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Backstedt beats favourites to win Paris-Roubaix - 2004
Magnus Backstedt, of Sweden, kisses the trophy after he wins the 102nd Paris-Roubaix cycling classic, in Roubaix, northern France, Sunday, April 11, 2004.

By Gilles Le Roc'h

ROUBAIX, France, April 11 (Reuters) - Magnus Backstedt upset the favourites to become the first Swede to win the Paris-Roubaix World Cup race.

The Alessio rider outsprinted Dutchman Tristan Hoffman of the CSC team and Briton Roger Hammond of the Mr Bookmaker team to win in six hours, 46 minutes and 12 seconds.

Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara of Fassa Bortolo, who was also in the final sprint, finished fourth in the 261-km race.

Belgian Johan Museeuw, who was chasing a record-equalling fourth victory in the race, crossed the finish line next, hand in hand with compatriot Peter van Petegem after the two favourites suffered flat tyres.

"This day was mine. Before today, I thought my best achievement was my Tour de France stage victory in Autun in 1998," said Backstedt.

"It was a perfect day. I just had a little scare in the Aremberg trench because it was slippery."

The race, which includes 51 km over cobblestones, is traditionally one of the toughest one-day events on the calendar and the riders started at a slow pace in fine but chilly weather.

A group of five, including Italy's Salvatore Commesso of the Saeco team, broke away after 70 km and built up a lead of nearly five minutes.

Pace caused several crashes when the bunch entered the first of 26 cobblestone stretches.

The leading pack was caught before 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.

The trench proved to be selective, with 21 riders, including favourites Tom Boonen, Museeuw, Van Petegem and Steffen Wesemann, leaving the peloton behind. They were soon caught by 17 more riders, however.

Museeuw flexed his muscles and tried to break away from the group.

But the favourites survived the scare and, 15 km from the line, Museeuw suffered a flat tyre leaving him behind four runaway riders. Backstedt, Cancellera, Hammond and Hoffmann opened a 28-second gap over Museeuw and Van Petegem, who had also suffered a flat tyre earlier.

Backstedt proved to be stronger than his opponents in the Velodrome of Roubaix.

Editors note: see a replay on OLN 4/15/04

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