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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, April 8, 2012

Date published:
April 08, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • Chavanel ready to seize opportunity at Paris-Roubaix

    Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma - QuickStep) was one of Boonen's strongest teammates
    Article published:
    April 07, 2012, 21:00 BST
    By:
    Barry Ryan

    French champion perfect foil to favourite Boonen

    Riders will be attracted to Tom Boonen's rear wheel like moths to light on Sunday afternoon, but his Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammate Sylvain Chavanel is among those who could benefit from a tactical stalemate in the finale of Paris-Roubaix.

    Chavanel played a key role in aiding Boonen during his Tour of Flanders triumph last weekend after helping himself to victory at the Three Days of De Panne in the week leading up to the race. While Chavanel stressed that Boonen will be the outright leader again on Sunday, he admitted that he would gratefully seize any opportunity that arises.

    "The circumstances of the race will decide, although I think Tom is really the strongest at the moment," Chavanel told reporters in Compiègne on Saturday. "But if I end up profiting from certain situations during the race then I wouldn't hesitate for a second to think about myself."

    With no Fabian Cancellara to deflect any of the attention, Boonen is sure to be heavily marked as he sets off in pursuit of a record-equalling fourth Paris-Roubaix victory, but Chavanel admitted that he is hardly likely to be given a free rein himself. Since his victory at Dwars Door Vlaanderen during his final season at Cofidis in 2008, the Frenchman has evolved into a rider of some distinction on the cobbles and he enters Paris-Roubaix as one of just a handful of potential winners.

    "Being the big favourite is always a handicap because you're always going to be marked," Chavanel said of Boonen. "Me, I'm among the outsiders, but I know that I'll be marked a bit...

  • Pozzato not afraid of sprint rematch with Boonen

    Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia)
    Article published:
    April 07, 2012, 22:00 BST
    By:
    Barry Ryan

    "Boonen is not superman"

    Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) is bullish about his chances of beating Tom Boonen in a sprint on the velodrome at the end of Paris-Roubaix in spite of his defeat at the hands of the Belgian at the Tour of Flanders last weekend.

    Part of the decisive three-man break at De Ronde with Boonen and Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Pozzato opted to play his hand in the sprint rather than attack Boonen on the run-in to Oudenaarde, a tactic questioned afterwards by Ballan. Speaking to reporters at the Paris-Roubaix team presentation in Compiègne on Saturday, Pozzato rejected his fellow Italian's criticism, pointing out that he had already beaten Boonen in a three-up sprint at the end of E3 Harelbeke in 2009.

    "I ride my race, I don't listen to what Ballan says. I think I was right to do what I did," Pozzato said. "I've come to the finish like that with Tom twice. The first time I beat him, the second time he won, so the record is 50-50. He hasn't always won, so it's not like he scares me in the sprint. Technically he's faster and more explosive than me, but it's not impossible to beat him."

    Slowly moving through the mixed zone, his eyes hidden behind designer shades, Pozzato was almost mantra-like in repeating his conviction that Boonen is indeed vulnerable. Reporter after reporter, question after question, Pozzato politely outlined his belief that he can end Boonen's recent string of success, which includes victories at E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders.

    "Tom is certainly the number one favourite but he's not superman. He's not unbeatable," Pozzato said of his former teammate. "Of...

  • Flecha hopes for upper hand ahead of Roubaix

    Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky)
    Article published:
    April 07, 2012, 22:56 BST
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Sky leader with form ahead of race

    Five weeks after breaking his hand in a collision with a car during a training ride, Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) returned to competition at the Tour of Flanders. The Spaniard immediately managed to be competitive by finishing in the group that sprinted for fourth place. One week later he’s heading into Paris-Roubaix as one of the outsiders to beat top favorite Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quick Step).

    On Saturday afternoon Flecha joined his teammates at the team presentation in front of the château of Compiègne where the start of the legendary race will be held on Sunday morning. The Spaniard didn’t have high expectations as he pointed out that he was more than satisfied just to be able to start the race.

    “My hand is going better. Every day it’s improving but it still hurts a lot when I pull on the handlebars. I noticed that I’m less in pain when I lower the position of my hand. Anyway, it’s only five weeks since I sustained the injury which is quite recent and it’s certainly not 100 per cent,” Flecha said.

