Two years ago at Paris-Roubaix, Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) made the most of not being a favorite. The tall, Belgian rider snuck away, among a group of low-key riders who stayed away despite being chased by top favorites. The win changed Vansummeren's life, and he'll forever be linked to his successful 2011 Roubaix ride. Despite being a former winner, Vansummeren is not on this year's favorites list, and he is comfortable with that.
Standing out at a height of 197cm, it was hard not to notice Vansummeren at the traditional teams presentation on the Place Charles de Gaulle in Compiègne, France on Saturday. Still, the Belgian did all he could to get in and out of the obligatory show-up. One question was repeated to him a hundred times: how can overcome Fabian Cancellara and win Paris-Roubaix?
Vansummeren was clearly fed up by the question. "Cancellara, Cancellara, