Devolder hopeful of dry day in northern hell

Belgian pleased media storm has blown over

Quick Step’s Stijn Devolder is looking for dry conditions at Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, having never contested the event in wet conditions previously. Devolder joined his team on a reconnaissance of the Paris-Roubaix route on Friday in preparation for team-mate Tom Boonen’s bid for a third consecutive title.

"Hell was dry, and it'll be the same on Sunday but more dusty,” he predicted. “The wind directions will be very important. For now it's a headwind but that'll turn slightly into a crosswind. I'm checking the weather forecast regularly these days. I've never raced Paris-Roubaix in the rain so I hope it stays dry.

"My legs are better than last week,” he added. “Today it was important to develop good sensations on the cobbles and actually those sensations were better than last year."

The 30-year-old received a lot of criticism before the Tour of Flanders, but he answered those with a strong performance in support of Boonen. On Friday afternoon it seemed like the storm surrounding Devolder’s performance, which many felt had deteriorated after his 2009 Tour of Flanders win, had blown over.

"I hope that I can pull off a grand performance on Sunday,” he said. “I'm relaxed now after the media storm that struck me going into the Tour of Flanders; a lot was coming my way that last week. Of course I didn't enjoy that but storms always come to an end.

“Now it's time to focus on the race and I'll be riding it like I did during previous editions,” he said. “I hope to win but if that doesn't succeed my world isn't coming to an end. It's the last race of the spring Classics season, but not only for us. These races are our goals but not every year can be like the one before."

Devolder admitted the Quick Step team could end up without a major win at the spring Classics this season. Devolder kept the pressure away by pointing to other teams without results.

"I'm confident that we'll have a strong team on Sunday and we'll be giving the other teams a hard time," Devolder said. "During the finale it will be important to have many guys in front while Fabian Cancellara and his team will have to do the dirty work.

“It's possible that Cancellara will be good again and then tactics will be futile,” he added. “Anticipating his accelerations will be hard but other teams will try to do something early on. Sunday's a new race though and I will be needed for sure.”

Devolder was clearly unhappy with the new strict measure Police will enforce at the Carrefour de l'Arbre pavé section. His fan club usually sets up a beer tent on the meadows next to the famous pavé stretch, which is no longer allowed.

"The big spring Classics like the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix are national feasts, public amusement,” he said. “The images from last year at the Carrefour de l'Arbre were mythical and this year that won't happen again on such a mythical sector. Actually I don't know what went wrong. My supporters caused trouble? I wouldn't know what my supporters have to do with all this.

“I'm a bit annoyed with those ridiculous measures,” he added. “I'm convinced they'll have to reduce them during the next editions. It's too bad because it's one of the two most beautiful races of the spring season... make that the whole season."

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