Recently on Cyclingnews.com

Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Special Paris-Roubaix Cycling News for April 14, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner & Laura Weislo

A breakdown of Hell: The pavé of Paris-Roubaix

This coming Sunday, the roads of northeastern France will once again play host to the biggest one-day bike race in the world, Paris-Roubaix. But these are no ordinary roads, as Cyclingnews' resident pavé basher Ben Atkins finds out.

Unlike Flanders, the secteurs (the French word for sectors) count you down to the finish, which in one way is good as it lets you know where you are in relation to the finish - but it also lets you know exactly how many more times your body is going to have to be put through this torment!

It begins.
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

Secteur 28 - Troisvilles à Inchy
Length: 2.2 km
Rating: ***
Km from start: 98
Km from finish: 161.5

It begins.

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

WAP-enabled mobile devices: http://live.cyclingnews.com/wap/

The route turns off the main road out of the picturesque village of Troisville on to a narrow track and first timers get a nice rude awakening as to why this race is so special. Sadly for the many riders here under sufferance, the feed zone is another 47km away - the Euskaltel team springs to mind here, now forced to ride under ProTour regulations, but teams like this have always taken part in order to curry favour with the organisers ASO, so that they could get a Tour de France invitation.

Mercifully, this secteur is one of the more rideable ones, it has a gentle slope in the riders' favour and isn't too badly surfaced. Only when it takes a right angle left hander towards the village of Inchy does it start to rise gradually, but it's soon over and the course rejoins the modern world again.

Click here to read the full feature on the cobbles that make up the 'Hell of the North'.

Boonen fighting with equal weapons again

Tom Boonen faces the press.
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

It's starting to become something of a tradition, Quick.Step-Innergetic meeting the press in a grubby backroom of the old-fashioned Bar Tabac L'Allumette in Bouvines after their reconnaissance of the Paris-Roubaix cobbles. Brecht Decaluwé was there once more for Cyclingnews.

It could be me, but I had the impression things were different this year, although I couldn't figure out what had changed. First of all, there was much more sun, making it feel somewhat like a Tour de France rest day. Probably because of the good weather, there were more local people at the Bar Tabac. And why not pay a visit to cycling's prominent figurehead Tom 'Tornado' Boonen? The Quick.Step riders arrived from their reconnaissance ride, freshened up, and team leader Boonen strolled into L'Allumette.

Last year, Boonen was surprised to see so many people, saying the place was getting too small - journalists responded by saying that he was getting too big. This year, Boonen entered, sat down and looked somewhat bored with yet another press conference on his plate. A journalist asked why riders did the reconnaissance ride and Boonen answered rather tersely: "Only because you guys want us here."

Luckily, for the assembled press at least, Boonen soon livened up, making it an interesting brainstorm session. "Of course it's always interesting to see the new sectors," noted the Belgian. "Sector 13 is very bad, it won't be deciding for the race, it's just bad; they decided to throw some cobbles on the ground there," he added, in his typical ironic style. Manager Wilfried Peeters then explained that there's now less time for riders to recuperate, as in the past this section was ridden on the main road.

The weather report for Sunday forecasts 26 degrees in the afternoon and today was a nice preparation for those unseasonably warm conditions. "It was very hot, I drank nine bidons of water; the heat will cause breathing problems and crashes," Boonen predicted.

Click here to read the full recap of Friday's press conference with Tom Boonen.

Discovery Channel's dark horses

Vladimir Gusev
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Discovery Channel will be starting Paris-Roubaix without their key man for the cobbles, George Hincapie, who is out with a broken wrist. But the team has two lesser known prospects for Sunday's race: Russian muscleman Vladimir Gusev and the Lithuanian star Tomas Vaitkus.

Both have their own strengths, with Gusev being more of a climber while Vaitkus has a fast sprint in his legs, and both have a passion for the cobbles, which is necessary to excel in Paris-Roubaix. Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé caught up with the two at the team's hotel in Compiègne to find out more.