    While Flecha was sidelined the rest of the pavé specialists battled out several races.

    Two weeks ago, while Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma - Quick Step) won Dwars door Vlaanderen, Flecha left his home near Barcelona for the first time to ride his bike on the roads. “Every unevenness in the road made me shout out the pain so I quickly returned to the rollers,” Flecha told Het Nieuwsblad. “I was pleasantly surprised with my Ronde performance but it was bloody hard. Especially the first hours and when hitting the first pavé, it hurt a lot.”

    Though extremely demanding the course in Paris-Roubaix might favor Flecha as the long pavé sections are more of a long effort than short stints up a cobbled climb like the Tour of Flanders often features.

    “To me Boonen is the big favorite. At the same time...

  • Vanmarcke a joker in the Garmin-Barracuda team

    Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) wins the sprint over Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
    Article published:
    April 08, 2012, 6:55 BST
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Throat problems leave Belgian pavé talent in doubts

    The Garmin-Barracuda team dives into Paris-Roubaix with two Belgians as their protected men. Last year's winner Johan Vansummeren and Sep Vanmarcke are the riders who're up for a difficult task as they'll face stiff opposition from in-form Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quick Step) who's been dominating the pavé classics during the last few weeks. Vansummeren is the clear team leader while Vanmarcke will be the joker of the team, as it's unclear if he'll recover in time from his throat problems.

    On Saturday afternoon Vanmarcke talked with Cyclingnews at the team presentation in Compiègne. The 23-year-old said that his teammate and compatriot Vansummeren had a good chance to repeat his win from last year. "He's super and manages to keep his cool. He deals well with the pressure even though he is much-asked nowadays. During the training on Wednesday he was going real quick over the cobbles. I think he can win it a second time," Vanmarcke said.

    "Let there be no doubt about it that Johan is the sole leader. My build-up has been disturbed due to a sore throat; it was something between a cold and the flu."

    The protected role for Vanmarcke might seem strange as he's still only 23 year old, but a glance at his record makes it becomes obvious that Vanmarcke is a huge talent for the pavé classics. Back in 2010, in his first year amongst the pros, Vanmarcke already finished as runner-up in Gent-Wevelgem.

    Last year Vanmarcke debuted in Paris-Roubaix and quickly it showed that he was capable of riding the cobbles like the best. He worked hard to get into the early breakaway but failed, then started...

  • Knaven looks for Sky to podium in Paris-Roubaix

    A focused Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
    Article published:
    April 08, 2012, 7:38 BST
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Boasson Hagen and Flecha can challenge for podium

    Team Sky's Servais Knaven is hopeful that Juan Antonio Flecha and Edvald Boasson Hagen can challenge for the Paris-Roubaix podium and end the British team's cobbled classics campaign on a high.

    Knaven's contingent started with a bang in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne in February, with Mark Cavendish taking the win. Bernhard Eisel went on to take third in Gent-Wevelgem but the team were shut out at the Tour of Flanders last weekend.

    Roubaix offers the British team another opportunity and with Boasson Hagen confident and Flecha in surprisingly strong form despite a five-week injury lay-off, Knaven is hoping the team can rise for one last challenge before turning their attention to the Ardennes.

    "We have a strong team," he told Cyclingnews.

    "Of course Edvald and Flecha will get the most support but we have other riders who can be in the front."

    "We are very happy with Flecha's form. Everybody was a bit surprised, even Flecha himself. He'd been training well but he'd missed racing. He was better than we'd all hoped for so let's hope he's a bit better tomorrow and that he's there tomorrow."

    Knaven only became a team director at the start of 2011, having had a long career as a professional rider that included 16 starts and finishes in Roubaix. His last Roubaix came in 2010 but his most memorable was in 2001, when he soloed to the win after a late attack. During the late 90s and early 2000s he formed part of Patrick Lefevere's formidable line-up that included Johan Museeuw, Andrea Tafi and Wilfried Peters.

    This weekend Knaven goes up against his old Mapei/Domo boss but the Dutchman knows that QuickStep aren't the only...

