Paris-Roubaix News, April 12, 2009
Edited by Laura Weislo
Cancellara ready to fire Roubaix rocket
By Gregor Brown in Kortrijk, Belgium
Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
Fabian Cancellara knows what it is like to win the world's biggest races: Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix and stages of the Tour de France. More recently, however, he's had a string of setbacks and bad luck which have kept the thrill of victory in the past. Despite everything, the Saxo Bank star still has the desire to win in Sunday's "Hell of the North".
"I hope to show Sunday I have more than fire, that I have rockets on," he said to Cyclingnews Friday afternoon.
Cancellara's first experience on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix came in 2003 with Fassa Bortolo, and was without fanfare. But just three years later, he returned to stand on the top step of the podium.
"As a child, I remember the races of Museeuw, Ballerini and Tafi. I don't want to say it was as a dream to be there, but when I became professional I had the possibility to ride there. I rode it, but really badly. I was sad, but yet happy to have done it.
"I had lacked the winning fire, but I showed the year later that I was there, with my fourth place."
Cancellara's time to shine came in 2006 when he escaped with 16km to go and soloed to victory.
This year, the Swiss rider crashed in early March in training and injured his right shoulder blade. Though there were no fractures, it set him back in his preparation for the Spring Classics. He was only able to return to racing last week.
In Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen he showed that he could still be counted in as a dark horse for victory in Roubaix. He was riding strong until a broken chain took him out of the action on the Koppenberg climb. In dismal conditions at Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem he made the initial escape group, but a flat tyre and other problems later ruled him out for the finale.
Despite the bad luck, the other favourites know they cannot count Cancellara out.
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"It is nice when people say it [that I am a favourite], like 'Pippo' [Pozzato] said. He is the guy who is strong and he may be better than me on paper, but we know that Roubaix is different. I know how to win and how to be there.
"But the list of favourites is long, you have [Tom] Boonen, you have [George] Hincapie, [Leif] Hoste, you have so many. However, the people with the great condition may not always win, this opens the doors for me in this Hell of the North.."
Paris-Roubaix: Pressure on for Silence-Lotto
By Gregor Brown in Gent, Belgium
Belgium's two ProTour teams have a fierce rivalry, if not in the minds of the riders themselves, certainly in the hearts of the Belgian fans and press. So far this year, the Quick Step faithful have been able to gloat, and Silence-Lotto has had to withstand scathing criticism for winning just one race so far this season. The team's manager Marc Sergeant sent a reminder out to the doubters that the Classics are not yet over. He is hopeful the big win will come with Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.
"Of course there is pressure, this is Belgium, we are a Belgian team. We are supposed to be very good in these races," he said to Cyclingnews Thursday in Gent, Belgium. "One win can change a lot. It is not over, Paris-Roubaix is still to come."
Silence-Lotto's season started off slowly without any wins until March when Cadel Evans won the final stage in the Coppi e Bartali. The team is historically a Classics team with its roots firmly in Belgium, but this year's campaign has been lack-lustre despite the third place by Philippe Gilbert in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Unlike rival team Quick Step, Silence-Lotto spreads its budget to build for two specific goals: the Classics and the Tour de France. It has riders like Leif Hoste, Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet for the one-day races and Evans and Thomas Dekker for the Grand Tours.
"We try to have two teams, but it is not easy because Cadel is quite an expensive rider. We are happy with this setup, in the Tour we have a lot of publicity but if you don't win in these races [the Classics], everyone gets nervous."
Hoste proved his form is on target with aggressive riding in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. He helped form a decisive escape ahead of the feared Koppenberg climb, despite a strong Quick Step presence. If he continues to progress he will be in position to better last year's sixth place this Sunday in Paris-Roubaix.
"We have never won such a big race, we were often second with Leif, Cadel was second in Flèche Wallonne... It would be something special to finally win one of those big races," said Sergeant.
Paris-Roubaix is one of the most demanding one-day races due to its parcours that stretches out over the cobbled roads of northern France. Hoste will battle his rivals over 259 kilometres, nearly 55 of which are pavé.
New vélodrome for Roubaix
By Brecht Decaluwé in Compiègne, France
It wouldn't be Paris-Roubaix without the finish on the velodrome.
Photo ©: AFP
The vélodrome in Roubaix is a holy shrine for the cycling faithful, but the site of the finishing line of Paris-Roubaix is in serious need of an update. While Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix have lovingly tended to the cobbled sectors, the vélodrome has become decrepit. New life is planned to come to the site, as the Nord - Pas de Calais region has decided to restyle the stadium completely, hoping to be done with the works by the end of 2011.
