By Jean-François Quénet in Compiègne
First Roubaix for an excited Lancaster
Having raced for Pro Continental outfit Panaria for four years after debuting with iTeamNova, Milram's Brett Lancaster will make his first appearance in Paris-Roubaix, aged 27. "It's like a dream for me," he said. "I've always wanted to do this race, I'll give my best. For Milram, it can't be worse than it's been in the past few weeks. With all the crashes, we have lost Zabel, Velo, Sacchi... Petacchi crashed as well in Gent-Wevelgem. Yesterday, in training, we also lost Dyudya who crashed because his legs warmers got caught in his fork, he's going to have an operation to his chin."
One year ago, the Australian Olympic champion for team pursuit broke his collarbone broken in four parts and was being treated in the hospital in Angers just a few rooms away from Saul Raisin, whose life was in danger. "I feel much better being here on the cobblestones," Lancaster added. "When I reconnoitred the course yesterday, my shoulder was a bit sore though, it was the first time since I recovered."
As a result of the crashes that affected Milram, the Victorian will be a protected rider. "I have no clue of this race but I know it will be important to be up there in the forest. A few guys will be helping me. I was 27th at the Tour of Flanders and I was happy. I'm still happy with my form at the moment."
Bäckstedt: different approach and better form than in 2004
As planned, Magnus Bäckstedt abandoned in the Circuit de la Sarthe on Thursday after coming 3rd in the individual time trial. He wanted to save some energy for Paris-Roubaix, after having raced quite a lot. The Liquigas rider also did the Settimana Lombarda one week ago. "It's a totally different build-up than usual," he explained. "The other boys who want to win here have done the other classics before. It means they have spent some energy already. I hope it can play to my advantage."
The massive Swede surprised everyone when he made himself a winner in Roubaix three years ago. "It's such a grueling race," he said. "I love it. There's no other race like this one on the calendar. I feel like a winner again. Actually, I feel even better on a bike than in 2004." Bookmakers shouldn't under-rate him this time.
Heinrich Haussler is sick of crashing
Heinrich Haussler was totally exhausted when he pulled out of Paris-Nice with the polka dot jersey on his shoulders. But the Australo-German has definitely recovered. "I was feeling really good at the Tour of Flanders but I had three crashes and my fork broke. Then in Gent-Wevelgem I crashed too. I don't mind a too good weather for Paris-Roubaix because we've all seen enough crashes in the previous classics. We don't necessarily need rain at the moment."
The Inverell-born rider will start Paris-Roubaix for the third time, even though he's still only 23 years old. "That's my highlight for the season. To enter the top 20 would be good. Anything better is welcome." Haussler finished in 25th place two years ago, when he raced Paris-Robaix for the first time.
Predictor's Vansevenant predicts early attacks
After so many years at the service of Peter van Petegem, 35 years-old Wim Vansevenant will race Paris-Roubaix against his best mate who has switched to the rivals of Quick-Step. "It's a huge change for me," he reckoned. "But Leif Hoste has also been a friend of both of us for years. He has learned his job with us and he came back after two years with Discovery."
Vansevenant was away during the Tour of Flanders when Predictor-Lotto decided to make the race harder for Hoste. "It's been the key of the race," the man from the north coast said. "We want to change Leif's second place in Meerbeke to a first one in Roubaix. The team has worked really well during the last week. I can't complain about anything. The team has been built around one man only. It's has always worked like that at Lotto. It's the same even without Peter."
The fully Flemish team could be unhappy with the hot and nice weather predicted for Sunday. "For many riders, it's better," Vansevenant corrected. "There are less risks than with the rain. Many guys will want to attack very early. It's going to be a big mess. It's also just as hot as in the Tour de France! The heat will have a strong influence on the race, that's for sure. We'll be thirsty. We'll have to drink a lot and make sure that we don't lose our bottles..."