Former winner and now director on Flecha and Thomas
After taking a podium place at its first attempt in 2010, Team Sky comes to Paris-Roubaix full of confidence ahead of tomorrow’s race and in Juan Antonio Flecha, who was third last year and Geraint Thomas the team possesses two of the contenders.
Flecha was third last year behind Fabian Cancellara and Thor Hushovd while Thomas has had a number of impressive displays through this spring and as a former winner of the race at junior level will revel in his first opportunity to co-lead a team at such an important race.
At the team presentation in Compiegne former winner and team directeur sportif Servais Knaven happily talked up the team’s chances but pointed to the usual suspects of Tom Boonen, Thor Hushovd and Fabian Cancellara as the main threats to Sky’s chances.
While enjoying the sunny weather in Compiègne, many fans lined up on Saturday afternoon to get autographs from their cycling idols. Matt Goss’ (HTC-Highroad) recent win in Milan-San Remo meant that there was a sharp increase of interest in the signature of the Tasmanian rider, who showed up unshaven and sporting stylish sunglasses at the Paris-Roubaix team presentation.
Goss made his debut in the Hell of the North in 2009 when he finished 32nd, while he finished outside of the time cut last year. This year, the 24-year-old is expecting to do much better than those two previous results in Paris-Roubaix. His win in San Remo has clearly changed his mindset approaching such races. “Certainly, you come to these races with a different mindset now,” Goss said. “I'm not hoping to be at the front, I expect to be at the front.”
Then again, Goss didn't finish last week's Tour of Flanders but the fast Australian explained that illness played a major role in that off-day. “I've been sick for a week,” he said. “It's a hard balance between trying to keep training because you have to do these races, or sitting at home and recovering. I think that's gone now and I can bounce back to 100%.
“This week we've done some good training. We did about 120km on Wednesday, the course on Thursday, a little bit behind the car on Friday and an easy one today. Everything's been fine this week. We've got a good team so I think we can expect a good result.”
The Australian was clear about what that good result might be. “The first year I did it I was coming onto the vélodrome racing for the top 15,” Goss said. “I...
The experienced Australian is more akin to working for others in the Classics and was a key part of Saxo Bank's win last year in both Flanders and Roubaix with Fabian Cancellara. However with the Swiss rider off to new pastures at Leopard Trek, and Saxo Bank's Flanders winner Nick Nuyens not racing this weekend, Cooke will lead the team's charge instead.
"I think there's no reason why I can't be in the top 10," he told Cyclingnews at the team presentation in Compiegne.
"I've never had an amazing day here before but I've been around the top 20 before. I've usually crashed or been sick in the build up but this year I've not had any problems at all and I think I'm ten per cent better than I've ever been before for this race," he added.
If he is to succeed in his top ten ambitions, Cooke will need to be attentive and near the front before the race hits the all-important Arenberg Forest, but his team will aim to lay their seeds of success beforehand.
"The first objective is to get through the Arenberg in one piece and that's going to be about staying relaxed in the beginning and then putting one guy in the breakaway but that's no secret and I think most teams will," Cooke said.
"But if we can get past the Arenberg and there's at least a couple of us left and then we'll just look to see how the race is going and if there's a chance to anticipate what the favourites are going to do then I can get up the...
"The time trial went so well," said a happy Klöden. "Johan Bruyneel and José Azevedo coached me so well in the following car. They had the split times of Tony Martin. I started very fast and the climb went very well for me. I could keep my good pace till the end. Perfect."
"Andreas was really motivated," explained Team Director Johan Bruyneel. "He saw the course four times, by bike and in the car. It shows his determination to win. He wanted to take the victory. Already...
Race organizer Prudhomme allows Ballan to take the start
On the eve of the 109th edition of Paris-Roubaix, the BMC Racing Team is focusing on Sunday's racing action rather than team leader Alessandro Ballan’s off-the-bike problems. Together with experienced pavé specialist George Hincapie, the Italian will lead the American cycling team when they tackle the cobbles in the sunny north of France.
The team's decision to keep former world champion Ballan in their selection due to the lack of official accusations was backed by race organizer Christian Prudhomme of the Amaury Sport Organization. “There's no official information up until now, so for us there is no problem at all with Ballan,” Prudhomme told Cyclingnews on Saturday afternoon in Compiègne.
