Easy sprint victory by Boonen, ahead of Cancellara and Ballan.
Ballan leads on the track ahead of Cancellara and Boonen.
The velodrome is in sight. The three in the last kilometre.
If he wins, Cancellara would be only the third rider to win Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix the same year after Sean Kelly (1986) and Cyrille Van Hauwaert in 1908.
The three are 5 kms from the finish.
The leading trio are on the penultimate cobbled section in Hem, 7 kms from the finish.
With 12 kms to go, Cancellara tries again! Boonen also attacks! The psychological warfare is raging. Ballan is the only one not too make extra efforts.
The three are 15 kms from the finish line in cobbled sector 3 in Gruson. It looks like this 106th Paris-Roubaix will be decided on the track...
Cancellara up a gear on the Carrefour de l’Arbre! But Boonen reacts. Ballan is still quietly keeping in third place, saving strength for the finale.
The three leaders just left section 5 (km 241) and will next tackle the five-star Carrefour de l’Arbre, the ideal place for one of them to try and break on his own.
The first chasing group is now 1:10 behind the three leaders. The podium is almost certain but in what order?
The first chasing group is now 1:10 behind the three leaders. The podium is almost certain but in what order?
The big three now lead the first chasers - Hoste, O’Grady and Devolder - by 40 seconds.
Boonen, Cancellara and Ballan are 30 kms from the finish.
The three leading favourites at the start are now in the lead: Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara and Allesandro Ballan. With 35 kms to go, the podium might be decided!
Leif Hoste leads the chase and bridges the gap with the two leaders. Seven riders in the lead.
Belgium’s Johan Van Summeren is dropped by the leading group.
Tour of Flanders winner Devolder and Paris-Roubaix holder O’Grady are 40 kms from the finish on the Roubaix velodrome.
Devolder and O’Grady lead their six former companions by 15 seconds in cobbled section 9 in Meriginies.
Stuart O’Grady chases behind Devolder. Another double in sight for the Australian?
Tour de Flandres winner Stijn Devolder breaks away in the hardest cobbled sector to Mons-en-Pevele (km 212). Is the Belgian champion going for a Flanders/Roubaix double?
At the end of section 11, Van Summeren was caught by a handful of favourites, including Stijn Devolder, Fabian Cancellara, Leif Hoste, Stuart O’Grady, Tom Boonen, Alessandro Ballan and Maertin Maaskant. Is it the right break?
Belgium’s Johan Van Summeren (Silence Lotto) is alone in the lead in cobbled section 11.
A spectacular crash by Dutchman Steven Langeveld split the leading group. Hincapie was among the riders held by the crash.
High Road’s Bernhard Eisel raised the tempo on the Orchies cobbled section. The main bunch splits.
Sweden’s Marcus Ljungqvist (SCS) breaks clear shortly before the start of cobbled sector 12 (km 200).
Km 193 - Flecha is back in the leading group and Pozzato is about to do the same in the feeding zone, helped by Servais Knaven and Tom Veelers.
Flecha is fighting his way back into the leading group, followed by Pozzato, Servais Knaven and Matthew Hayman.
Km 186 - Matthe Pronk has been caught by the leading bunch, led by Tom Boonen’s Quick Step team-mates.
Quick Step and CSC are, as planned, the strong teams in the race with five riders both in the leading bunch. High Road are not doing badly either with three riders, Hincapie, Hammond and Eisel.
The front part of the peloton is only 16 seconds behind Pronk.
Serov was joined by the chasing bunch at the end of section 16 (km 178) while Kuyckx punctured. Pronk is alone in the lead.
Former winners Servais Knaven, Frederic Guesdon and Magnus Backstedt are not in the leading bunch.
