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Around him mayhem ruled, but Fabian Cancellara looked like he couldn't care less. With tears of joy rolling down his cheeks the emotions he was experiencing could clearly not be disturbed - not even by a hungry media pack all trying to get just one centimetre closer to the Swiss than the other, writes Susanne Horsdal.
Seconds before, Cancellara had fulfilled the dream he'd been harbouring for years: to win Paris-Roubaix, and the way in which he did it was hugely impressive.
With eight riders still in the front group, the CSC rider launched a convincing attack on the Carrefour de l'Arbre pav. Discovery's Vladimir Gusev tried to follow but couldn't stay with the deadly pace of Cancellara, who gained seconds on the rest of the group by the metre.
Gusev, Leif Hoste and Peter van Petegem eventually formed a group of chasers, with a second group a little further back made up of Tom Boonen, Alessandro Ballan and Juan Antonio Flecha, but none were able to threaten Cancellara's victory. The Swiss was therefore able to ride into the velodrome in Roubaix accompanied only by the cheers of the spectators.
"My sports director (Scott Sunderland) told me to take it easy in the velodrome and to enjoy the moment, and I'm just so happy. It was a perfect race for me," said a thrilled Cancellara.
Earlier Sunderland had asked Cancellara to be patient before he attacked, but the 25 year old just couldn't be held back. "I noticed several times that a lot of the riders had their mouths open. To me that was a signal that they were tired, which is why I decided to give it full gas and do a small time trial," explained the Swiss, who put his time trialling abilities to perfect use.
As expected, the pre-selection in the 104th edition of this mythical race was made in the Arenberg Forest and apparently it was no coincidence that Cancellara was the first rider out of that pav. At the end of the 2.4-kilometre long cobbled section a front group of 17 riders had formed.
Surprisingly Tom Boonen was left to fend for himself as his Quick Step team-mates all missed the train when it left. That was immediately noticed by the other escapees, who kept the pace in the front group high, thus preventing Boonen from getting reinforcements from behind.
Along the brutal paves, the size of the group was gradually reduced, but the next important selection came when George Hincapie's handlebars broke on the Mons en Pvle section about 48 kilometres from the finish, catapulting the American into the air before sending him hard into the ground and out of the race in pain.
Shortly after that incident, Cancellara attacked and quickly received the company of Boonen, Ballan and Van Petegem. Later Flecha, Hoste and Gusev joined, and Bernhard Eisel also made it back to the front. But their chances of glory were short-lived as Cancellara was clearly the strongest rider in the race and ended up becoming the first Swiss since Henri Suter in 1923 to leave 'the Hell of the North' victorious.
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