Paris - Roubaix: Tom Boonen wins 'Hell of the North' for a 4th time

Sunday was yet another red letter day in the calendar of cycling folk. All eyes were focused on the cobble stones of northern France as the riders negotiated the arduous route of the cycling classic Paris - Roubaix.

In the event cycling fans were not disappointed with the favourite Flemish rider Tom Boonen racing to victory for a fourth time. The race was somewhat of a one-sided affair as Boonen covered the final 53 kilometres of the race alone and without a credible challenger despite the presence of Italians Filippo Pozzato and Alessandro Ballan.

The riders covered 258 kilometers in all from Compiègne on the outskirts of the French capital to Roubaix in northern France. The route included no fewer than 27 stretches over cobble stones.

The Flemish rider Tom Boonen, who races for Omega Pharma-Quick Step, already had three important wins under his belt this season: the E3 race in Harelbeke, Ghent - Wevelgem and last weekend's Tour of Flanders. So expectations were high and in that respect Tom Boonen did not disappoint making it a hat trick plus and taking all four titles.

Tom Boonen’s performance equals that of cycling legend Roger De Vlaeminck.  The Flemish rider already won Paris - Roubaix in 2005, 2008 and 2009. His challenger Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland was not be present after his nasty fall in the Tour of Flanders last Sunday.

The race started in high tempo with the riders covering 48 kilometres in the first hour. During the second hour a leaders' group including Boonen and his team mate Van Keirsbulck escaped from the pack. On the cobble stones of Arenberg the lead group broke up. Van Keirsbulck failed to avoid a fallen rider and experienced the same fate.

Steegmans then set the pace until Chavanel attacked. Then Boonen got his chance. He escaped together with Ballan and Terpstra. 31-year old Boonen soon dispatched the Italians and minutes later his team mate Terpstra underwent a similar fate.

Former cyclo cross champion Lars Boom seemed on course for second place, but in the event faced the finish together with four other riders. Sébastien Turgot of France was second. Italy’s Alessandro Ballan was third and Spain's Juan Antonio Flecha fourth.