By Les Clarke
Torture has a number – 52.9km. That's the total distance riders will travel over bone-jarring cobbles in Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. The third of cycling's five monuments starts in Compiègne and ends in the Roubaix velodrome after 259 kilometres.
The Bersée sector is back on the menu after a two year absence and increases the Auchy-lez-Orchies - Bersée section to 2600 metres after 205 kilometres of racing. The overall distance of cobbled sectors remains almost identical to the 2008 edition.
And like last year, the weather forecast is for dry and sunny conditions, ensuring there's plenty of dust to line the throats of riders gasping for air as the hammer goes down.
Who will be dropping that hammer?
Tom Boonen is undoubtedly the man to watch on Sunday. The defending champion and double winner has remained injury-free and comes into this year's Roubaix with impeccable form after last weekend's Ronde van Vlaanderen.
The Belgian star indicated that another Roubaix crown is a major season objective, and given his record in the race – he has virtually owned a place on the podium during the past five seasons – the short odds lay with Quick Step's charismatic leader.
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