By Susan Westemeyer
Three Austrians will tackle the "Hell of the North" Sunday, each of them with a different team: Bernhard Eisel, T-Mobile; Rene Haselbacher, Astana; and Paco Wrolich, Gerolsteiner. The three sprinters have different goals, ranging from winning to simply finishing.
Eisel finished fifth in the race last year. "I am convinced that my T-Mobile team is the team to beat," he said confidently, noting that the squad will also feature the first and second place finishers from Gent-Wevelgem, Marcus Burghardt and Roger Hammond. And there's another reason the winner will come from his team, he said. "We have the best support staff. With Brian Holm, who was sixth in Roubaix, and the former second place finisher Tristan Hoffman,we have top people in our team car."
Astana's Rene Haselbacher is starting the race for the fourth time, and hopes to finally reach the Roubaix velodrome for the first time. "The conditions weren't optimal at my other starts, I was usually sick. Two weeks ago I was sick in bed, but now my form is better. I'm not at all one of the favourites. It is my goal to go into the first cobblestones with the leading group and to stay forward as long as possible. And naturally, by my fourth start I want to see the goal!"
Like the others, Peter Wrolich and his team-mates have ridden the most important passages this week. He is not happy with the weather forecast for Sunday, though. "Sunday it should be 25° or warmer. That is not exactly my wish for Roubaix. I would rather have it slick and wet. The reason is that I prefer a technically challenging Paris-Roubaix." As to what he expects to do, the Gerolsteiner rider said, "I have always ridden well in Roubaix, but never very well. My form is not bad, but Roubaix also requires a lot of luck. If I can stay free from mechanicals, then a good result is possible."