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Boonen wins Paris-Roubaix race for third time

THREE spectators were seriously injured on Sunday when a motorcycle crashed into fans watching the Paris-Roubaix cycling race, which was won by Belgian rider Tom Boonen for the third time.

Three people were taken by helicopter to hospitals in Lille and Valenciennes for further scans, two for abdominal injuries and a woman who was briefly knocked unconscious, said Philippe Sudres, a spokesman for race organizer Amaury Sport Organization.

About a dozen others needed medical treatment, said Sudres, adding the motorcycle belonged to race organizers to provide regular time checks for riders.

Boonen successfully broke away from the pack about 16 kilometers from the end. He beat Filippo Pozzato of Italy by 47 seconds. Thor Hushovd of Norway was third, 1:17 behind Boonen.

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

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 kilometers of punishing cobblestones in a 259-kilometer 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.


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