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100th Paris-Roubaix - CDM
France, April 14, 2002
Can Lefevere do it again?
The defending champions of Paris-Roubaix are the Domo-Farm Frites squad, who will be directed by Patrick Lefevere in pursuit of their second successive win in the Hell of the North. Last year they finished 1, 2, 3, and 5, giving no other teams a look in. They are more evenly matched this year with Mapei, but Lefevere might tip the balance again.
Since 1995, he has guided six riders to win, including four "clean sweeps" such as last year. This year he is counting on two time winner Johan Museeuw to do it again, as of all the squad he is the man in form and with the experience to win. There will be no Wilfried Peeters to set the pace again after forest as he did last year, forcing the other teams to chase themselves into the pavé while the Domo riders could sit behind (and chase back on due to punctures).
Some think that Peeters should have won this race twice in his career, but it was not to be and he will drive the car tomorrow as part of the Domo team.
Lefevere said that "The tactics are to race so that the others follow us." He will need every ounce of strength from his team, which has been weakened by injuries this year to Romans Vainsteins and Leon van Bon. However, Fred Rodriguez has been riding extremely consistently this season, and Enrico Cassani figured in the final move last weekend. Add last year's winner Servais Knaven and the Lefevere factor and it should be a great battle.
Knaven trains at home
Last year's Paris-Roubaix winner Servais Knaven did not join his Domo-Farm Frites teammates training over the parcours on Friday. The Dutchman decided to remain at home, after injuring his left elbow in a fall in training this week. He will certainly be present in Paris-Roubaix, as he was at the team presentation in Compiegne this afternoon.
Hincapie the first US rider on the podium?
George Hincapie (US Postal) has finished fourth twice and sixth once in Paris-Roubaix, and tomorrow is his best chance yet to climb onto the podium in the Roubaix velodrome. The tall, powerfully built American has been in excellent form for the classics, making every break and always being in contention to win. Last week in Flanders his team helped him up to the Koppenberg, where he escaped with four others including eventual winner Andrea Tafi. Hincapie finished fourth - can he go one better tomorrow?
To win Paris-Roubaix would be a "childhood dream" come true for Hincapie, who said that only this race and the Tour de France are really well known in the United States. "I know that I don't have the capacity to win the Tour, but I can perform in a one day race. So, my dream refers of course to the Hell of the North...I have a good feeling that I can be the first American rider to win in Roubaix".
He's hoping for "A little luck. It is imperative to have some. It is an impossible factor to get around through the success of your efforts. In this race, you can have three punctures and come back. Only the other hand, you can have one bad moment and the race is suddenly finished. But I am confident, feeling as good as last year. I hope to be able to play the role of favourite that I share with others."
Andrea Tafi comments
"This year will be totally different for me, because I have already won on Sunday. Alone or in a group, that does not change anything. In all ways, the best will always win."
Frederic Finot (Jean Delatour) has had to pull out of Paris-Roubaix due to a fall in yesterday's Pino Cerami. He will be replaced by Samuel Dumoulin.
Fassa with only six
Giancarlo Ferretti's Fassa Bortolo team will only start with six (out of a maximum of eight) riders. Baldato, Loda, Petito, Zanette, Ivanov and Konyshev are the riders. There were talks of the team forfeiting, but they decided to race with six men.
Peers, Gaumont out
Both Chris Peers and Philippe Gaumont will not race in Paris-Roubaix for Cofidis. Peers feels he has still not regained his form after crashing in De Panne and taking several days off the bike. He trained for four hours yesterday at home before making the decision not to start in Paris-Roubaix.
Gaumont, who was badly injured in the Arenberg Forest last year, will not start due to ongoing allergy problems, that forced him out of the Circuit de la Sarthe on the first stage. Cofidis will be represented by Jo Planckaert, Tom Flammang, Rob Hayles, Claude Lamour, Nico Mattan, Jean-Michel Tessier, Janek Tombak and Mederic Clain.
A look at the crucial pavé section
By Jeff Jones
Of the 26 cobbled sections (pavé) in this year's Paris-Roubaix, the most important, talked about and feared is the Foret D'Arenberg. In the scheme of things, it's known as Sector 15, is 2,400 metres long and comes at 97 kilometres to go. It is rightly feared, as it has been the scene of some terrible accidents over the years and often causes a crucial split in the race.
Why is it so bad? To find out, I joined a few of the folks on the Scott Sunderland-Bikestyle Classics tours today to ride it and a few other selected sections.
We started in the fairly small coal mining town of Arenberg where there happened to be a bakery open and even a cafe. Unfortunately, the latter did not serve coffee today it seemed, as we were greeted with "pas de café" by the matron out the back.
Quelle blow. How are we ever going to get on out bikes without at least two cups in us, given it was rather chilly outside? Luckily we had partaken of the fabulous brew in the Quick roadside restaurant on the way down. A highly recommended establishment for the finest in French coffee.
The Arenberg forest is being run in the downhill direction this year. The approach is over a railway line - I hope they've thought of the timetable - and past several beer tents. This section of forest is cordoned off to cars but there were plenty of mountain bikers and walkers cruising along it. There were also eight lunatics (us) led by Scott Sunderland trying to get across on road bikes. It was a foolish endeavour, and only a cyclist would contemplate it.
The start of the forest is the worst part (as well as the middle and the end), and after 100 metres I was contemplating stopping in order to get Lawrie's water bottle that had ejected itself from its cage rather quickly. I didn't, as I told him afterwards it was "only 2 km back that way" to get it. And I figured that it would make his bike light enough so he could literally float over those cobbles.
That 2.4 kilometre section of road is easily the worst I've ever encountered, although I'm admittedly a wimp when it comes to cobbles. Riding them slowly is a killer, as you feel every single contour of every cobble, and fall into every hole, all the while being shaken up so much that you're not sure which part of you (if any) is actually attached to the bike. Fast is good, but not flat out or you'll run out of legs a lot quicker than you would think.
There are some pretty serious holes along that section, and they are sure to cause at least a few punctures, hopefully nothing worse. The "trench" gets slightly better in the final half, with smoother sections on the left and right hand sides, as long as the crowd doesn't encroach too much. On the way back, several of us took dirt track on the side (the riders used to be able to use this), and it was far more pleasant, like riding a mountain bike.
Combine it with another 47 km of pavé, and you've got a bike race. Despite the lack of rain and mud tomorrow, the Arenberg will be a decider.
Weather forces change to start time
The 100th Paris-Roubaix will start 20 minutes earlier than advertised, at 10:40am local time rather than 11:00am. The organisers recalculated the time schedule due to the steady north wind that has been blowing for the past few weeks. It has shown no signs of abating, meaning that the riders will be into a headwind for most of the 261 kilometre race.
This year's edition will not be the mud bath that it was last year, as only light rain is forecast tomorrow. It has been quite dry for the past few weeks, and all of the cobblestone sections are free of mud. There is plenty of dust and grit though, and you can be sure that the famous Roubaix showers will be well utilised at the finish.