By Gregor Brown in Compiègne
Team Agritubel does not have the most powerful of line-ups for the 2008 Paris-Roubaix, however, that does not keep Jimmy Casper from dreaming that something is possible for him and his 'mates. The 29-year-old Frenchman, a winner of a stage in the 2006 Tour de France, came off the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe a little tired, but ready to go for a top ten result in Roubaix.
"Today went okay," Casper noted to Cyclingnews after he finished his reconnaissance ride in Mérignies. "I put in two hours. My legs are feeling okay."
He had just came from the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe, where he helped his team-mate win stage one, finished in the top ten and then pulled out of stage four the same morning of our conversation.
Casper outlined his modest preparations for Sunday's 'Hell of the North': one that was heavy on sleeping. "I was a little bit tired today because I just came back from racing Circuit Cycliste Sarthe. Today and tomorrow, I will sleep."
Following some relaxation, he will head out on a quick spin Saturday afternoon. "My hotel is in Sanlies, I will ride out, around there for one hour, going slowly."
Casper is known as a sprinter and has many wins to his name. He rocketed to fame when he won a stage in the 2006 Tour de France into Strasbourg. And although he is leading the team for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, he admits the best he can hope for is a top ten in the race where he has finished 23rd and 25th.
"I am the team leader, but Agritubel does not have a big leader for Paris-Roubaix, just me, Benoît Sinner and Kevin Ista, who is a young rider and has a good feel for the pavé. We are just outsiders."
He explained that the team would look to animate the early portions of the 259.5- kilometre race while he bides his time. "Some of the team riders will attack to make the first group, whereas I will wait for the finale. My dreams are the top ten."
Even if he does not have a chancing of conquering Roubaix, he is proud to compete in one of France's top events. "Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France are two of the most important races for the French. This is my country and for me it is very important. I like Roubaix, I like the rumbling of the cobbles... It is very special for me."
His best memories of the race are of Italian Andrea Tafi's win in his national jersey. "I remember the images of Andrea Tafi and the strong Mapei team. They made a one-two-three. As a young rider, watching on television, it was incredible!"