By Brecht Decaluwé, in Compiègne, France
With just a number of hours remaining before today's 259 kilometre Paris-Roubaix gets underway, Cyclingnews spoke to some of the key players to get their thoughts on the gruelling Spring Classic and the forecast of good weather. Last year's winner Fabian Cancellara is again the favourite heading into the day's race, but instead of feeling the pressure the Team CSC rider is taking a relaxed approach to the race.
"Last year was a demonstration, it was extra-ordinary," noted the Swiss rider. "There is pressure to perform well again and I don't want to disappoint the people but I realize I need to stay calm.
"Compared to some others I'm lucky to have won this monument already so I have nothing to lose, although I do want to win of course," Cancellara added. "The sun will make it a great day, especially as many fans will be lined up. The most important thing is that I remain calm, whatever happens."
The surprise winner of the 2001 Paris-Roubaix was Servais Knaven. After many years under the wings of Patrick Lefevre the 36 year-old Dutchman has moved to T-Mobile this season.
"This weather is exceptional but I guess the forest of Arenberg will be the selective zone again. When Museeuw won the first time and when Peter Van Petegem won it was also about 16 degrees," Knaven reflected. "On Wednesday I crashed hard during Gent-Wevelgem and I'm still suffering from that. During the reconnaissance it was alright but it's annoying to suffer a constant pain."
The T-Mobile team once again proves to be one of the stronger teams in the race, highlighted by the squad's one-two in the Belgian Gent-Wevelgem. "With this team we can again be in the front with many guys," added Knaven. "My teammate [Marcus] Burghardt will go strong again I expect."
Thor Hushovd hasn't been going well throughout the first part of the season but Paris-Roubaix is a race that suits him, and he has already claimed a U23 title at the race. "Cancellara is the big favourite to me," noted the Crédit Agricole rider. "It will be a fast race so you need to be in front all the time. I haven't enough races in my legs so I don't know how far I can get. It should be a lot of fun!"
Rabobank's Juan Antonio Flecha was spotted smiling again and we asked the Spaniard if it was the sun that made him happy. "I don't care but I do wonder if this is the Tour de France or Paris-Roubaix," Flecha joked. "I did a reconnaissance of the complete course, but not everything on the bike, of course, we did most of it in the car. Anyway, I'm always good in the Hell!"