April 10, 2006 — Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) rode away with the 104th edition of the infamous Paris-Roubaix. The primordial spring classic is nicknamed “The Hell of the North” due to numerous cobblestone sections which challenge even the most skilled rider. The 2006 edition was marked by the controversial disqualification of three riders: Belgian’s Leif Hoste (Discovery), Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto) and Russian Vladimir Gusev (Discovery). The trio crossed the finish line in second, third, and fourth but were disqualified for having crossed a barrier which closed off a portion of the race course. As a result, pre-race favourite and last year’s winner Tom Boonen (Quick Step), took second place with Italian Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) coming in third.
Quebec’s Charles Dionne (Saunier Duval-Prodir) was forced to abandon the historic race after 140K. “The start was really fast, we maintained an average of 47km/hour for the first hour. There was also a light headwind, making the first few hours rather difficult to endure. When I got to the first cobblestone section (the race has 27 cobblestone sections) I was already pretty tired.”
Dionne is still riding despite an undiagnosed injury in his left leg. “It’s not the best situation, but the same time I said to myself, this is the Paris-Roubaix! I am looking at things in a positive light. I have participated in three spring classics and I have learned as much as possible from those experiences. If I get the chance to return to race them again, I’ll know what awaits me.”
Dionne would have liked to have had the chance to cross the famous Arenberg pass, the most demanding of the cobblestone sections, but having been dropped by the pack at 130K, he could only manage another 10K. “I really would have liked to have done it, but I don’t think I would have been able to,” said a disappointed Dionne.
In ten days, Dionne will be at the start line of the Ford Tour de Georgia for six days of racing unless he is able to see a specialist for his leg and may have to put himself on the injured list.