Belgium “Boonan” wins hell of the north They will be drinking a few pints of Leffee in Guent Tonight

Belgium’s Tom Boonen wins Paris-Roubaix cycling race for third time

ROUBAIX, France — Tom Boonen of Belgium won the Paris Paris-Roubaix race for the third time, successfully breaking away from the pack about 16 kilometres from the end of Sunday’s one-day classic in an event marred by an incident in which a motorcycle crashed into fans.

Television images showed several spectators lying on the ground, but it was not immediately known how many people were injured or whether the injuries were serious.

Boonen comfortably beat Filippo Pozzato of Italy by 47 seconds. Thor Hushovd of Norway finished third, 1:17 behind Boonen.

“With all the crashes today, it was very hard, it took time for the last break to take shape,” Boonen said.

Last year, Boonen beat former champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland in a sprint finish. He also won in 2005.

This time, Boonen had to change his bike after a puncture but he did not lose much time.

“I did not feel too well at that stage but in the finale, the others looked even worse while I kept the momentum,” Boonen said. “The last hour was very hard with the crashes and the fight with Pozzato. It was a battle between great riders.”

Known as “L’Enfer du Nord” (The Hell of the North), Paris-Roubaix is among the toughest classics in cycling. This year’s race was over 52.9 kilometres of punishing cobblestones in a 259-kilometre trek up to the northern French town of Roubaix.

Although Boonen’s margin of victory was large, Hushovd and other rivals Leif Hoste of Belgium and Juan Antonio Flecha of Spain lost valuable time after falling at the Carrefour de l’Arbre, one of several cobblestone sections.

Hushovd had looked strong enough to challenge Boonen on the final stretch, but his chances of victory disappeared when he went too wide on a turn and his front wheel slipped, causing him to tumble off his bike.

Boonen pulled away and Pozzato was unable to match his burst of acceleration, quickly losing 10 seconds and then gradually more and more time.

As he approached the finish in the Roubaix velodrome, Boonen looked several times over his shoulder but there were no riders close enough to trouble him.

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