A new indoor cycling track will be built adjacent to the existing outdoor track. The designs for the new building were made public in October, 2008. The French region Nord – Pas de Calais is set to invest 15.6 million euros to build the new vélodrome with an eye of having a state-of-the-art facility on which to hone its medal contenders for the Olympic Games.
The new track will seat 1,500 around a 250-meter oval. The modern structure will cover 11000 square metres, including services for media, seminars and meetings. Construction should be finished by the end of 2011, but it is still unknown whether the cyclo-cross World Cup during that winter or Paris-Roubaix 2012 will welcome the new infrastructure for the first time.
Jean-François Pescheux, one of the directors of the ASO (organizer of events like the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix) ensured Cyclingnews that not much is going to change for the finish of Paris-Roubaix and that not all necessary decisions have been made yet.
The new buildings will be situated on the current location of the press centre which is right next to the legendary old-fashioned showers, where each stall bears the name of a past winner. As for now it is unclear whether those showers will be saved or not, although it seems unlikely that one would want to get rid of Roubaix's cycling heritage.
Hincapie backed by Roubaix experience
By Gregor Brown in Compiègne, France
George Hincapie (Columbia Highroad)
Photo ©: ISPA
As George Hincapie heads into Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, he can say one thing no other rider can: "I have done the race 14 times; there is no one here with more experience than me." Those years of hard-fought battles against the elements, crashes, flats and fatigue are, he believes, his edge over the competition.
The American's Columbia-Highroad team is riding with high morale after its win in Gent-Wevelgem on Wednesday, and Hincapie says that he still believes it is possible for him to win in Roubaix.
"I don't dwell on the bad luck or the times that I have been close," the 35-year-old said. "I tell myself that it is possible.
Despite a history of crashes, some race-ending and some not, mechanicals and heartbreak in the race, Hincapie can look to strong finishes as evidence that he has what it takes. He took second behind Tom Boonen in 2005 and fourth in 1999 and 2001.
Yet he will have to set fire to Quick Step's fortress to capture the cobblestone trophy awarded in Roubaix's velodrome. The Belgian team ruled the biggest one-day race in its country, Ronde van Vlaanderen, last Sunday with the authority of an emperor. Ronde winner Stijn Devolder, two-time Roubaix winner Boonen and fresh-faced Sylvain Chavanel lead the team's charge. But Hincapie knows the "Hell of the North" is a race which is deals out a fickle fate.
"This is a tough race and they are not going to win with ease. They have to suffer as much as any of us. We won on Wednesday [Gent-Wevelgem] and they did not have anyone there."
Marcus Burghardt and Bernhard Eisel will be Hincapie's henchmen in the fight for the win. His secret weapon is Canadian Michael Barry, who was there for him in 2005 and the young Gent-Wevelgem winner, Edvald Boasson Hagen.
See the complete start list.
Flecha: Roubaix fuelled on emotions
By Gregor Brown in Compiègne, France
Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank)
Photo ©: James Huang
Juan Antonio Flecha is poised to become the first Spaniard to win Paris-Roubaix, but that is not the only reason driving him to aim for the top spot. After finishing second in 2007 and third in 2005, Flecha knows that his will emotions and instinct carry him through the 259 grueling kilometres of Paris-Roubaix this Sunday. Rabobank is sending a strong team to help its leader, but will have to be flexible in its tactics.
"Every time that someone asks me the plan, I never know. It is not that I want to hide it, but it is because I don't have any tactics," he said to Cyclingnews the day before the French one-day race.
"If you look at how the race developed in the last years, it is always different. I don't want to be focused on one plan, because that plan my not happen.
"Of course, the Arenberg sector is a really critical moment, you have to be in front there. Then the Mons-en-Pévèle sector and the surroundings are always nasty parts of of the race."
Flecha showed his fiery instinct last Sunday in Ronde van Vlaanderen. He produced a lighting-like attack on the Muur de Gramont that struck fear into his competitors heading into Paris-Roubaix.
If Flecha finally reaches that top step of the podium inside Roubaix's velodrome he would be the first Spaniard ever to do so.
"For me and for my country it would be really nice to be on the top of the podium. The two times I have been there have already been special and I get a lot of recognition from that. If I don't get the top step tomorrow it would still be good for Spanish cycling."
Before Flecha, the only other Iberian to make the podium was Miguel Poblet in 1958 and 1960.
"I want to win Roubaix for the race itself, and then of course the Spanish side of it becomes another story."
Flecha noted there are other Spaniards coming up through the ranks who will join him and triple World Champion Oscar Freire as one-day specialists. He said that we should keep a close eye on the development of José Joaquín Rojas of team Caisse d'Epargne.
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