The riders in the main bunch are: O’Grady, Breschel, Cancellara, Johansen, Ljungqvist (CSC), Langeveld (Rabobank), Wesemann (Collstrop), De Voght, Roelandts, Van Summeren (Silence Lotto), Fischer (Liquigas), Boonen, De Jongh, Devolder, Huslmasn,Weylandt (Quick Step), Hincapie, Eisel, Hammond (High Road), Ballan (Lampre), Krauss (Gerolsteiner), Grabsch (Milram), Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Mengin (FDJ), Clerc, Martias (Bouygues Telecom), Cooke (Barloworld), Maaskant (Slipstream)
Km 172 - Johan Van Summeren leads the peloton, who are now one minute behind the three leaders. The group including Flecha and Pozzato are 2:30 adrift.
The first part of the peloton includes some 30 riders including, among others, Boonen, Cancellara, Oâ€™Grady, Ballan, Nuyens, Cooke, Wesemann, Breschel...
The three are back together as Pronk and Kuyckx wait for Serov after the trench. The first part of the peloton, led by Van Summeren and Tom Boonen are 2:30 behind.
As the gap is reduced to 3:30, the peloton has slimmed considerably on the Arenberg trench.
Pronk and Kuyckx are alone in the front. They dropped Serov in the Arenberg trench.
Favourites Juan Antonio Flecha and Filippo Pozzato were held back after a crash by Frenchman Arnaud Coyot inside the peloton. They are chasing to make their way back in the bunch before Arenberg.
The three leaders are on the Arenberg trench.
Winner two years ago, Swiss Fabian Cancellara is seen by many as the leading favourite after his splendid season start: "Iâ€™m relaxed, cool and confident. Iâ€™ve already won a couple of great races this season and it takes some of the pressure away. Last week I was also eager to put on a great show at the Tour of Flanders, but it did not happen. Tomorrow, is the race goes well, if you have the legs, if you donâ€™t puncture, the key is mental," he told www.letour.fr before the start.
Yuryi Krivtsvov (AG2R) crashed on his own in cobbled section 19.
The CSC team-mates of Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O’Grady has taken the reins of the peloton in the long cobbled section between Havelui and Wallers (km 157)
The bunch is speeding in cobbled section 19, the last before the Arenberg trench.
The Cofidis team-mates of Belgian Nick Nuyens are leading the bunch, closely followed by all the main favourites as the Arenberg trench is nearing.
A crash involved several riders shortly after Haveluy, including Fothen, Aramendia, Berges or Elmiger. They all made it back on their bikes.
The three leaders are in Denain (km 151.5)
Some media have played down the chances of 2005 winner Tom Boonen, who failed to win a big classic in the last two seasons, but the Belgian warned he was back: Â« Already, at the Tour of Flanders, I felt very, very well. If everything goes according to plan, Iâ€™ll be there. The true Boonen is back, believe meâ€¦ The Tour of Flanders remains my favourite race because itâ€™s the first big classic Iâ€™ve won, but Paris-Roubaix suits me better. I could even say itâ€™s easier for me. I really hope not to have to let a team-mate win tomorrow. It would mean Iâ€™m not in the front, Â» he told www.letour.fr
Caisse d’Epargne leader Nicolas Portal punctured in section 21. The Frenchman, 16th last year, is fighting his way back into the bunch.
The gap at the end of sector 22 (km 139) was 5:30.
The leaders just left section 21 (km 142).
George Hincapie (High Road) punctured shortly before cobbled sector 22. He swiftly made it back into the main pack.
Matthe Pronk, Jan Kuyckx and Alexander Serov into cobbled section 22 in Verchain.
The first six cobbled sections have been tackled relatively easily by the peloton. Rain has yet to fall on the race and the roads are dry.
The peloton leaves cobbled section 23 (Le Buat, km 127) 4:50 behind the three leaders, Pronk, Kuyckx and Serov.
The lead of the three breakaways reached 5:05 at the end of cobbled section 24 (km 120).
Km 115 - In the feeding zone, Norway’s Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) stopped.
South African Robert Hunter, leader of the Barloworld team, has been dropped by the main bunch, with a handful of other riders. The cobbles are starting to claim their first scalps.
Km 107: The lead of the three escpapees reached 4:50 shortly after cobbled section 26 in Quievy.
