It is 17 years since Frédéric Guesdon became the last Frenchman to win Paris-Roubaix, surprising an elite group including Andrei Tchmil and Johan Museeuw in the sprint on the velodrome, but home hopes are slowly blossoming once again in the Queen of the Classics.
It's not quite a record drought - France famously went a quarter of a century without a Paris-Roubaix winner between Louison Bobet in 1956 and Bernard Hinault in 198 - and the arrival of Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr) in the professional peloton has heightened expectations of a home winner before that unwanted landmark is surpassed.
After making his debut in Paris-Roubaix and impressing at the Tour of Flanders last season, Démare showed further signs of progress this spring when he landed second place at Gent-Wevelgem, although he suffered a setback when an untimely fringale saw him abandon the Tour of Flanders last week.
Speaking to reporters in Compiègne at the Paris-Roubaix team presentation on Saturday, Démare smiled when asked if he was aiming to win the race - "One day," he said - and said that he was realistic about his prospects for Sunday. Moments before, incidentally, Filippo Pozzato had come through the mixed zone and tipped Démare as an outsider for the podium, describing him as "maybe the biggest talent out there in the peloton."
"My goal is to gain experience and stay in contact as best I can and for as long as possible with the strongest riders, people like Cancellara and Boonen," Démare said. "I'll fight to stay up there for as long as I can."
A native of Beauvais, not far from the start of Paris-Roubaix, Démare also has close ties with the finale. He raced as an amateur for Team Wasquehal and CC-Nogent-sur-Oise and...
Early in the race, Vansummeren rode into a traffic island and smashed into a 65-year-old woman. The woman is still in critical condition in a hospital in Kortrijk but her situation is said to be stable. Vansummeren was in contact with the family of the woman and they urged him to race Paris-Roubaix.
At the team presentation on Saturday afternoon, Vansummeren said he looked forward to race again although he was reaching in the dark regarding his form.
"I've trained for months so I think I'm physically ready for it. I hope it'll be alright with the peloton. I'm actually looking forward to the race," Vansummeren said.
Back in 2011, the tall Belgian surprisingly won Paris-Roubaix and two days ago he decided to take the start despite all the thoughts he had on his mind. "It's hard. But I'm better off on the bike then staying at home behind closed doors. It's a way to forget what happened. I'm staying in contact on the phone," said the 33-year-old Belgian.
On Thursday he did a reconnaissance of the cobbles, riding 95 kilometres until the Carrefour de l'Arbre and that brought some sort of relief. The injured woman's husband said he wanted Vansummeren to race in the Queen of Classics and to win it again as a tribute to his wife.
"Of course I want to win it badly. That's what I have been training for all winter. I'm in good shape and ,in any case I'm planning to ride a solid race, to stay with the best and see what happens. Nothing's guaranteed on Paris-Roubaix but I believe it's possible," the Garmin Sharp rider said.
In the Garmin-Sharp team, Vansummeren will be flanked...
In an internal correspondence to Cycling Australia (CA) staff and board members, interim CEO Adrian Anderson addressed his first five months in the role and announced that he is has "agreed to a final contract extension through until 9 May" in an effort to complete key tasks set in motion until a permanent CEO can be recruited.
Anderson, a former AFL administrator, took over the interim role in November, after replacing CEO Graham Fredericks, who held the role for 18 years, in what would serve as CA president Gerry Ryan's first move after Ryan himself replaced Klaus Mueller.
CA has been under fire as of late with serious financial struggles and governance issues, and the appointment of Anderson was to stop the bleeding and serve as an immediate measure to improve the organisation's dire situation, which has been attributed to a failed three-year Commercial Joint Venture (CJV) with Grass Roots started in 2010.
These losses have been added to the annual overspends since 2010, and Anderson writes that CA will continue to "work closely with the ASC on the financial support CA requires to see through this difficult period" and he commends his staff for their hard work and patience during these trying times.
"The significant progress we have made in governance and financial reform in this short time would not have been possible without the continued efforts of our hard working staff across all departments," he told his staff.
The CJV has been dissolved, and over the past five months since CA has enjoyed a savings in excess of $1 million within the events department.
Another key point that Anderson has addressed is the formation of a board member nominations committee including Peter Bartels AO,...
Travis Meyer was hit by a vehicle while training in Andorra on Saturday. The Drapac Cycling rider suffered multiple injuries including a fractured skull, broken jaw and arm. He also bruised his lung. Meyer was transported to Barcelona after the accident.
The 24-year old lives in Girona. He was set to race the Tour of Turkey which starts two weeks from today, on the 27th of April.
Meyer made his debut as a professional with Team Garmin in 2010, aged 20. After two years with the American he rode two years with Orica-Greenedge. This season marks his debut with Drapac Professional Cycling. The 2010 Australian champion was ambitious ahead of his first season with the Professional Continental team. However he has only raced the Tour Down Under, Australian and Oceania Championships this year.
