By Barry Boyce,


Top 20 All Time Major Classics #4

Paris-Roubaix 1990: By Less Than a Centimeter!

CR Timeline 1990

By less than a Centimeter! (Archive)

Paris-Roubaix, the “Queen of the Classics”, is a challenge of rider verses bone-jarring cobbled roads, unpredictable spring weather, and a field of great riders. The 88th edition of P-R in 1990 provided racing excitement from beginning to end.

A tumultuous year in World history 1990 provided daily international headlines. The 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall led to a reunification agreement between East and West Germany in February 1990. The Soviet Communist Party's Central Committee agreed to give-up its monopolistic power on the USSR. Mikhail Gorbachev dissolved the Soviet Union. This new found freedom gave great Eastern Bloc riders the opportunity to race in the Major Classics of Western Europe. Sixteen of the best Eastern Bloc riders came to Compiegne, France in 1990 to race the “Hell of the North”.

“Le Grand Depart” saw 186 starters leave the Castle Square in Compiegne. Shortly after the start three riders, Stefan Joho (Sui), Peter Pieters (Ned), and Rob Kleinsman (Ned), escaped the peloton 20 km into the 266 km race. Over the next 76 km the trio built a 16 minute lead as the breakaway entered the first cobbled section at Troisvilles .

A 21 rider group formed and closed the gap to the breakaway over the next 100 km. The lead was down to 50 seconds at the beginning of the famed Arenberg Forest. A puncture eliminated Kleinsman from the breakaway as Belgian Eddy Planckaert attacked alone in pursuit of Joho and Pieters. With 95 brutal kilometers remaining Planckaert's director sportif Peter Post was furious. “Too far to go!” and he ordered his Panasonic rider to drop back. “NO!” responded Planckaert. The inspired Belgian caught and quickly passed the breakaway. Through the cobbled section at Orchies he held a 1'15” lead , but there were still 65 km to the finish and a strong chase group was flying.

Two riders, Martial Gayant and Kurt Van Keirsbulck, bridged the gap to Planckaert and the lead expanded to 2”05”. Led by Laurent Fignon, a new 15 rider chase group formed. Despite the Panasonic team disrupting the chase, Fignon shattered the group and closed the gap to 20 seconds. The Frenchman's great effort was not enough, he could not bridge the final meters. When Fignon began to struggle Steve Bauer, Eddy Van Hooydonck and 2 others bridged up to the Planckaert breakaway.

Bauer powers the breakaway through the cobbles of Camphin-en-Pevele (Archive)

The next cobbled section was at Camphin-en Pévèle 25 km from Roubaix. Fearing the charging peloton, which was only 20 seconds behind, Bauer launched a decisive attack. Only Planckaert and Van Hooydonck answered the move. The trio quickly built and held a 55 second lead through the final major sector of cobbles at Hem with 10 km to go.

Into Roubaix the hard charging peloton was closing on the breakaway as the three entered the velodrome. Van Hooydonck led the trio into the final lap of the track. On the high banking of the final bend Bauer dropped down and started his sprint. An attentive Planckaert answered and drove past the Canadian. With another burst of speed Bauer pulled even. At the line both riders threw their bikes forward. Two exhausted rider looked at each other, neither one raising his hands in victory.

The sprint! (Archive)

After 266 km of brutal racing the finish order went to a photo. The massive crowd at the velodrome held their breath for what seemed like an eternity, when finish line judge Joel Menard finally made the announcement: Eddy Planckaert, the winner by less than a centimeter!

P-R April 8, 1990
265.5 Km Compiegne to Roubaix (Velodrome)

1. Eddy PLANCKAERT (Bel) 7h37'02"

2. Steve Bauer (Can)

3. Edwig Van Hooydonck (Bel)

Starters: 186
Finishers: 92
Average Speed: 34.855 km/h


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