Some people may say that Tom’s win today doesn’t fall into the same league as when Roger De Vlaeminick took his fourth. It’s true that Roger’s wins spanned some great riders with the 1972 win taking in André Dierickx (for 2nd) and Barry Hoban (in 3rd) and the bookend win in 1977 seeing Willy Teirlinck (2nd) and coming in third Freddy Maertens. De Vlaeminick would continue to race until 1984 (aged 37) but in the previous years he would again feature on the podium another three times ’78 (2nd), ’79 (2nd) and finally in ’81 coming 2nd losing in a sprint to Hinault. It’s because of these podium places as well as the wins that earned him the name Monsieur Paris Roubaix.
So Roger was 30 when he won his fourth Roubaix, Tom is 31, the question is how long can he go on, and will he win a record beating 5th. With better understanding of diet, nutrition and equipment I can see a glorious fifth within reach of him. Boonen rides over pavé like most people do over tarmac, in fact in some cases he looks to go quicker. He’s probably got a few more years left in him, and this season he seems to have rediscovered the passion he had from a few years ago. Frankly it’s incredibly exciting, and bodes well for the next few years Classics races.
So looking at Tom’s wins, what do Second and Third places tell us about the quality of these wins.
’05 | 2nd George Hincapie s.t. | 3rd Juan Antonio Flecha s.t. |
’08 | 2nd Fabian Cancellara s.t. | 3rd Alessandro Ballan s.t. |
’09 | 2nd Filippo Pozzato +47″ | 3rd Thor Hushovd +1’17” |
’12 | 2nd Sébastien Turgot +1’39” | 3rd Alessandro Ballan +1’39” |
For me it speaks loud and clear in the quality of the competition that he beat and that this the fourth was without doubt the best of the bunch, not just because of the winning margin but the commanding way in that it was done. Going from so far out, and never looking back or doubting his form was a glorious way to equal Roger’s record. I do hope he goes onto break it, but with Fabian back next year and new stars rising, maybe we will have to wait another three years before the perfect storm.
As a closing footnote to this. I talked about the changes in the Ronde van Vlaanderen course last week and not being a fan. The little phrase that is being bandied around by journalist and commentators alike is ‘that it’s the riders that make the race and not the parcour’, clearly there is some measure to that statement, but look at the difference today when the rider knows the course, as the tactics can be thought through, and their DS’s know the parcour, which really allows the riders to ‘make the race’, sometimes change isn’t a good thing.