Briton Roger Hammond, third in 2005, is convinced his High Road team, with strong riders like George Hincapie, Servais Knaven or Bernhard Eisel can do very well today: "Team work is essential on a race like this, especially when it rains. And itâ€™s true as well that CSC and Quick Step are strong. But weâ€™re not bad either and I believe youâ€™ll see me and George riding in the front. Weâ€™re not a team whose tactics is based on a leader. I have a lot of ambitions and I seriously believe Iâ€™m here to win it otherwise I would not have come. I was very close in the past and few people know that last year, when I finished 7th, I had been riding with a spare wheel for 180 kms, making my bike much heavier. Rain is alright by me, and for High Road, itâ€™s probably the big race of the season."
Saunier-Duvalâ€™s Denis Flahaut (a young local rider on his first professional Paris-Roubaix) is hoping to do well in front of his home crowd: "Iâ€™m really motivated for this race and my main goal in my first year is to finish. I rode Paris-Roubaix four times as an amateur and it went pretty well. I was sort of born on the cobbles. The course is about one kilometre away from home. The cobbled sections are my training roads. My hope is to be in the first serious break and to go as far as possible. My fanclub will beg athering at the end of a cobbled section near Valenciennes," he told www.letour.fr
The three leaders, Pronk, Kuyckx and Serov are out of cobbled section 27 between Viesly and Quievy.
Km 101: The peloton are out of the first cobbled section.
The average speed in the second hour of the race was 49.1 kph.
The leading trio are in the first cobbled section. The peloton are 3:05 behind.
Km 92 - The peloton now trails the leading trio by 1:40.
Km 90.5 - Three riders have attacked: Dutchman Matthe Pronk (Collstrop), Belgian Jan Kuyckx (Landbouwkrediet) and Russian Alexander Serov (Tinkoff)
One rider is chasing: Belgiumâ€™s Pieter Ghyllebert (Topsport Vlanderen)
The peloton is 1:15 behind.
In the last four editions of the race, three countries obtained their first victory in Paris-Roubaix (Sweden, Switzerland and Australia). Will the trend continue this year? Juan Antonio Flecha, for Spain, Kust-Asle Arvesen, for Norway, George Hincapie, for the U.S. or Roger Hammond for Britain are among the riders who could put their country on the winners list.
Frederic Guesdon is the last Frenchman to have won Paris-Roubaix and if he does not feature among the main favourites, refuses to be counted out: "I really hope this is not my last Paris-Roubaix. I still have good legs and the will. I already won Paris-Roubaix but itâ€™s no more special to me than the Tour of Flanders or Ghent-Wevelgem. Theyâ€™re all races I like and I felt pretty good last week. What makes the difference on the day is the will. We all know who the favourites are : Boonen, Cancellara, Ballan. But they donâ€™t impress meâ€¦"
A few raindrops have appeared on the race.
The peloton is packed with 28 kms to go before the first cobbled section in Troisvilles.
Francaise des Jeux have been trying a new techonological device, the Tubeless tyres, which are designed to avoid punctures. A product is included in the tyre fabric which immediately repares the damage once the tyre punctures. Philippe Gilbert used the device to win the Het Volk and some od the young FDJ riders were planning to use it on the cobbles today.
The peloton is now 40 kms from the first cobbled section in Troisvilles.
France’s Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, the last rider to have won twice in a row, in 1992 and 1993, has a special reason to follow the race this year — his son Herve rides it for Cofidis.
Andreas Klier (High Road), Christophe Mengin (FDJ) and Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) also made an unsuccessful attempt, before being caught (km 45.5)
Stuart Oâ€™Grady admitted his chances of a repeat win today were scarce: â€śLast yearâ€™s victory was the highlight of my career but unfortunately, it would take a miracle for me to win again in Roubaix. Iâ€™m at about 85 percent of my form of 2007 but to win this race, you need to be a 100 percent at least.â€ť
Rain was scheduled but sun is currently shining dimly on the race.
