Sweden's Backstedt makes Paris-Roubaix history

12th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

ROUBAIX, France, April 11 (AFP) - Magnus Backstedt made history for his country when he became the first Swede to win the gruelling Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, the third race in cycling's World Cup here on Sunday.

ROUBAIX, France, April 11 (AFP) - Magnus Backstedt made history for his country when he became the first Swede to win the gruelling Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, the third race in cycling's World Cup here on Sunday.

The powerfully-built Swede, who rides for the Italian Alessio team, easily held off his four breakaway companions to dominate a bunch sprint at the finish line of the Roubaix velodrome after 261 kilometres of action-packed racing.

After a string of pre-race favourites fell victim to some of the unwelcome events on the race known as the "Hell of the North", Dutchman Tristan Hoffman of the Danish CSC team came second behind Backstedt with on-form Briton Roger Hammond, of Mr Bookmaker, claiming a deserved third place.

Backstedt, who showed his form earlier this week when he came second behind Quick Step's Tom Boonen at the Ghent-Wevelgem one-day classic, said he realised he had a chance at victory once 38-year-old race favourite Johan Museeuw of Belgium picked up a puncture.

"I just don't know how the hell it happened," said Backstedt, who was a mixture of tears and excitement as he retold his final kilometres.

"I just tried to stay at the front the whole day, stay out of trouble and away from the wind. Then with a few of the cobbled sections to go all of a sudden we're five guys left, and I thought 'hang on, this is a chance of a lifetime here'."

Fortune failed to smile on Museeuw, who was gunning for a record-equalling fourth victory on the race, as Belgium's 'Lion of Flanders' suffered a flat tyre with less than seven kilometres remaining.

"When Museeuw punctured I thought to myself we've just to hammer as hard as we can and settle it in the velodrome," added Backstedt.

By the time Museeuw had been given a spare wheel, Van Petegem caught him up then overtook him but the two men failed to catch the four-man front group.

That gave Backstedt and his companions the perfect opportunity to forge ahead and fight it out on the boards at the velodrome.

Backstedt added: "I just had my plan all ready. I've been looking at it in my mind all week - keep relatively high on the last corner and just dive underneath once on the home straight. And that's what I did."

Museeuw, who was appearing in his last Paris-Roubaix ahead of his retirement at the GP de L'Escaut on Wednesday, eventually finished fifth ahead of his main rival, Belgian Lotto rider Van Petegem, the winner last year.

Museeuw, the record holder for his 11 World Cup victories in a career which has also seen him claim 101 victories including two Tour de France stages and a world championship, had been hoping for a perfect send-off after his stunning career.

However in the unpredictable "Hell of the North" he, and the rest of the 177-strong peloton, was never going to have it easy.

After a number of futile early attacks, the 26 cobblestone sections, totalling 51.1km, claimed many victims - some of whom got back on their bikes, some of whom were forced to pull out.

Van Petegem, who had tears in his eyes as he described his experience, should have been given a prize for courage as he bounced back from a crash early on, then a late puncture to haul himself back into contention when Backstedt and his group began to forge ahead at the front.

For Museeuw also it was a case of seeing his efforts wasted.

A late attack by the Belgian only served to break up the group of pursuers he had been in, and Backstedt was one of those who profited, the Swede breaking away with Belgian Leon Van Bon on the tough three-kilometre long cobbled section at Mons-en-Peleve.


© AFP
       
                                                                 Subject: French news

 

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