“We're here to ride Paris-Roubaix,” team director John Lelangue stated at the team presentation in Compiègne when asked about the accusations levelled at Ballan. The latter smiled away questions about the case when he showed up with his BMC teammates at the team presentation in Compiègne, and meanwhile handed out autographs and posed for photographs with the countless fans.
“With Ballan and Hincapie we have a team with two leaders,” Lelangue said. “Hincapie always has ambitions in this race even though he crashed twice on...
Paris-Roubaix may be the Hell of the North, but it all starts a little closer to heaven, in the tranquil environs of the Chateau de Compiègne, 70km north of Paris. With 258km and 27 sectors of pavé ahead of them, however, the peloton had little mind to soak up their ambient surroundings.
As the Classics bandwagon shifts southwest out of Belgium, the size and the sheer intensity of the crowds at the start line dropped accordingly, but the French fans were still out in numbers to applaud the 197 hardy souls setting off on the cobbled pilgrimage to Roubaix.
Last year’s winner Fabian Cancellara’s Leopard Trek team bus attracted much of the attention at the start in Compiègne, and the Swiss rider naturally lines up as favourite. His defeat in the Tour of Flanders last weekend will have given a number of his rivals heart that he can indeed be defeated on his privileged terrain, however, and chief among them is the Quick Step tandem of Tom Boonen and Sylvain Chavanel. The latter received the most raucous cheers of the morning when he went to sign on, with speaker Daniel Mangeas doing his best to whip the home crowds into a frenzy.
Thor Hushovd and Garmin-Cervélo are desperate for a big result to salvage their Classics campaign, and the world champion was in a determined mood before riding to sign on in Compiègne. Although he failed to make an impact in Flanders last weekend, the Norwegian was looking forward to a race better suited to his characteristics.
Another man in search of a result is Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), as he battles internal strife in his team as well as the cobbles themselves on the road to Roubaix. Although the Italian has struggled for form in 2011 to date, he has a history of coming to life in the Hell of the North and he will be hoping his panache on the pavé is telling today.
Meanwhile, Alessandro Ballan signed on as anticipated as part of the BMC...
Team boss praises squad for delivering on big occasion
Jonathan Vaughters picked Johan Van Summeren’s win in Paris-Roubaix as his proudest moment as a team boss and praised his riders for their team effort at the finish.
Garmin-Cervelo needed a result in the final and most prestigious cobbled classic after underperforming in the Tour of Flanders and Milan San Remo. All eyes had been on World Champion Thor Hushovd who had finished second last year and American Tyler Farrar but it was Van Summeren who clinched a surprise win after he attacked the remnants of the day’s early break with 15 kilometres remaining.
“We’ve been executing right for six weeks now but we’ve not had perfect luck until now,” Vaughters said after the race.
“Everything went according to what these guys are capable of. In cycling the way it is it’s a team sport and a natural sport and the way it’s competed now you have to wait for the human body to be ready and we did it correct today, we did everything right and it worked."
“It’s a team sport and not an individual sport and today we showed that. We weren’t the strongest person, we didn’t have Cancellara, we were the strongest team and that is what this is about.”
Italian ignores accusations to ride Hell of the North
If Alessandro Ballan’s preparations for Paris-Roubaix were overshadowed by allegations of blood doping by an Italian judge, it certainly didn’t affect his performance. The BMC rider was one of the select few able to live with Fabian Cancellara’s searing acceleration on the cobbles at Mons-en-Pévèle and he eventually finished sixth in the Roubaix velodrome.
On crossing the finish line, Ballan must have known that he would face a barrage of questions, but nonetheless he stopped to speak to Italian state broadcaster RAI, and a huddle of reporters duly swarmed around him.
The first question was perhaps a loaded one, as he was asked for his thoughts on a “strange race,” but Ballan resolutely played a straight bat.
“There was never a moment to relax and unfortunately it benefited the escapees. I think I gave a great performance behind with Cancellara and Hushovd. The result didn’t reward me, I think I deserved a place on the podium, but so be it.”
That first hurdle cleared, the conversation turned to the details of the race itself. Namely, the moment after the pavé at Ennevelin, when Ballan found himself thirty seconds down on the winning break in the company of Fabian Cancellara and Thor Hushovd. With teammates...