Sky
6. Pozzato - Katusha
7. Thomas - Sky
8. Ballan - BMC
9. Haussler - Garmin
10. Leukemans - Vacansoleil
11. Farrar - Garmin
12. Hincapie - BMC
13. O'Grady - Leopard
14. Chavanel - Quick Step
15. Boasson Hagen - Sky

2011 - This Year’s Favourites
Dateline 5-Apr-2011
Even though the final start list is not confirmed by ASO the bookies have sorted-out the favourites into this order>>

And it is good to see Geraint Thomas making it into the punters’ top 10. His good performance in the Tour of Flanders last Sunday - and his win as a junior (as mentioned below) - means his position should be based on much more than just sentiment. However being a dreamer it would be great to see Jeremy Hunt do much better than the 600 to 1 odds predict. Similarly the 50 to 1 odds on Roger Hammond or the 150 to 1 on Mark Cavendish could be worth a bet - i.e. a bookies retirement fund donation.

It’s also interesting to see the team breakdowns - O’Grady supporting Cancellara, Boonen backed by Chavanel, Hushovd with Haussler and Farrar, Flecha with Thomas and Boasson Hagen, Ballan with Hincapie - that’s some formidable groupings; if they really do work for each other.

RoubaixJunior2011w2011 - Planning a Trip
Dateline 26-Mar-2011
Paris-Roubaix is one of those races whose reputation grows with age. It also grows in scope and, as mentioned elsewhere, this year has a sportive to go with the traditional pro-elite race, the U23 race, the Junior race, the MTB race, etc.
All the cycling media have plenty about the headliner race - so rather than repeat it I have been checking out the Junior race.
This year the race schedule starts at 11:00 from Saint Amand les Eaux and covers 118Km in total. This includes the last 16 sectors of pave in the pro race. The organisers estimate that it will pass along the route around 3 hours ahead the main event. So chance to see both if you plan your trip well.
This year 18 national teams are listed with the GB squad shown as - 81 DIBBEN JONATHAN / 82 DOULL OWAIN / 83 HOLMES MATTHEW / 84 LATHAM CHRISTOPHER / 85 LOWE SAMUEL / 86 PAPWORTH JOSHUA - not that I know enough to comment. But in the past the GB Juniors have done well - very well in fact. Andrew Fenn won 2008 and Dan McLay was second in 2010 while Geraint Thomas won back in 2004.
So this year I hope to make it to Saint Amand for the start of the Junior race instead of the long drive down to Compiegne. Click on the pic for more... and note that the route has changed this year; for example, straight after the Arenberg.

2009 - Double of Doubles
Dateline 13-Apr-2009
QuickStep’s Tom Boonen not only repeated his 2008 victory - but made it a quadruple for the team after Stijn Devolder’s repeat victory in Flanders last week. Despite being a fine, dry and relatively dust-free ride Roubaix still provided the drama that few other modern races possess. Race knowledge, luck and sheer hard work had put six in the lead - Boonen plus Filippo Pozzato, Thor Hushovd, Leif Hoste, Johan Van Summeren and Juan Antonio Flecha. Then Flecha crashed and took out the two from Silence-Lotto. Boonen was then with Hushovd and just ahead of Pozzato - but Hushovd slid off just a corner or two later leaving Boonen to power on to a 47sec victory as Pozzato lost a second or two per km over the final sectors.

Meanwhile in the Junior race Guillaume Van Keirsbulck added another double for Belgium by winning alone some 20sec ahead of a group of 5. However the British juniors still put up a fight with Alexander King finishing 11th just 38sec behind the winner.
However the crash of a motor bike into spectators may encourage the organisers to reduce significantly the number of motor bikes allowed - especially amongst the riders. Roubaix seems to get more each year - and this year it was quite clear that they were both badly positioned and taking too many risks.
But Roubaix is not the worst with some events become a motor bike free for all - as TV cameras, photographers, bottle carriers, time gap board carriers, spare wheel carriers and even product advertising bikes fight it out for the best spot.
Even the relatively important TV bikes still impede (or pace) the riders and take unnecessary risks. I know it’s good TV to hold the camera a few cms from the cobbles at 45kph just a few meters in front of the leaders - but what do the riders think?
Get out of the !*^”ing way - gets my vote.
I’m no fan “health & safety” above everything - but racing is dangerous enough without deliberately adding so many moving and out-of-control obstacles so close to the action.

