Boonen or Cancellara? Paris – Roubaix Preview – Part 1

UPDATE: I, unfortunately, cannot show this event at Giancarlo’s this weekend. Sorry.

Since Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara truly broke into the professional ranks of Men’s road cycling in 2002, there have been 9 editions of Paris – Roubaix. The two of them have combined to win more than half of those – 5 together – with Tom winning 3 and Fabian winning 2. They have also combined for 3 Ronde van Vlaanderen titles, but we’ll look more at their individual results later.

This 2011 edition of Paris – Roubaix will represent the 10th time these two warriors of the cobbles go head-to-head. This rivalry is massive. It is today’s version of Coppi vs Bartali, Anquetil vs Poulidor, Merckx vs Zoetemelk, only these two are tearing each others’ lungs out while the cobbles are bashing their heads in. It is an intense show-down under the most impossible of circumstances. So, will one of these two dominate the other at Roubaix this weekend, or will either of them even win?

Tale of the Tape

So, for cyclists, these are two big dudes, but Tom is massive, he could change his training regime and be a hockey player. Size is important on the cobbles and although it’s too close to say if anyone has an edge here, it’s no secret that the Euskaltel team doesn’t do very well at Paris-Roubaix and that’s because they are almost all tiny Basque climbers. Recently, Fabian has looked a little trimmer, and if it were boxing, the edge would be clear, but for cycling this is too close to call.

Verdict: Draw.

Cobbles Palmares

Tom Boonen

Tom has won Paris-Roubaix three times (’05, ’08, ’09) and has been on the lower podium steps twice more with a 2nd (’06) and a 3rd (’02) for five podiums in 9 years. His other finishes have been 5th – ’10, 6th – ’07, 9th – ’04, and a 24th in ’03 in his first year with Quickstep giving him 8 top ten finishes in 9 years. If he wins Paris-Roubaix again, he will tie the record for wins with countryman Roger De Vlaeminck.

Boonen has also won the Ronde van Vlaanderen twice (’05 and ’06) with a 2nd placing (’10), the E3 Prijs four times (’04, ’05, ’06, ’07) with two 2nd placings in (’09 and ’10) and the Gent – Wevelgem twice in (’04 and ’11). Boonen’s cobbles palmares is second to none with 16 podiums in 9 years of racing the four biggest cobbles races in the region. Lastly, he is the only rider in history to win Paris-Roubaix, Ronde van Vlaanderen, E3 Prijs and the World Road Race Championships in one year which he did in 2005.

Fabian Cancellara

Spartacus has won Paris-Roubaix twice (’06 and ’10) and has a 2nd place (’08). His other Roubaix results have been 4th (’04), 8th (’05), 19th (’07), and 49th (’09) giving him 5 top ten finishes in 9 years.

Outside of that, Cancellara has won the Ronde van Vlaanderen once (’10) while finishing 3rd this year and has won the E3 Prijs the last two years (’10 and ’11). That gives Cancellara 7 podiums in 9 years of racing the cobbles. He also has done nearly the same feat as Boonen winning Paris-Roubaix, the Ronde, E3 Prijs and the World TT championship in the same year in 2010.

Verdict: Edge Boonen. When it comes to cobbles, no one has been there more consistently than Tom during this 10 year period, and maybe soon, in history.

Outside Influence

Tom Boonen

Well, it’s been ages since Tom’s days of Coke, and those always came after Roubaix anyway. So I don’t think that’s going to be a factor. What may be a factor is… Patrick Lefevere. The ever ciritcal head of Quickstep called out Boonen prior to the Ronde noting that Tom’s contract is up at the end of this season. He went on to say:

“Two days before Milano-Sanremo, I sat down with Tom. It was a good conversation. He’s really not of the mind to change teams. Look, Tom knows himself, and he knows that his market value is partly determined by his charisma.” Then in more typical fashion he continued with “It’s also about results though. If he wants to keep his financial situation, he must also perform. Getting dropped on the Poggio, ninth in Waregem – no problem. I will take stock after Roubaix though. If there are others who ride better, he may have to concede something.”

Hey Tom, Patrick as always, is watching like a hawk, so the pressure is on.

Fabian Cancellara

Motors in his bike. Alien bearings. Super-human efforts. What hasn’t been thrown at Fabian. Silly stuff mostly, but hell, make no bones about it Roubaix is his Waterloo. He’s in such good form right now that if he doesn’t repeat in Roubaix, hard questions will be asked. But, does Fabian care? I doubt it judging by his comments today:

“In Flanders I was the only one of the big riders in front, and so I would say I am still the number one favourite,” said Fabian. “I am the only man in the world who can make an attack like the one in Flanders, or in Roubaix in 2010. Everybody knows that if I’m at 100 percent they have to fasten their seatbelts, like on an aeroplane.”

Verdict: Edge Cancellara. Somehow, Boonen still has more to lose. Fabian has all the excuses he won’t need, and if he doesn’t win, then Boonen should… so if Tom doesn’t, there will be trouble.

Current Form

They both look pretty good, but Cancellara made such an impression at E3 and really went balls to the wall. He showed weakness during the Ronde, but Roubaix doesn’t have those hills. Tom is coming back from injury and hasn’t truly laid down a huge impression since the Tour of Qatar, which is what Cav? Oh…. a shit small race.

Verdict: Edge Cancellara. I’m not saying anything you don’t already know, Cancellara looks as dominant as I’ve seen a rider… it’s scary.

Final Word

This years Roubaix is going to either be an epic slugfest or a one punch knockout. My gut says the latter, but my heart says the former. It’s too close to make a bold prediction of the podium, but if Tom is still with Fabian in the last 5km then it’s Boonen’s fourth Roubaix. If Fabian sees any light earlier than that it’s over.

Ok fine, bold prediction… there is so much hype over two riders, that Roubaix reminds us that she is the Queen of the day and becomes a deciding factor. Boonen wins his fourth.

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