Swiss Fabian Cancellara kept his composure to win a third Paris-Roubaix title, outdoing Belgian Sep Vanmarcke in a session of track cycling tactics at the end of a 254km (159-mile) ride yesterday.
Cancellara, who won the Queen of the Classics in 2006 and 2010, entered the Roubaix outdoor velodrome, where the finish line was drawn, against a rival who is supposed to be a better sprinter. Yet the RadioShack-Leopard rider, who achieved his second Tour of Flanders/Paris-Roubaix double, forced his opponent to a standstill on the velodrome as both men played mind games for position.
Vanmarcke was tricked into starting the sprint and the Blanco rider was leapfrogged on the home straight.
Dutchman Niki Terpstra won a four-man sprint for third position after the OmegaPharma-Quick Step team and Thord Hushovd’s BMC outfit failed to mount a challenge around their designated leaders.
On a sunny yet cold day in northern France, the battle started early but Cancellara, who had crashed earlier in the week in the Scheldeprijs and again while checking out one of the 27 cobbled sections of the Paris-Roubaix, remained focused.
With some 135km left, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Geraint Thomas and Taylor Phinney were in a breakaway group, quickly chased down by Cancellara’s team. Thomas and Filippo Pozzatto of Lampre crashed on a cobbled section with 72km left but the Italian, second in the race in 2009, made it back into the bunch, just like Norway’s Hushovd after a third puncture. France’s Damien Gaudin of Europcar also joined the leading riders but the lead shrank when Cancellara himself accelerated in front of the bunch in the Auchy-les-Orchies cobbled sector.
After the Mons-en-Pévèle sector, some 15 riders emerged in front in three groups close to each other.Vanmarcke and fellow Belgian Stijn Vandenbergh built up a decent gap in front but Cancellara made his effort in the Bourghelles-Wannehain cobbled sector with only the Czech Zdenek Stybar able to follow his pace. Stybar eventually cracked as Vanmarcke and Cancellara powered away towards their duel.