Van Summeren Surprise Winner of Paris-Roubaix

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04/11/2011| 0 comments
by Gerald Churchill
World Champion Thor Hushovd leads last year's Paris-Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara on one of today's paves. Photo Fotoreporter Sirotti.
World Champion Thor Hushovd leads last year's Paris-Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara on one of today's paves. Photo Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Van Summeren Surprise Winner of Paris-Roubaix

Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Cervelo) is the surprise winner of Paris-Roubaix 2011.

Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Cervelo) is the surprise winner of Paris-Roubaix 2011. The Belgian, who has spent his career as a domestique, surged away from four breakaway companions to win a 258-km, crash-marred, puncture-ridden Hell of the North in 6:07:28. Defending champion Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) settled for second at 0:19, and Martin Tjallingii (Rabobank) outsprinted Gregory Rast (RadioShack) for third at 0:22.

This edition of Paris-Roubaix was unusual because it was ridden in warm, dry conditions, with the mercury eventually reaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A fast early pace deterred escapes, and the day's big break did not occur until the peloton approached the first section of cobbles at Troisvilles. Martin Elmiger (Ag2r), Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun), Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano), Nelson Oliveira (RadioShack), and Simon Seubert (Netapp) rolled off of the front, and Tjallingii, David Boucher (Omega Pharma-Lotto), and David Veilleux (Europcar) bridged up to the move.

Early on, mishaps made themselves felt. Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) and Renaud Dion (Bretagne-Schuller) crashed and abandoned. Cancellara, Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo), Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad), and George Hincapie (BMC) punctured. During the approach to the Arenberg Forest, teammates Haussler and Roger Hammond crashed. The former fought his way back to the bunch.

At the entrance to the Arenberg Forest, the fugitives led the field by 2:10. The Arenberg made its usual mischief, with Quick Step having the worst luck of any team. Three-time champion Tom Boonen (Quick Step) punctured with no teammate nearby to give him a wheel. Teammate Sylvain Chavanel, the Belgian squad's second option, waited with Boonen to pace him, but after more than a minute passed without a teammate or a team car in sight, Boonen sent Chavanel ahead. Chavanel punctured at the forest exit.

Boonen got two Quick Steppers to pace him back to the main group, which he trailed by 1:00. Chavanel and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) joined the chase group, and Quick Step appeared to be getting back into the race. However, five riders, including Leukemans and Boonen, crashed on cobble sector 14 with 69 km left. Boonen was slow getting back on his bike. Four km later, Chavanel crashed, and so did Quick Step's chances of winning Paris-Roubaix 2011.

Ahead, Van Summeren attacked. Six riders joined him, and the septet bridged up to the 10 leaders. The main group, which contained all of the favorites who were still in contention, was one minute behind the lead group. John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad), Thomas Leezer (Rabobank), Gregory Rast (RadioShack), and Gregory Rasch (Garmin-Cervelo) attacked from this group and bridged up to the leaders. With 54 km left, the escapees led the main group by 1:10.

With 57 km left, a prerace favorite, Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) crashed with three others. Eight km later, Cancellara attacked at cobble sector 10. The main group splintered, and only Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), Alessandro Ballan (BMC), and world road race champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) could follow the defending champion. With 35 km remaining, the Cancellara group trailed the leaders by 0:30. Five km later, however, Cancellara became annoyed at his companions' wheelsucking and stopped chasing.

With 20 km left, Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad) attacked from the lead group. Tjallingii, Van Summeren, and Rast followed. On the Carrefour de l'Arbre, Van Summeren attacked and dropped Bak and Rast. At this point, Van Summeren and Tjallingii led the first chase group by 0:25 and the Cancellara group by 0:50.

On the Carrefour de l'Arbre, Cancellara attacked. Ahead, Van Summeren attacked and dropped Tjallingii. For a time, Hushovd cooperated with the defending champion, but eventually Cancellara left the Norwegian behind. He overtook all of the chasers, but Van Summeren would not be caught. In the velodrome, the Belgian had plenty of time to celebrate the biggest victory of his career.

After the race, Van Summeren received the cobblestone that is the prize given to the winner of Paris-Roubaix. He said that his girlfriend had proposed to him and clearly indicated that he would accept when he added, "Some people give a ring. I give a rock!"

Among the losers, there was acceptance of Van Summeren's victory and a look toward the future. Tom Boonen, who abandoned, recounted his misfortunes and concluded by saying, "Honor goes to Van Summeren, who rode an extraordinary race." Boonen's teammate Chavanel said, "Mentally, I'm going to try and turn the page as fast as possible and concentrate on next Sunday's Amstel Gold Race."

Who will join Chavanel in the Netherlands on Sunday? How will they fare against him? Check in at and find out!

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