  • Lotto Belisol interested in Vanmarcke for 2013

    Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda)
    Article published:
    April 08, 2012, 8:08 BST
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Belgian team “needs a guy like him” for the Classics

    Lotto Belisol team principal Marc Sergeant has opened the door for Sep Vanmarcke joining his team, telling Cyclingnews that the 23-year-old could be their number one transfer target and that, “we need a guy like him."

    Vanmarcke's current contract expires at the end of this season and after a superb win in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad he will have a number of teams enquiring about his services for 2013 and beyond.

    "He's free. We'd be interested in him for next year. I don't know about the money though. We'd have to see what he wants first but I think Garmin want to keep him as well," Sergeant told Cyclingnews the day before Paris-Roubaix.

    An additional hurdle to Garmin's resilience may be Vanmarcke's desire to keep away from Belgian teams. At the start of the year he told Cyclingnews that he preferred the more relaxed environment of the American squad, where the constant gaze of the Belgian media was somewhat deflected.

    Lotto certainly needs a leader for the cobbled Classics. Their superb start to the season has been curtailed in recent weeks and while the loss of Philippe Gilbert to BMC has of course been a factor, the team failed to sign a replacement in the off-season. Lars Bak has been ruled out with injury and missed the last few weeks of racing, while Andre Greipel has lost his form and perhaps some confidence since his blistering start to the year.

    According to Sergeant the team could have kept Gilbert from joining BMC but that the biggest factor was down to...

  • Startline Gallery: Paris-Roubaix

    Frédéric Guesdon (FDJ) in his last ever race
    Article published:
    April 08, 2012, 11:58 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Classic start in Compiegne

    Crisp blue skies greeted the peloton at the start of the 110th edition of Paris-Roubaix. Ahead of the field, 257.5km, 27 sectors of cobbles, and the famous velodrome finish.

    The Hell of the North is the final cobbled classic of the spring and the air was thick with anticipation and excitement in Compeigne this morning. Defending champion Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Barracuda) signed on mid-way through the startline process but the biggest cheers were for two other riders.

    Tom Boonen is the outright favourite for his 4th win in the race and will be hoping to make it a Flanders-Roubaix double for the second time in his career.

    But Frederic Guesdon was greeted with the most applause, from fans and press alike. The veteran FDJ rider won the race in 1997 and this will be his final race in a long and distinguished career. His teammates and even his boss Marc Madiot sported ‘Merci Fred’ t-shirts in a sign of thanks and although Guesdon is no longer considered a favourite for Roubaix he has etched his mark on the race’s illustrious history.

  • Phinney pleased with debut Paris-Roubaix performance

    Taylor Phinney (BMC) will ride his first Paris-Roubaix this weekend
    Article published:
    April 08, 2012, 17:45 BST
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    American helped Ballan to podium finish

    Taylor Phinney (BMC) achieved the two aims he set out on in his first Paris-Roubaix, helping his team secure a podium place for Alessandro Ballan and finishing the race in 15th place.

    "I had really good legs today. I had no mishaps and no crashes and no flats. It was the perfect combination," Phinney told Cyclingnews.

    Phinney hardly rode his own race. With around 100 kilometres to go he was at the front of the bunch setting the pace for his team, leading them and the peloton into several sectors of cobbles.

    "I did a lot of work for the guys. I tried really hard to get in the break, missed that and then helped out on the front going into some big sections like the Arenberg."

    Twice a winner of the U23 version of the race, Phinney was selected by BMC despite missing out on a place in their Flanders team the week before. Paris-Roubaix is a race that suits his skill-set more than the bergs of Flanders.

    "Every time I was on the cobbles I felt at home in a sick and twisted way, and if I was too far back I would just move up. Even in the Arenberg I went into it in 30th wheel but then moved up to the front and then gave it a go. With 80 kilometres to go I was already having cramps but the team made sure I was eating and drinking.

    "I'm really happy with the finish I had, with the amount of work that I did. I know Ballan would have liked better than third but he's been so consistent throughout the whole Classics season so far. It's amazing. He's one of the best teammates and I love working for him."

    Phinney has made no secret of his passion for Paris-Roubaix. While there remains a sizeable gap between his ride and that of the present day contenders, he...