Start at 10.35 am
After a minuteâ€™s silence in tribute to Franco Ballerini, who died on February 7th, the bunch starts at a very high pace, facing a strong northerly wind. In spite of many attacks, no one manages to break away until kilometre 45. At this moment, 19 riders take the lead with a small advantage slowly rising up to 2â€™ as they cross the cobbles zone of Troisville at kilometre 97. (the 19 riders: Wynants (QST), Ignatiev (KAT), Hunt (CTT), Lang (OLO), Henderson, Sutton (SKY), Klostergaard (SAX), Goss, Hansen (THR), Flens, Leezer (RAB), Gene (BTL), Zingle (COF), Gardeyne (VAC), Curvers (SKS), Docker (SKS), Isasi (EUS), Engoulvent, Poulhies (SAU)). The gap even increases up to 4â€™5â€™â€™ at kilometre 111. A few kilometres further on, Devolder falls and injures his left knee.
The Saxo Bank chasing
The gap drops inexorably as the Saxo riders lead the chase. The break away only manages to maintain a 1â€™2 advantage on the main pack at the entrance of the TrouÃ©e dâ€™Arenberg. Cancellara and Boonen ride together in the front. Behind, the bunch follows up in single file, and eventually, the 19 riders are caught at kilometre 192.
Cancellara and Boonen speed up
Then Cancellara launches his first attack on the cobbles between Beuvry and Orchies (km 193,5). Boonen and Flecha are the only riders able to follow his ferociously high pace. In Orchies (km 198,5), Boonen takes his chance and attacks, followed by Cancellara, Hushovd and Pozzato. As the main favourites shadow each other, Hinault, Hoste and Leukemans seize the opportunity and try to break away with 50 km to go.
With 49 km to go, Cancellara accelerates once again. This time no one can follow the Olympic Time-Trial Championâ€™s attack. Second by second, he builds up his advantage on a group containing Boonen, Pozzato, Hushovd, Hammond (SKY), Hoste, Flecha, Eisel (THR), Hansen (THR), Roulston (THR), Leukemans, Mondory (ALM), Hinault (ALM) and Hincapie (BMC). The gap rises up to 3â€™05 in Templeuve (km 225,5)
Four years after his first Paris-Roubaix victory, Cancellara enters the Velodrome alone with a 2â€™ advantage. Hushovd then outpowers Flecha for second.