Norwegian wants to show he still has killer instinct
Edvald Boasson Hagen will take the lead at team Sky for this weekend’s Paris-Roubaix. It will be the first time he’s taken leadership of the team at the third monument of the season.
The Spring Classics have been quietly consistent for Boasson Hagen, with a podium placing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and some solid performances in between. He put in a strong showing at the Tour of Flanders where he was the team’s second best finisher. The Norwegian’s results at Roubaix haven’t been the best, but he thinks that this year can be different for him.
“It’s not been the best before, but I’ve been feeling stronger every year and I think that I will go better this year,” he said ahead of the race at the team’s Kortrijk. “I think I have them. I felt strong last Sunday and we also have a really good team. We have to play our cards right I think and get the best out of it. It’s nice to the opportunity to be the leader for Sunday. It’s my biggest goal so far this season and I look forward to it.”
This will be Boasson Hagen’s fourth attempt at Paris-Roubaix. Boasson Hagen has never made it into the top 20, with his best result a meagre 42nd in 2012. With Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins setting the race down as a clear target, he is a surprise choice as leader. Sky also has another potential contender in Geraint Thomas, who finished eighth in last week’s Tour of Flanders.
“We all have the legs and it’s up to the sports directeurs,” said Boasson Hagen. “We still have to make the front and we’re all on a really good level. On paper it is different to what might happen in the race it’s just important one guy as a leader and then see what happens in the race. It’s not like we’re locked into any position although it is important to have clear roles.”
Punctured lung and broken ribs means he is unlikely to ride the Giro d'Italia
Chris Horner has been transferred to the chest surgery unit of the Lecco hospital in Italy as he continues to recover from injuries incurred on Friday.
The American was admitted to the Italian hospital after a training accident at Lake Como. He is expected to remain in hospital for four to five days to undergo lung drainage and treatment on his injuries. According to the medical staff and his Lampre-Merida team he makes good progress. The Lampre-Merida team published a photo of Horner in hospital, showing him with bandages on his head.
The exact circumstances of the accident involving Horner are still unclear but Lampre-Merida said the Vuelta Espana winner was probably hit by a car. He suffered a punctured lung, four broken ribs and needed stitches to a head wound.
Gazzetta dello Sport has speculated that Horner will miss the Giro d'Italia. It seems unlikely the veteran American can recover and be on form in time for the start of the Italian Grand Tour on May 9 in Belfast. Flying after a punctured lung is not advised for several months and Horner is unlikely to be able to train for some time. However the Lampre-Merida team has yet to make a formal decision on Horner's race programme. He could turn his focus to the Tour de France or save his form for the defence of his Vuelta victory.
In 2013 Horner abandoned the Volta a Catalunya and injury kept him away from racing until August. He returned at the Tour of Utah where he finished second and then went on to win the Vuelta a España.
The cobbled classics end today with Paris-Roubaix, the third monument of the season. It was a cloudy start to the day and the riders came to sign-on dressed in their warmer clothing. To the delight of most, however, it was dry and it’s expected to get warmer throughout the day.
There were plenty of fans packed into the small Place du Général de Gaulle, as the riders filed through to the main stage. Fresh from his recent Tour of Flanders victory, Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) is the favourite to do the double this year. However, there are a number of strong riders who are looking to stop him from doing just that.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep has fielded yet another impressive team. They want to put the disappointment of failing to podium at Flanders behind them and get someone onto the top step. Four-time winner of the race Tom Boonen isn’t in top form, but he is flanked by Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar at the head of the team.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is only riding his third Paris-Roubaix. He was upset to not feature on the podium last week and is hoping to rectify that, but his inexperience could hamper him. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) is also returning to the race with ambitions for the podium.
The dry weather could make for a very dusty and fast race, and the anticipated slight headwind could also be a factor.
Paris-Roubaix is one of the monuments of cycling. Founded in 1896 it's a gruelling race where the cobbled country roads between the mining towns of the north of France make the difference. Seen as a sign of poverty compared to smooth asphalt roads, many of them were dug up. Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix changed that and now works to protect and repair the cobbled roads.
inCycle travelled to the Hell of the North to meet up with 'cobbles keeper' Francis Doulcier, president of Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix. The organization, founded in 1983 has over 200 volunteers taking care of the 'secteurs pavés,'
"Our goals are to preserve cobbles sectors for Paris-Roubaix and to fix them. And the second goal is to promote Paris-Roubaix' image," he says.
In its 112th edition the history of the race weighs on the shoulders of the 199 riders that make up the 2014 peloton. Though the race starts in Compiègne, the place where the peace agreement was signed that ended the First World War, Paris-Roubaix remains the name of the iconic race that you either hate or love.
Get to know the cobbles in this latest inCycle video.
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