Tom Boonen has capped off what may be the single most dominant spring classics season in the modern era by winning Paris-Roubaix for a record tying fourth time. In a year of records, where has also won a record-tying 3rd Ronde Van Vlaanderen, a record tying 3rd Gent-Wevelgem and a record setting 5th E3-Harelbeke, Tom Boonen has enflamed the debate even further of if he is the greatest cobbles rider of all time.
The 2012 Paris-Roubaix was a rather systematic race through the Arenberg Forest and the thinning of the lesser-lights seemed a routine erosion as all the favorites plowed through the dusty cobbles. Around the 200th kilometer, in Orchies, is where the race became active with eventual 2nd place finisher Sebatian Turgot throwing the first of the decisive blows. With the pace high and the decisive move looming the first to hit the deck was Thor Hushovd, who blew a routine curb hop into a corner and fell never to return to the decisive action.
For Omega-Pharma Quickstep the race was their’s to command as Sylvain Chavanel launched a number of field spilting moves while marking a feisty Turgot. When the group came back together, Alessandro Ballan, Tom Boonen, Filippo Pozzato, Niki Terpstra and Matthieu Ladagnous made a strong move and broke the field and then almost immediately, after a brief moment of hesitation in the break Boonen and Terpstra kept riding as Ballan and Pozzato stopped pedaling. With some 57km to go, the decision to let Boonen ride ahead was likely a regrettable one.
As soon as Boonen saw he and Terpstra had a gap of 300m, the Omega-Pharma Quickstep duo went full gas, with Terpstra blowing the race wide open. Boonen never relented as he dropped Terpstra in the Mons-en-Pévèle cobbles. From here, Tom gambled that the chasing group wouldn’t organize to catch him, and they didn’t. Team Sky sent Ian Stannard out to fry, and then Matthew Haymen, while trying to pull Flecha and Boassen Hagen to the line instead of organizing a strong 4-man chase. In the midst of the disorganization Pozzato crashed, Chavanel, Ladagnous and Boom flatted. By the time Sky had burned it’s matches in such a puzzling display of tactics, Boonen had greater than a minute lead with less than 15km to go.
A final last ditch effort was made by Lars Boom, Juan Antonio Flecha and Alessandro Ballan which gave slight hope to the idea of a potential catch but after just 2km of strong pursuit the trio quickly decided that second place was the only goal within reach. Boonen had amassed too great a lead and rode solo to his fourth victory finishing his parade around the velodrome before the defeated had even entered.
2012 Paris-Roubaix Top 20
1. Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)____5:55:22
2. Sébastien Turgot (Team Europcar)__________+1’39”
3. Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team)
4. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky Procycling)
5. Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
6. Lars Boom (Rabobank)___________________+1:43
7. Matteo Tosatto (Team Saxo Bank)___________+3’31”
8. Mathew Hayman (Sky Procycling)
9. Johan Vansummeren (Garmin – Barracuda)
10. Maarten Wynants (Rabobank Cycling Team)
11. Luca Paolini (Katusha Team)
12. Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ-Big Mat)
13. Grégory Rast (RadioShack-Nissan)______+4’23”
14. Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing Team)
15. Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team)______+4’37”
16. Steve Chainel (FDJ-Big Mat)
17. Kevin Hulsmans (Farnese Vini)
18. Aleksejs Saramotins (Cofidis)
19. Jimmy Casper (AG2R La Mondiale)
20. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM)