By Brecht Decaluwé in Compiègne, France
The hopes of the USA-based Garmin are resting on the young shoulders of Martijn Maaskant. The 25 year-old Dutchman put in a stunning debut in Paris-Roubaix when he finished just off the podium last year.
This season Maaskant confirmed his prominence with another fourth place in another Monument of cycling, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, last week. The Dutchman, referring to himself on his own web site as 'Rocky' on the bike, understands that people see him as one of the favorites. "With the results I achieved in Flanders and Roubaix it makes sense to make me a favorite, but I don't think I belong to that list," Maaskant said.
In order to achieve a great result on the legendary vélodrome of Roubaix many puzzle pieces will have to fall into place. One of those pieces is team support and that might be one of the crucial factors for Maaskant. Compared to teams like Quick Step and Columbia the team of manager Jonathan Vaughters doesn't seem that strong on paper.
"That's true, but Bradley Wiggins is here and I have good hopes that he will be there to support me in the finale. First of all I have to make sure I'm up there. Once that is the case I'll see how I can battle the big guns," Maaskant said to Cyclingnews.
One day earlier last year's champion Tom Boonen said that he was impressed by Maaskant, although he hadn't seen grand moves from him just yet, adding that shouldn't be expected from such a young guy. One could also compare Maaskant with Boonen as they both finished fourth at their debut in the Queen of classics.
"That's nice to hear," said Maaskant, "but I'm not comparing myself with Boonen; he already had an impressive palmarés at my age while I'm only just knocking at the door. I wouldn't call him an example but of course as an amateur I did follow him."
The seemingly languid rider wasn't worrying too much about how the weather would be like on Sunday. "The only thing that it has influence on is the tyre pressure. For me, the race can start because I'm ready for it," Maaskant said before hopping back on the team bus to head to Chantilly. The Garmin team is staying there in a luxurious hotel, allowing their multiple American guests to stay in heaven before crashing into hell and maybe back to heaven on Sunday afternoon.