Vladimir Gusev crossed the line in the 2006 edition of the 'Hell of the North' in fourth place, but you won't find his name on the results. Gusev was one of the riders - together with Leif Hoste and Peter Van Petegem - who were chasing the lead group when a train crossing's barriers closed down in front of them, signalling an oncoming freighter. The trio crossed the closed barriers and were subsequently disqualified, a harsh decision. The Russian 24 year-old doesn't like to look back on that race. "People saw everything, they saw what we encountered," Gusev said to Cyclingnews.

On Sunday Gusev will be one of the outsiders for the win, but he has been doing well throughout the current season, with a fifth place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen as highlight. "I am not the big favourite but for sure, I have good legs so I'll keep going," Gusev said. Gusev picks the same favourites as the bookmakers have chosen. "It would be a good experience to beat Boonen and Cancellara."

Click here to read the full interview with Gusev and Vaitkus.

Going the distance

Franzoi with his machine.
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

24 year-old Enrico Franzoi did his lion's share in last Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen to help Lampre-Fondital teammate Alessandro Ballan achieve victory. The Italian cyclo-cross champion will form part of the eight-man team roster for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews spoke with Franzoi as he prepared for the day's training ride.

"Last Sunday I used my strength to the fullest to help Alessandro [Ballan]," commented Franzoi Saturday morning in Compiègne. He had spent over 200 kilometres off the front in the Ronde as part of a three-man escape. The move enabled his team captain to 'relax' as the other teams worked to control the time limit of the escape.

Franzoi explained that the day went well for him, even if he was not yet accustomed to riding such distances. "I spent 220 kilometres in the escape," he noted. "I felt good, even if in the finale I finished in the second group. I was happy with how my race went."

The race came all together before the Muur. It was on that penultimate climb that Franzoi's teammates took over; first Daniele Bennati, marking the move of Tom Boonen, then Ballan, who attacked for the win.

"My legs were over by the Muur," explained Franzoi with pride in his accomplishment. "We were hoping to make it over the climb before the group but it was fine all the same. I am really happy for Ballan; it is a really good feeling to see your work pay off. I felt like I worked well for my captain."

Click here to read the full interview with Franzoi.

"One train can hide another"

By Hedwig Kröner

Boonen, Ballan and Flecha waited for the barriers to go up before crossing the tracks
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Un train peut en cacher un autre ("One train can hide another"), that is the French standard security warning at railway crossings throughout the country. Last year at Paris-Roubaix, Leif Hoste, Peter Van Petegem and Vladimir Gusev did not obey the prohibition of crossing a railway when the barriers are down - the train was not yet in sight - and paid for it greatly, as the race commissaires disqualified them.

The chasing Tom Boonen, Alessandro Ballan and Juan Antonio Flecha waited patiently until the train had passed, but technically they went through when the barriers were lowered, too, which caused some discussion after the race.

This year, event organiser ASO has made contact with the SNCF French railroads company, which appointed a special coordinator to inform the race directors of the passing of freight trains, which are not subject to any particular schedule. There are nine railway crossing on the parcours from Compiègne to Roubaix, but it is impossible to avoid them when planning the race course, so incidents of the same kind could still happen on Sunday.

In particular the railway crossing #142, located just before the Tranchée d'Arenberg cobble section, could be a problem: A train is scheduled to pass this point eight minutes before the fastest time schedule of the riders (14.54). As ASO's Paris-Roubaix parcours director Thierry Gouvenou explained, "How do you stop a 100-man peloton racing flat out to get to the cobble section in a good position? It was already hot last year, when the barriers were lifted 20 seconds before the first riders arrived..."

And at the last railway crossing of the parcours, in Chéreng, fatal to Hoste, Van Petegem and Gusev in 2006, two trains are expected at 17.04 and 17.15, whilst the race is scheduled to cross this point between 16.55 and 17.33, depending on the average speed of the riders.

Benna looking better

By Gregor Brown in Compiègne

Daniele Bennati of Lampre-Fondital was knocked out after last weekend's Ronde van Vlaanderen. The rider from Arezzo helped his teammate, Alessandro Ballan, to victory but shortly after the race started feeling ill.

He spent two days without riding and was forced to miss the Gent-Wevelgem, a race where he would have been a favourite to win. "I had to take two days off because at one point I had a fever of 40°C," he said as the team was preparing for a ride on Saturday morning. "The symptoms were the same to what I had after Paris-Nice, with an upset stomach."

