Juan Antonio Flecha knows he will have to beat Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara if he wants to win Pais-Roubaix on Sunday, yet the experienced Spaniard refuse to be overawed by his rivals and is ready for any race scenario on the cobbles on Sunday.
Flecha is always on form for the Spring Classics and especially Roubaix. He finished second in 2007, sixth last year and has other top five placings.
"I can remember every Roubaix I've ridden. I remember my first one and second one when I was in the front and from there all the big results started to come," the Team Sky rider said before going for a final training ride in Belgium and traveling to Compiègne on Friday.
"I think I love this race for the same reason as many other riders. It's because they're epical. There's a lot of adversity during the race. It defines me and all the 200 riders who will be on the start line on Sunday."
Flecha is considered one of the big favourites for Paris-Roubaix and will be absolute team leader at Team Sky after Edvald Boasson Hagen was sidelined by an Achilles heel injury. He was not quite as strong as Boonen and Cancellara in the Tour of Flanders and would struggle against Boonen in a sprint. Yet he rightly refuses the idea he cannot beat then both in any race scenario and his victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad backs up his claim.
"I rode perfect at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and it could happen again on Sunday. Why not? But it’s going to be about many factors, not only being strong," he said.
"I'm not going to think about the ways I can't win this race otherwise it'd be better if I don't even start the race. If there is only one way I can win that's wrong. At the start everyone has the same chance of winning."
"People say Cancellara is really strong and can win by a minute and Boonen is fast in the sprint, but I have to adapt to the situation of the race. If I'm there at the end, I have to try and see how I can beat them."
"I'm not going to say I'm going to attack to get rid of them or try to battle them at the velodrome. But when I was second behind O'Grady. I won the sprint on the velodrome, beating Wessemann in a sprint. Nobody perhaps expected that I was ready for that sprint but I'll be ready for a sprint on Sunday."
I want Hayman in the finale
Flecha answered question in front of his teammates. The banter was thick and fast but Flecha was serious in his praise of the team. He specifically called on Matt Hayman, who he raced with at Rabobank, to be up there with him in the finale of the race, perhaps as a way of countering the strength in depth of the Saxo Bank and Quick Step teams.
"I hope Matt will be with me in the finale. He's performing well. He always does a lot of work early and mid race but I want him at the end of the race and I've told him too," Flecha said.
"There was a lot of talk about the battle between Saxo Bank and Quick Step at Flanders. Saxo was perhaps the strongest team but we showed we had the numbers there, especially when the race really started."
"I don't think we have to focus on taking advantage of their team work. We can't follow another team and hope they bring us to the front. That would be wrong and would show our weakness. We're happy with how we rode last Sunday. The result was not as expected but the team will be our strength on Sunday."