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Paris-Roubaix News, April 11, 2009

Date published:
April 11, 2009, 1:00 BST
  • Eisel's aim: help Hincapie win Roubaix

    Eisel will ride in support of Hincapie
    Article published:
    April 11, 2009, 0:00 BST
    Daniel Benson

    By Daniel Benson Bernhard Eisel is going into Sunday's Paris-Roubaix with one aim: to propel George...

    By Daniel Benson

    Bernhard Eisel is going into Sunday's Paris-Roubaix with one aim: to propel George Hincapie to the top of the podium. Eisel, 28, has been an integral part of Bob Stapleton's Columbia-Highroad team during the past two seasons, figuring in the Grand Tours for Kim Kirchen and sprints for Mark Cavendish.

    "Marcus Burghardt, my roommate, is in great form but George is going really well and it would be great to see him reach the top of the podium near the end of his career," Eisel told Cyclingnews from the team's base in Gent.

    The former Reading Classic winner has competed in every Roubaix since his debut in 2003 and admits the event has a special place in his heart. "I have loved this race ever since I rode my first edition back in 2003. Along with the Tour of Flanders it's my favourite, and all my winter preparation is based around these two races," he said. Unfortunately Eisel crashed in Flanders earlier in the week and despite starting Gent-Wevelgem, he is still suffering the effects with a bruised shoulder.

    Despite working for the team, the Austrian didn't rule out his ambition to one day win Roubaix. "The good thing about Roubaix is you never know what can happen. If the weather changes or if you're in a break, then you always have a chance. Luck plays a big part. But this year I hope I can play a role at the end by being up there with the boys."

    On Thursday the Columbia team rode reconnaissance over the cobbled sections of the route with experienced Roubaix veterans, Eisel and Hincapie, pointing out how to ride the most important sections of cobbles. "Every sector will be interesting, and if it rains will be really dangerous. We rode from the Arenberg to the second-last section of the pavé but Marcus and Edvald did a little bit less after their efforts in Gent-Wevelgem."

    As for Edvald Boasson Hagen, Eisel had nothing put praise to add. "He's a phenomenon, just like...

  • Backstedt rates Roubaix favorites

    Boasson Hagen's Gent-Wevelgem win impressed Backstedt
    Article published:
    April 11, 2009, 0:00 BST
    Daniel Benson

    By Daniel Benson Magnus Backstedt may have retired from elite competition but the 2004 Paris-Roubaix...

    By Daniel Benson

    Magnus Backstedt may have retired from elite competition but the 2004 Paris-Roubaix winner has kept a close eye on the pros. On the eve of the race he took time out to talk favourites and parcours with Cyclingnews.

    "This is the most open race in years," he said. "I think we could have a surprise winner at the end of the race. You just have to look at the racing this year, it's been very, very open and watching and commentating has been absolutely spectacular."

    The Swede, a former Garmin-Slipstream rider, competed in seven editions of the race. He believes that after their domination at Flanders, Boonen's Quick Step team has the potential tools to dominate. "Quick Step has always raced strongly at this time of year and they'll continue that in Roubaix. They'll have strength in numbers and Roubaix is one of those races where that counts, so if a big star gets caught out they have a second hand to play. However, this is a much harder race to control. If you look at Columbia, with Boasson Hagen and George Hincapie, they have a strong team too."

    Boasson Hagen's breakthrough win in Gent-Wevelgem caught Backstedt's eye in particular. "Edvald was so strong so he could have another really good ride. Cervélo look like they're starting to tire but they keep pulling it out of the bag every time they race."

    However, Backstedt thought that one particular rider might not have the legs for Sunday's race. "I'm not sure about Cancellara as it's difficult to tell how good he is. Don't count him out, though. He'll have prepared for this race and he's the type of rider who can perform on any given day. I just worry whether he's got the miles in his legs."

    During his final season as professional Backstedt witnessed Martijn Maaskant's development first hand and the pair rode together in...

  • Hayman ready to give all for Flecha

    Mathew Hayman (Rabobank)
    Article published:
    April 11, 2009, 0:00 BST
    Daniel Benson

    By Daniel Benson After finishing fourth in Gent-Wevelgem , Rabobank's Mathew Hayman is ready to...

    By Daniel Benson

    After finishing fourth in Gent-Wevelgem, Rabobank's Mathew Hayman is ready to support Juan Antonio Flecha in Paris-Roubaix this Sunday. The Australian, and five-time Roubaix finisher, has worked for Rolf Sørensen, Leon van Bon, Marc Wauters and Flecha since turning professional with Rabobank, and on the eve of his sixth start, he is ready to sacrifice his own chances for those of his team leader.

    "I was pleased with how Gent-Wevelgem went. We had four riders in the mix and it was a testament to how we've been riding in the Classics so far. The team has been one of the most aggressive this season. We had fewer riders than Cervélo and we were looking good until had bad luck stuck," Hayman told Cyclingnews.

