Danish Team CSC and its defending champion Fabian Cancellara are all set for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, the "Queen of the Classics," "Hell of the North", "La Pascale" or whatever nickname you may choose to describe it. No doubt, Paris-Roubaix is a much loved race by many cycling fans, who have looked forward to it for months, but also a race which the riders either love or hate. Only the World Championships can probably compete with it as the greatest one-day race in the entire calendar.
Team CSC has very proud traditions in the race - the biggest victory being last year, when Fabian Cancellara left everyone behind with a margin of almost two minutes. But the tradition dates further back than that: The team has had a rider in the top-five for the last five years. In 2005 Lars Michaelsen was fifth, Tristan Hoffman took the second place in 2004, Andrea Tafi was fifth in 2003 and back in 2002 Hoffmann was fourth and Michaelsen fifth. The stakes are thus high for the team.
"There's a great atmosphere on the team," said sports director Scott Sunderland. "The morale is high and everyone has done a great job so far - not just the riders, but also the mechanics and our soigneurs, who are working practically day and night to make sure everything is ready for this race. We know we have the very best staff and equipment possible and all the riders are in absolute top form, so all we need now is the right amount of luck, which you always need in Paris-Roubaix. So I'm confident of a great result for our team."
The squad has been training on the new cobblestone section from Beuvry-la-Forêt to Orchies, which is about 60 kilometres before the finish. "It's actually quite a brutal part of the route, so it might turn out to be pretty crucial," explained Sunderland, who was a bit put off by the fact that summer has chosen this particular week to arrive in Northern Europe, because it does not provide the conditions for the riders which he had hoped for.
"The weather forecast says between 20 and 26 degrees on Sunday - sunny, not a cloud in sight and absolutely no wind either. We have a lot of riders who would like for this race to be as tough as possible, and it won't be under these circumstances. It will be easier for riders to keep up with the main peloton like we saw in Ronde van Vlaanderen last week. At the same time it changes our preparations for the race as well, because we'll need a lot more water, which can sometimes be hard to get to the riders," he continued. "It will probably turn out to be quite a tactical race, but it should still be well worth watching and tough enough to get excited about!"