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By Gilles Le Roc'h
ROUBAIX, France, April 13 (Reuters) - Belgian Peter Van Petegem achieved a rare double on Sunday when he won the Paris-Roubaix World Cup race a week after clinching the Tour des Flandres.
The 36-year-old Lotto-Domo rider outsprinted Italian Dario Pieri (Saeco) and Russian Viaceslav Ekimov (US Postal) to become the first rider to win two of the more prestigious classics in the same year since Roger de Vlaeminck in 1977.
Van Petegem, Pieri and Ekimov trapped Belgian Johan Museeuw, winner of the race in 1996, 2000 and 2002, when a 13-rider bunch broke away from the peloton 40 kilometres from the line and quickly opened a one-minute gap.
The race, which included 49.1 kilometres over cobblestones, is traditionally one of the toughest one-day events on the calendar, and is known as "The Hell of the North".
In fine weather, the riders started at lightning speed.
A group of 14, including German Rolf Aldag and Frenchmen Damien Nazon and Eddy Seigneur, broke away after 15 kilometres and built up a lead of more than three minutes.
Pace and dust caused several crashes and dozens of punctures as soon as the riders entered the first of 26 cobblestone stretches.
Italian Andrea Tafi, winner in 1999, lost a lot of time waiting for his Team CSC support car to arrive to replace a flat tyre.
The Quick Step team suffered their first setback when Belgian Franck Vandenbroucke, who was one of the pre-race favourites, quit the race complaining of pain in his left thigh.
The leading group reached the famed Aremberg trench -- a 2.4-km cobbled climb lined by deep ruts and hundreds of flag-waving fans in the middle of a forest -- with a three-and-a-half minute lead.
But shortly after the 200-km mark, the peloton caught the breakaways.
Vandenbroucke excepted, all the main contenders including Museeuw, Tafi, Van Petegem, German sprinter Erik Zabel and Frenchman Frederic Guesdon, the winner in 1997, were still in contention.
The peloton split again into several bunches over the cobblestone stretches and Museeuw, who was aiming at equalling fellow Belgian Roger de Vlaeminck's record of four victories in Paris-Roubaix, was left adrift.
Finally, a puncture left him standing on the roadside desperately waving to call a support car.
Pieri and Team Telekom's Aldag took their chance but Ekimov, the Sydney individual time-trial Olympic champion, caught them 20 kilometres from the line in another gruelling stretch, the Carrefour de L'Arbre.
Aldag could not match the pace of Ekimov and Pieri, as Van Petegem came from the back.
The three riders worked together until they reached the Roubaix Velodrome where Van Petegem easily won the sprint.