By Daniel Benson
Bernhard Eisel is going into Sunday's Paris-Roubaix with one aim: to propel George Hincapie to the top of the podium. Eisel, 28, has been an integral part of Bob Stapleton's Columbia-Highroad team during the past two seasons, figuring in the Grand Tours for Kim Kirchen and sprints for Mark Cavendish.
"Marcus Burghardt, my roommate, is in great form but George is going really well and it would be great to see him reach the top of the podium near the end of his career," Eisel told Cyclingnews from the team's base in Gent.
The former Reading Classic winner has competed in every Roubaix since his debut in 2003 and admits the event has a special place in his heart. "I have loved this race ever since I rode my first edition back in 2003. Along with the Tour of Flanders it's my favourite, and all my winter preparation is based around these two races," he said. Unfortunately Eisel crashed in Flanders earlier in the week and despite starting Gent-Wevelgem, he is still suffering the effects with a bruised shoulder.
Despite working for the team, the Austrian didn't rule out his ambition to one day win Roubaix. "The good thing about Roubaix is you never know what can happen. If the weather changes or if you're in a break, then you always have a chance. Luck plays a big part. But this year I hope I can play a role at the end by being up there with the boys."
On Thursday the Columbia team rode reconnaissance over the cobbled sections of the route with experienced Roubaix veterans, Eisel and Hincapie, pointing out how to ride the most important sections of cobbles. "Every sector will be interesting, and if it rains will be really dangerous. We rode from the Arenberg to the second-last section of the pavé but Marcus and Edvald did a little bit less after their efforts in Gent-Wevelgem."
As for Edvald Boasson Hagen, Eisel had nothing put praise to add. "He's a phenomenon, just like Cavendish and he could be our joker in the pack on Sunday. He's young but he's ready for this race and overall the team is in good shape."