    Both Hayman and teammate Graeme Brown were in the lead group but crashed, with Hayman forced to chase and Brown taken to the hospital. Hayman put the episode down to the bad luck that has plagued the team this spring: "Everyone has their own story of bad luck in races; where they crashed and where they punctured but we seem to flat or fall at just the wrong times. Hopefully that will change this weekend and we can get the result our riding deserves."

    Hayman, who will ride reconnaissance on Friday, is ready to serve Flecha, who has finished second and fourth in Roubaix. "We have a pretty tight team and spent a lot of time together but with so many races it's like going into battle each day. We're ready for one last charge, though."

    According to Hayman, Flecha is different to any team captain he has ridden for in that the Spaniard rides on pure emotion. "He did an unbelievable ride at Flanders and not many people will have seen that," Hayman said. "He crashed on the descent of the Koppenberg and chased for ages before getting back into the action. That took real character."

    The Rabobank team was created in 1996 and...

  • Pozzato: "I am here to win"

    Pozzato hopes to repeat this gesture on the Roubaix velodrome.
    Article published:
    April 11, 2009, 0:00 BST
    Gregor Brown in Gruson, France

    By Gregor Brown in Gruson, France Filippo Pozzato heads into Paris-Roubaix this Sunday with only one...

    By Gregor Brown in Gruson, France

    Filippo Pozzato heads into Paris-Roubaix this Sunday with only one goal in mind: "to win". Katusha's charismatic Italian has to beat old teammate and the defending champion Tom Boonen, who he intends to control all the way to the velodrome in Roubaix.

    "If you have the strongest rider out there it is normal that the others use him as a reference point," said Pozzato. "I raced this way at Flanders because I did not feel super. Boonen is the favourite for Sunday so it is clear that everyone will watch him and keep him in check."

    Pozzato attacked several times in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen, but always found himself out-numbered by Boonen's Quick Step team. Once Devolder attacked on the Eikenmolen to join teammate Sylvain Chavanel, Pozzato had to re-group with teammate Serguei Ivanov and mark Boonen.

    One week on, Pozzato is preparing for northern France's Paris-Roubaix. The race, 259 kilometres in length, takes in many of the old cobbled roads that used to be the main pathways for French farmers.

    Pozzato expects that Quick Step will send Chavanel in an early escape, but that he will mark Boonen and Ronde winner Devolder. However, his E3 Prijs win and Sunday's performance gives him the confidence to overcome the Belgian team and his other rivals.

    "You have to give the race respect. If the course is dry then the rider with the legs will be the one who wins and not someone who just draws the lucky card. This is the best for everyone."

    Bookies give 'Pippo' Pozzato 1:12 odds to win, the same as Swiss Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank). Boonen has the best odds, 1:3.5, and Devolder has 1:7.

    "Definitely, I can do something there. I know [Juan Antonio] Flecha is going very well: in Flanders he flatted and bridged back, he crashed and bridged back, and then he attacks in...

  • Boonen heads Quick Step trident

    Tom Boonen is confident he's on peak form for Sunday
    Article published:
    April 11, 2009, 0:00 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé in Kortrijk, Belgium

    By Brecht Decaluwé in Kortrijk, Belgium Coming into this year's Paris-Roubaix it seems as if the...

    By Brecht Decaluwé in Kortrijk, Belgium

    Coming into this year's Paris-Roubaix it seems as if the Belgian Quick Step team will be the team to beat on Sunday. One of the team's protected riders is Tom Boonen. After a disappointing Ronde van Vlaanderen in which Filippo Pozzato covered every move from the Belgian star, Boonen is now keen on making up for that shadow fight on the cobbles of Roubaix. Being a specialist in one-day races and having few chances for a big win, Tommeke bears the burden of pressure over the pavé.

    "I'm always under pressure so that won't be a difference," Boonen said, showing confidence after the team's reconnaissance ride in northern France on Friday. "With the sensations I have I know what I'm capable of," Boonen stated. "The last few weeks, and even the last few days, my form has continued to improve; I peaked to perfection. During the Ronde I wasn't able to drop Pozzato, which normally shouldn't be a problem."

    Knowing that the form of the 28-year-old Belgian, who was a top favorite ahead of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, is still improving, he remains in that position for Paris-Roubaix. "This race suits me even better than Flanders. Cavendish says I'm getting old," said Tom Boonen. "With my body it's easier nowadays as the selection over the cobbles is made early on. If you look around you with forty kilometers to go there's only about 15 riders left. It's an honest race; if you're good in Paris-Roubaix then 9/10 times you're in front," Boonen said.

    When asked about his race plan, Boonen said he didn't have one going into the 'hell' Classic. "I had a plan in Flanders and that didn't work out too well," Boonen said, referring to the shadow game with Filippo Pozzato. "I'm not the type of rider who focuses on other riders during a race; there's not much chance of luck with such a tactic," Boonen said.

    Having his party spoiled the way it...