But now, Bennati recovered and focused on helping his teammate on Sunday. "I want to start tomorrow to give Ballan a hand. He has a really good chance of winning and I will do what I can," he said, looking good but it will have to be seen how his legs react after his forced rest.

Pre-race quotes: Lancaster, Bäckstedt, Haussler & Vansevenant

By Jean-François Quénet in Compiègne

First Roubaix for an excited Lancaster

Brett Lancaster won the prologue of the 2005 Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image
Having raced for Pro Continental outfit Panaria for four years after debuting with iTeamNova, Milram's Brett Lancaster will make his first appearance in Paris-Roubaix, aged 27. "It's like a dream for me," he said. "I've always wanted to do this race, I'll give my best. For Milram, it can't be worse than it's been in the past few weeks. With all the crashes, we have lost Zabel, Velo, Sacchi... Petacchi crashed as well in Gent-Wevelgem. Yesterday, in training, we also lost Dyudya who crashed because his legs warmers got caught in his fork, he's going to have an operation to his chin."

One year ago, the Australian Olympic champion for team pursuit broke his collarbone broken in four parts and was being treated in the hospital in Angers just a few rooms away from Saul Raisin, whose life was in danger. "I feel much better being here on the cobblestones," Lancaster added. "When I reconnoitred the course yesterday, my shoulder was a bit sore though, it was the first time since I recovered."

As a result of the crashes that affected Milram, the Victorian will be a protected rider. "I have no clue of this race but I know it will be important to be up there in the forest. A few guys will be helping me. I was 27th at the Tour of Flanders and I was happy. I'm still happy with my form at the moment."

Bäckstedt: different approach and better form than in 2004

As planned, Magnus Bäckstedt abandoned in the Circuit de la Sarthe on Thursday after coming 3rd in the individual time trial. He wanted to save some energy for Paris-Roubaix, after having raced quite a lot. The Liquigas rider also did the Settimana Lombarda one week ago. "It's a totally different build-up than usual," he explained. "The other boys who want to win here have done the other classics before. It means they have spent some energy already. I hope it can play to my advantage."

The massive Swede surprised everyone when he made himself a winner in Roubaix three years ago. "It's such a grueling race," he said. "I love it. There's no other race like this one on the calendar. I feel like a winner again. Actually, I feel even better on a bike than in 2004." Bookmakers shouldn't under-rate him this time.

Heinrich Haussler is sick of crashing

Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Hernan Alvarez
Click for larger image

Heinrich Haussler was totally exhausted when he pulled out of Paris-Nice with the polka dot jersey on his shoulders. But the Australo-German has definitely recovered. "I was feeling really good at the Tour of Flanders but I had three crashes and my fork broke. Then in Gent-Wevelgem I crashed too. I don't mind a too good weather for Paris-Roubaix because we've all seen enough crashes in the previous classics. We don't necessarily need rain at the moment."

The Inverell-born rider will start Paris-Roubaix for the third time, even though he's still only 23 years old. "That's my highlight for the season. To enter the top 20 would be good. Anything better is welcome." Haussler finished in 25th place two years ago, when he raced Paris-Robaix for the first time.

Predictor's Vansevenant predicts early attacks

After so many years at the service of Peter van Petegem, 35 years-old Wim Vansevenant will race Paris-Roubaix against his best mate who has switched to the rivals of Quick-Step. "It's a huge change for me," he reckoned. "But Leif Hoste has also been a friend of both of us for years. He has learned his job with us and he came back after two years with Discovery."

Vansevenant was away during the Tour of Flanders when Predictor-Lotto decided to make the race harder for Hoste. "It's been the key of the race," the man from the north coast said. "We want to change Leif's second place in Meerbeke to a first one in Roubaix. The team has worked really well during the last week. I can't complain about anything. The team has been built around one man only. It's has always worked like that at Lotto. It's the same even without Peter."

