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Baden Cooke leads Thor Hushovd
Aussie Saxo Bank leader hoping for amazing day in Paris-Roubaix
The experienced Australian is more akin to working for others in the Classics and was a key part of Saxo Bank's win last year in both Flanders and Roubaix with Fabian Cancellara. However with the Swiss rider off to new pastures at Leopard Trek, and Saxo Bank's Flanders winner Nick Nuyens not racing this weekend, Cooke will lead the team's charge instead.
"I think there's no reason why I can't be in the top 10," he told Cyclingnews at the team presentation in Compiegne.
"I've never had an amazing day here before but I've been around the top 20 before. I've usually crashed or been sick in the build up but this year I've not had any problems at all and I think I'm ten per cent better than I've ever been before for this race," he added.
If he is to succeed in his top ten ambitions, Cooke will need to be attentive and near the front before the race hits the all-important Arenberg Forest, but his team will aim to lay their seeds of success beforehand.
"The first objective is to get through the Arenberg in one piece and that's going to be about staying relaxed in the beginning and then putting one guy in the breakaway but that's no secret and I think most teams will," Cooke said.
"But if we can get past the Arenberg and there's at least a couple of us left and then we'll just look to see how the race is going and if there's a chance to anticipate what the favourites are going to do then I can get up the road before that."
Saxo Bank stole the show in last weekend's Tour of Flanders with Nick Nuyens taking the win ahead of the much fancied Cancellara. It was a victory founded on brains over brawn and Cooke knows that while he will need to race in a similar fashion.
"I'm going to be as smart as possible but I can't see it all coming back together like it did in Flanders, there's not that big section where there's nothing there and once it goes after the Arenberg when it splits and five or so guys go that's going to be it. I have to be more aggressive than perhaps Nick was in Flanders."