Landbouwkrediet - Colnago (LAN)
Quickstep (QST)
Silence - Lotto (SIL)
Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator (TSV)

Team Saxo Bank (SAX)

Caisse d’Epargne (GCE)
Euskaltel - Euskadi (EUS)

AG2R - La Mondiale (ALM)
Agritubel (AGR)
BBox Bouygues Telecom (BTL)
Cofidis, Le Crédit en Ligne (COF)
Française des Jeux (FDJ)

Team Milram (MRM)

Lampre - N.G.C. (LAM)
Liquigas (LIQ)

Astana (AST)

Rabobank (RAB)
Skil-Shimano (SKS)
Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team (VAC)

Team Katusha (KAT)

Cervélo Test Team (CTT)

BMC Racing Team (BMC)
Garmin - Slipstream (GRM)
Team Columbia - High Road (THR)

Paris-Roubaix Team List
Dateline: 21-Mar-2009
Race organisers ASO have confirmed the 24 teams that will start the 107th edition on Easter Sunday at 11:00 in Compiegne.

No surprise that they don’t have a list of riders yet - but it is a bit unusual for no route map to be available. This may be because the work on  relaying the Bersee sector is not expected to be completed until the end of March. This sector has not been used for the past two years but will return as a critical point in the 2009 race - being just 50km from the velodrome finish.

If you plan to make this trip this year Roubaix is having a carnival with a cycling theme on Saturday from 3pm. And don’t forget that on Sunday the Junior Paris-Roubaix will be hitting the route around 2hr30 before the big event - even though it could be a bit unrealistic to expect a repeat of last year’s British victory.

Paris-Roubaix Espoirs
Dateline: 2-Jun-2008
Sixty riders completed the race with a group of 7 contesting the sprint at Roubaix. The winner was Holland’s Coen Vermeltfoort (Rabobank) from Italian Giorgio Brambilla and Switzerland’s Laurent Beuret. The remaining riders contesting the finale included Clinton Avery (NZ) and Daniel Summerhill of the US National Team. A second group just 14 seconds behind included a familiar Roubaix name - Baptiste Planckaert - but I don’t know if Baptiste has a family connection to the earlier generations of racing Planckaerts. [Also in the cycling archives the Brambilla name appears in the records as winner of the 1906 Tour of Lombardy (Giuseppe) and through Pierre - King of the Mountains in the 1947 Tour de France]
Next - a much bigger (but not quite so fast) field is expected for the cyclo-sportive this coming weekend.

Roubaix92008 Results
Dateline 13-Apr-2008
On Friday the online betting services had put Tom Boonen as favourite ahead of Cancellara, Flecha, Hoste, Hincapie,  Ballan, Pozzato, Devolder, O’Grady, Hushovd and Nuyens. And for once it turned out almost exactly as predicted. Boonen, Cancellara and Ballan contested the sprint over 3 minutes ahead of the unexpected Martyn Maaskant (Slipstream). O’Grady, Hoste and Devolder took 5th to 7th places.
And in the Junior edition there was a surprise result with a win by GB’s Andy Fenn ahead of Peter Sagan (SVK) and Etienne Fedrigo (FRA). Erick Rowsell and Toby Meadows were both in the top 15 and ensured that GB took the team honours.

Pro Elite Update
Dateline 7-Apr-2008
No start list as yet - but it should be confirmed after Gent Wevelgem on Wednesday. The 25 teams that have been accepted for Paris Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne and Liège Bastogne Liège are listed
here ...
According to the TV listings Eurosport is only planning 60 mins of race coverage on Sunday - starting at 14:30 GMT (with a repeat on Monday) - as compared to 2 hours for Gent Wevelgem.

Espoirs Update
Dateline 7-Apr-2008
24 teams are scheduled to ride in the Espoirs on 1-June with 9 teams from France, 7 from Belgium and 2 from Holland. The remaining nations represented being - Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland - and New Zealand! So no team interest for Australia, GB, Ireland or the US. Perhaps there will be a few riders from these nations in the club teams?
You can see a “flash” slideshow of pictures from last year’s Espoirs race loaded by the organisers
here ...

