ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Tom Boonen won his record-tying fourth Paris-Roubaix trophy Sunday in the best possible way: with no one else in the photo.
The reborn Belgian — back in top form after a few rough seasons marred by injury and controversy — had plenty of time to soak up the cheers on the velodrome and raised his hand in jubilation with four fingers held high, one for each of his Roubaix wins.
“It’s my most beautiful win,” Boonen said Sunday. “I realize now I am maybe the best guy to ever ride on these cobblestones.”
Boonen’s impressive track record on the pavé certainly backs up his boast.
The Belgian’s daring solo attack with 55km to go put him elite company, and perhaps a class of his own.
His fourth Roubaix win not only matches him with Roger De Vlaeminck on Roubaix’s all-time winner’s list; Boonen also became the first rider in cycling history to complete the Flanders-Roubaix double twice.
Coupled with his three victories at Tour of Flanders, Boonen now boasts seven wins in the cobblestone monuments, ranking him as the all-time best in cycling history among the “pavé-eaters.”
The dust had barely settled — well, mud in this case — before pundits were looking for ways to put his dominance into historical perspective.
Boonen said during the heat of Sunday’s battle he had no time to think about his place in history.
“I was not really thinking about these records or these victories,” he said. “I was just fighting myself. I was taking it step-by-step, cobblestone-by-cobblestone, kilometer-by-kilometer.”
His audacious long-distance attack — the second-longest in race history compared to Andre Tchmil’s burst with 62km to go in 1994 — certainly earned the respect of his peers.
Mathew Hayman, who ended up eighth as one of four Team Sky riders chasing in vain in Boonen’s wake, told VeloNews that their numbers worked against them.
“What Tom did was impressive, no question,” Hayman said. “We had four in the chase group, so everyone was looking at us to chase. Had we had some help, I think
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