Tom Boonen won his fourth Paris-Roubaix (2005, 2008, 2009, 2012) on Sunday, after riding solo for 50km out of 257.5km. He also earned the second "double" of his career. Boonen is the only rider in men's road racing history to win Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix in the same season twice. Boonen is also the only rider to have won all four of the "cobbled" races —E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix — in one season.
"I was not really thinking about these records or these victories," Boonen said. "I was really working hard to be on my top level these two or three weeks. I was already happy to have reached this level and I didn't have any big crashes this year so far. When I started winning Harelbeke I knew I would be good for others. When I look back on these two or three weeks, it's been amazing. It's my second double and I realize now I am the only one who did this 'double' two times. I realize now I am maybe be the best guy to ever ride on these cobblestones, on these roads. It's special, but think I need some time. My career isnt over yet."
Boonen managed to hold off a powerful chasing group of Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team), Sebastien Turgot (Europcar), Lars Boom (Rabobank), and Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ-Big Mat), who decided to commit to a chase in the final 24km after a larger chase group failed to organize.
"I was not really thinking about the winning race or doing a record," Boonen said. "I was just fighting myself. I was taking it step by step, cobblestone by cobblestone, kilometer by kilometer. I think if you start thinking about the 60 or 57 km, which is when I left, it's nearly impossible. It is all in your mind. I was really thinking about my lead. With the gap at 30 seconds I was trying to take it second by second. I was trying not to push it right away to one minute, tried not to force myself. It was the best way to save my strength and put all my strength into the 50km in front of me. I think it was the best option."
Boonen's teammate Niki Terpstra, who attacked with Boonen at 56km but could not sustain the effort, was also in the chase group with Ballan and four others.
"I was not planning on this," Boonen said of his solo win. "But when I arrived in front with Niki and he dropped off, I was thinking 'OK, I already have Flanders. Why not try to win my fourth Paris-Roubaix in a very special way?' I started battling myself. The wind was not really helpful, but with 30 seconds I thought 'OK, it's also hard for everyone else'." I was only afraid there was a fresh rider coming, like Pippo Pozzato or Ballan."
Boom tried to chase solo in the final 20km, reducing the gap from 1'14" to 1'09" with 14.9km to go. However, Boom couldn't sustain the chase and was reeled in by the Ballan group. Ladagnous suffered a puncture and dropped from the chase. Boonen expanded his gap to more than 1'30" in the final 10km, and in the last kilometers, Boonen gave the hand signal for the number four, to signify his four Paris-Roubaix wins. Boonen said he had only one thought on his mind at that time: His girlfriend, Lore.
"I was thinking a lot about my girlfriend who is working on our house," Boonen said. "I thought about her a lot during the final and this victory is for her."
Boonen coasted through his two laps at the velodrome, again giving the hand signal for the number four. Meanwhile Terpstra took 5th in the chase group sprint. Turgot took 2nd, beating Ballan (3rd) in a bike throw.
"The velodrome finish line, it's the only one where you can do two laps where all the people are," Boonen said of the unique Paris-Roubaix finish. "It's the only finish line where you have one kilometer where you can bond with the people that are there. It's just just such a special race. Paris-Roubaix, only one race like it in the world. A race like this needs a special finish. I think changing this finish line would be very stupid. It's almost more Paris-Roubaix — finishing here — than the cobblestones. I was really enjoying my two laps."
The entire team contributed during the race. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck made a 12 rider break at km 70, but was taken out by a rider while riding through the Arenberg. He was able to get back on his bike and continue racing, but was soon caught by the chasing riders. Sylvain Chavanel did incredible work chasing down breaks, and also was in a four rider break with 66kms to go. However, he punctured with 58.1km to go, having to get his rear wheel replaced. He still battled with a chase group, which was about two minutes behind a select group of 30-40 riders. Boonen and Terpstra attacked shortly after Chavanel punctured. Gert Steegmans, Stijn Vandenbergh, Iljo Keisse and Matteo Trentin were all seen working at the front to chase down breaks during the race.
This is the 30th victory for Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team in three disciplines. Tom Boonen, who moved into first place in UCI WorldTour standings last week with his Ronde van Vlaanderen victory, increases his lead in the individual classification. The team is also ranked number one in UCI WorldTour standings.
"I just love it," Boonen said of bike racing. "I never, ever have problems finding motivation to train. Although, it has not been easy. It's my 11th year as a pro, there is always ups and downs, but never problems training. I like it, and I really do it for these races. These are the ones I love. Paris-Roubaix is one of the hardest one day races. Flanders and Paris-Roubaix both are difficult. The moment I start to feel tired, and not training, then it's time to stop. But I think the last few years I've found more love for the bike and I'm not losing it. I think it's getting easier getting older."