Junior Race Update 2
Dateline 7-Apr-2008
The start list is now available and the 7 rider GB team is shown as - Darren TUDOR, Andy FENN, Luke ROWE, Mark CHRISTIAN, Erick ROWSELL, Chris WHORRALL and Andrew WILLIAMS. However I thought Darren was the team coach rather than a rider! If so there must be one rider’s name missing.
It would be nice if all the GB rider lists for upcoming events were on the British Cycling web site but no luck in finding anything there so far - not even the GB teams race schedules. [And the Halfords - Bikehut GB team don’t seem to have a web site at all. Even a few web pages at the BC site would help].
You can see a slideshow of pictures from last year’s Junior race loaded by the organisers
here ...

Junior Race Update
Dateline 25-Mar-2008
race organisers have listed 15 teams for this year’s race - two French national teams plus one each from; Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Great Britain, Holland, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine and Luxembourg.
Starting from Saint Amand les Eaux at 11:25 the races covers 122km and the last 16 pave zones of the pro race before finishing in the Roubaix Velodrome.

2008 RaceRoubaix3s
The Mens Elite race is scheduled for 13-April this year - and is well away from its traditional Easter date (Easter Sunday is 23-March in 2008). It will start as normal at Compiègne at 10:50 and is expected to hit the Arenberg at around 15:00. The arrival at Roubaix Velodrome can be expected anywhere between 17:00 and 18:00 according to the conditions. To see all the preparation at the start you need to get there for 9:00 and then hit the autoroute north as soon as the convoy has cleared.

Details of the Espoirs (1-June) and Juniors (13-April before the pros) races to follow

2008 Cyclo-Sportive
This year the rides are planned for 08-June with options to cover 120, 190 or the full 260 kms. Organised trip available
details here ...

History of the Race
For a brief history see the Wikipedia entry... and for more detailed results see the Memoire du Cyclisme site

The route of the race has become of national importance and the cobbled section subject to preservation controls. Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix cover both the history of the race and all the supporting activities. They also have a web page devoted to the work of artist Christian Teel here..

Because of its long history (it started 1896) and drama there are plenty of books that are either partly or totally devoted to the race. The best, in my opinion, is the Pascal Sergent production for the centenary in 1996. The English version of which was published by Bromley Books (ISBN 0-9531729-0-2). But I have yet to read “A Journey Through Hell” [see right]

ProgPR02aUS success was nearest with the second place by George Hincapie in 2005 but otherwise nothing to show

British success at the pro-elite level has been limited to 2 x 3rd places (Barry Hoban in 1972 and Roger Hammond in 2004) but the win by Geraint Thomas ahead of Ian Stannard in the 2004 Junior version does give hope for the future. Paul Sherwin’s 3rd place back in 1977 was the only British podium place in the amateur / espoirs version. Of course the hero never on the podium was Tom Simpson. In 1960 his lone break was the highlight of the first televised edition of Paris-Roubaix. To be caught at Hem just a few kilometres from the finish was tragic; but a big boost to his career.

Ireland has the advantage of that master of hard riding, Sean Kelly, winning in 1984 and 1986 either side of third place in 1985.

Australian success has come just once - but that was a win and just last year! Stuart O’Grady gave a winning performance that truely gave credit to importance of the race; the “Queen of Classics”.
See it on YouTube ..

Who will win in 2008? That will be hard to predict even after the field rolls out from Compiègne. But a Belgian is rarely off the podium [147 placings in 112 years] so that may be a help if you want to make a bet.Roubaix5

Certainly it will be the weather that plays an important role. The incredible speed of the 1964 race (45.1kph) was down to the tail wind. You only have to realise that Merckx’s win in 1968 took a full 1hr 17min longer to reach Roubaix.

The final stages of the modern course twists around the pave sections so that the effects of a strong tail wind are reduced but the winning time can still vary between 6 hours and 7 hours 30 mins. Watching the race in these final sectors can be a confusing affair. The crowds tend to ignore the tarmac sections and head for the cobbles. This means you can find yourself on a quiet tarmac road through a village that suddenly switches from deserted silence to briefly hosting a group of chasers with their noisy team cars just behind.

If you go with an organised tour then you will be able to see the race in several places along the route - plus get to the velodrome in time for the finish. If not then you have to take your chances along with the 1,000’s of others who regularly bend the driving rules to get ahead of the race!
Official web site ...

Good Luck

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