The fully Flemish team could be unhappy with the hot and nice weather predicted for Sunday. "For many riders, it's better," Vansevenant corrected. "There are less risks than with the rain. Many guys will want to attack very early. It's going to be a big mess. It's also just as hot as in the Tour de France! The heat will have a strong influence on the race, that's for sure. We'll be thirsty. We'll have to drink a lot and make sure that we don't lose our bottles..."

Fantasy Spring Classics game ready for Paris-Roubaix!

Spring Classics Fantasy GameThe provisional rider-list for the Paris-Roubaix race has been uploaded to the Fantasy Cyclingnews Game site, and the game is ready to play! Pick your teams now! Keep in mind, teams may change overnight, so be sure to check in on Sunday for the final start list.. Don't miss out, enter your teams now and you too could win in tomorrow's Paris-Roubaix.

Remember you don't need to have competed in all the previous races to stand a chance of winning the Spring Classic prize. You can just play for one race to win a pair of BBB glasses.

If you have competed in all the races though here's a quick reminder of what's on offer:

The Grand Prize is a Specialized S-Works Roubaix bicycle in Quick Step - Innergetic colors equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace components and S-Works FACT over-sized carbon cranks and bottom bracket worth $6000 USD! That's not all you could win in this year's Fantasy games. To celebrate our fifth year of Fantasy games the Spring Classics will also be featuring some top runner-up prizes.

Runner-up Prizes

Play this year's fantasy
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

The first runner-up prize this year is a Cycleops Powertap 2.4 (wireless) worth $1499 USD. Cycleops upgraded the world's most accurate, lightest power meter to be the world's first wireless meter, meaning you can easily switch it between bikes.

A pair of BBB's "Winner Team" glasses are on offer for the highest scoring Fantasy team in every Classic. You don't have to take part in all seven races to stand a good chance of winning this prize. The highest score per classic wins a pair of the official sports-glasses of the 2007 Quick-Step Innergetic professional cycling team.

Speedplay is back behind the fantasy game
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

We are proud to announce the continued support from Speedplay in this year's game. We have three sets of Speedplay's Zero stainless steel pedals - the same style of pedal used by ProTour teams such as Team CSC.

We are also pleased to confirm that Descente will be joining the list of runner-up prize sponsors. Produced in conjunction with Team CSC, the Descente Optima Bib Short is the culmination of hundreds of hours of research and testing. Constructed of two different textiles, the main body features Aero-X fabric, a dual-denier Nylon with spandex for great moisture-management, durability, comfort and fit.

The highest scoring Fantasy team in each classic
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

Cyclists depend on good nutrition to meet the demands of the sport. That's why Nutra Fig developed the organic Cheetah Bar. It contains the right combination of carbs, protein and fiber to give you long lasting energy, and it is moist and tastes great. Cheetah bars are loaded with potassium, sodium and calcium—all found naturally in the ingredients so no chemical additives are needed. Cheetah Bar is the official energy bar of the Colavita/Sutter Home Pro Cycling Team. We have 10 boxes of Cheetah Bars on offer this year.

The proCOOL Mesh from Scandinavia's leading high-performance clothing company, Craft, is the professional's choice when it comes to base layers. The proCOOL Mesh is a warm weather base layer that combines the latest in fabric technology with Craft's signature fit. Even as temperatures soar, proCOOL keeps you dry and comfortable. For the 2007 Spring Classics Fantasy Game, we have 10 of these great base layers on offer.

In the next few days we will be releasing more details of the prizes on offer this season with 46 prizes available for 18 lucky winners, and some major improvements in the game engine coming soon, now is the time to sign up to the Fantasy Cyclingnews Games.

How to play

With a Specialized S-Works Roubaix bicycle up for grabs
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

Yes, you too can be a professional team manager. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with fantasy managers from around the world. Remember all you need to do to take part is to register and select eight riders for each of the following races:

Paris - Roubaix, April 15, 2007
Amstel Gold Race, April 21, 2007
La Flèche Wallonne, April 25, 2007
Liège - Bastogne - Liège, April 29, 2007

For more details on how to play go to the rules section of the site for more info. To register your teams for the game, click here.

It's a great way to follow the Spring Classics.

Good luck!
The Fantasy Cyclingnews Team

Previous News    Next News

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)