2011 Paris Roubaix – Van Summeren Coup

Johan Van Summeren has won the 2011 Paris-Roubaix in dramatic fashion, as he was able to storm away from his early break-mates and hold off a charging Fabian Cancellara who was tracking down riders like a man possessed.

The race will and should be dominated by stories of how Van Summeren rode a great race and laid down the time trial of his life in the last 8km to hold off all chasers. However, certainly underlying this will be the in-fighting between the favorites which negated their chances at victory. Martin Tjallingii and Gregory Rast who finished third and fourth appeared to both be destined for the podium as their initial breakaway which contained Van Summeren splintered to pieces. Ahead of the group of main favorites Tjallingii battled hard to try and track down Van Summeren, but looked absolutely smashed and couldn’t find the extra gear. Behind him was Rast hanging on with tooth and nail, but when Cancellara joined, the three bunched together and finished in a second group 19 seconds behind.

Crashes dominate the day.

Amongst the many who crashed hard in the 109th edition of Roubaix was pre-race favorite Tom Boonen. After a mechanical problem in the Arenburg Forest where his chain got stuck in the frame causing a near two-minute delay, Boonen who was chasing like a bandit to get back on had his water bottle pop out, lodge between the frame and the rear wheel – breaking the rear wheel- and he hit the deck hard ending his race. Additionally, teammate Sylvain Chavanel had two punctures and a crash which ended a disastrous day for Quickstep. Fillipo Pozzatto, Heinrich Haussler, Roger Hammond and Peter Sagan were amongst the other favorites who crashed during the race with all DNF’ing less Sagan who finished over 4 minutes back.

Arguments and race radio dull the drama
I could be wrong here, so perhaps I should tweet with Jonathan, but what ended up being a great race and win for Van Summeren, looked almost ready to unravel into a fiasco due to race radio and intra-team arguing heading into the last 40km. With Fabian Cancellara alone and doing his thing, the trio of Flecha, Ballan and Hushovd seemed content to sit on his wheel and chat with race directors. Cancellara grew impatient with the lack of help and refused to work, and even argued mid-race with someone in the Garmin team car. The favorites all sat around and looked at each other which opened the door for the others. Certainly, with riders split throughout the groups, the respective DS’s were happy to intervene in the racing and tell riders when to go and when not to, which really brought the late race to a gimmicky level at points.

Too little too late
As the favorites entered into the final 10km they all seemed to realize that they were racing for second place having pissed away their chances at the overall with all the in-fighting. Once a few pulls were taken and riders seemed to be working to bring back the chase, Cancellara quickly attacked his allies, and buried them, storming off the front to secure second place as Ballan, Hushovd, Boom and Flecha couldn’t respond to his surge.

A beautiful finish
With the favorites in disarray and Cancellara charging hard, I couldn’t help myself but to be yelling at the screen cheering on the lanky 1.97m Van Summeren who has spent so many long days grinding up mountainsides for Cadel Evans or burying himself at the front for Tyler Farrar. He was able to hold on for a much deserved victory, apparently on a flat for the last 5km?, so even without the flat tire contributing to the drama, it’s a win that shall be remembered for years to come.

2011 Paris-Roubaix Top Ten
1. Johan Van Summeren (Garmin)_______6h07’28”
2. Fabian Cancellara (Leopard)_________+:19″
3. Martin Tjallingii (Rabobank)
4. Gregory Rast (Radioshack)
5. Lars Bak (HTC)____________________+:21″
6. Alessandro Ballan (BMC)____________+:36″
7. Bernard Eisel (HTC)________________+:47″
8. Thor Hushovd (Garmin)
9. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky)
10. Matthew Hayman (Sky)

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