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A race doesn’t get to be named the ‘Hell of the North’ for nothing. And this year’s Paris-Roubaix lived up to its reputation as bumpiest one-day cycling race in the world. Belgian, Johan Van Summeren, won the 258 Km race located in northern France with at time of 6:07:28.

The race took place in gorgeously clear weather and had a predictable start. Sweden’s Fabian Cancellara, who was the pre-race favorite, was one of the leaders in a pack of ten riders that began to form around 100 Km after the start. There were dozens of crashes throughout the race, most of which took place on the 1.2 Km stretch of cobblestones in the Arenberg Forest. The forest is a preserved nature area that is only open once a year for the Paris-Roubaix. Its famous cobblestone path (one of many throughout the race) is still the original stones set in place over 100 years ago.

The first two hours saw an average speed of 45 Km/h leaving little room for anyone to form a lead. About 10 Km outside Arenberg Forest, the peloton increased speed allowing Maarten Tjallingii from the Netherlands to take the lead out of the forest. Van Summeren joined the leaders out of Arenberg and later broke away midway through the race.

One of the day’s biggest stories was Belgium’s Tom Boonen, a three-time winner of the race, who was forced to withdraw after suffering two crashes, a punctured tire, and chain problems.

With 60 Km to go Cancellara had made it into a second, smaller group of riders including Norwegian, Thor Hushovd, and Alessandro Ballan from Italy. There, Cancellara was determined to make up some ground. Then at the 14 Km mark he pushed it to another level and caught up with the group trailing Van Summeren which consisted of Tjallngi, Gregory Rast from Switzerland, and Lars Ytting Bak.

However, Van Summeren cycled to an easy finish. As he looked behind him before entering the Roubaix velodrome he saw no one; he was able to let up and circle the track with his hands in the air crossing the finish line. Cancellara, Tjallingii, and Rast finished together in that order with Cancellara coming in 19 seconds behind Van Summeren. Lars Bak came in fifth.

At the end, Cancellara chastised Hushovd and Ballan for their performance. "They didn't believe in victory. If they did, they would have ridden with me," he said.

Van Summeren, on the other hand, was in a tremendous mood saying to the press "I had really good legs. It's wonderful, I can't say anything more."

2011 Paris-Roubaix Finishes

1. Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Cervelo) 6:07:28
2. Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) 0:00:19
3. Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank)
4. Gregory Rast (Radioshack)
5. Lars Ytting Bak (HTC-Highroad) 0:00:21

Race report courtesy of The Telegraph and
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