Italy’s Emanno Capelli (Saunier Duval) crashed and was unable to restart.
Froome’s attempt only lasted a kilometre.
Km 25 - Briton Christopher Froome (Barloworld) in turn parts company with the peloton.
Km 20 - Ladagnous has been caught.
Ladagnous, one of Madiot’s young riders, leads by 30 seconds. He rides in his first Paris-Roubaix
Francaise des Jeux team director Marc Madiot, winner in 1985 and 1991, is convinced rain does not make such a big difference in Paris-Roubaix : Â« Rain is forecast but in reality what do we know ? They announced rain on the Tour of Flanders as well and there was only a few drops. It was no apocalypse. To be honest, rain doesnâ€™t change much and Paris-Roubaix is no more dangerous than the Grand Prix de Denain or Cholet-Pays de Loire. Itâ€™s all psychological. For me as a rider, rain was fine because half the peloton think they have lost the race before the start and you have fewer opponents. It gives you a psychological edge. This year Iâ€™d rather have a dry race because I have lots of young riders on the team and they will be discovering the race. Â»
Km 6,5: Franceâ€™s Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ) attacks.
Winners of the last two editions with Fabian Cancellara and Stuart Oâ€™Grady, team CSC bid to achieve the first hat-trick since 2000, when the Mapei team of Franco Ballerini, Andrea Tafi and Johan Museeuw won the Queen of Classics three times in succession.
With rain scheduled on at least part of the race today, the focus in the press was on the weather.
Cycling Weeklyâ€™s Lionel Birnie is overtly wishing it would rain: â€śIs it wrong to hope for rain? Is it unfair to wish for the cobbles to be covered in mud for what is already a punishing, painful journey across the broken tracks of northern France ? If you want to see an epic, no, it’s not,Â» he wrote.
In Bicycling, James Startt focuses on 2004 winner Magnus Backstedt, who relishes bad weather : "Some like it hot," at least one star of the screen once said. And many would agree. But a rare few like it cold, wet, muddy and generally ugly. One of those iconoclasts is Swedish cyclist Magnus Backstedt. And for "Maggy," there is no better place to revel in such calamity than in the infamous Paris-Roubaix classic. Â»
The sun shone last year for Stuart Oâ€™Grady, the first Australian to conquer the Hell of the North, but this yearâ€™s race should be so brilliant, as the â€śAustralianâ€ť newspaper outpoints: â€śA week ago Stuart O’Grady was feeling lousy after abandoning the snow-hit Tour of Flanders in Belgium. He couldn’t recall the last time he had experienced such atrocious weather on a bike. At one point he had to dive under a tractor to hide from hailstones the size of golf balls. After struggling through the hail, snow and cold, the Monaco-based O’Grady was just happy to avoid disaster. But after winning last year’s Paris-Roubaix, O’Grady will line up in Compiegne tomorrow in an attempt to repeat his success in one of cycling’s most important spring classics.â€ť
Belgium’s Kristof Goodaert was the first man to attack. He was quickly tamed but two riders followed suit: Pavel Brutt (TCS) and Raivis Belohvasciks (SDV). They were caught too.
The start was given at 10:55.
On the podium twice in the last three years, Juan Antonio Flecha is ideally placed to become the first Spaniard to win Paris-Roubaix. Not that it matters much to him: Â« To me, what matters is not to become the first Spaniard to win Paris-Roubaix. To me, the only thing that really matters is to win it at allâ€¦ Â»
Flecha received the support at the start of compatriot Oscar Pereiro, the 2006 Tour de France champion.
Three of the 28 cobbled sections on the race are rated "five stars", meaning they are exceptionnally tricky for the riders.
Aremberg "trench" - Km 164
Mons en Pevele - Km 211
Carrefour de l’Arbre - km 242.5
It rained overnight on most of the course and the cobbled sections should be wet, muddy and slippery.
Welcome on the 106th Paris-Roubaix (259.5 kms). The start will be given in a few minutes from Compiegne in cloudy weather.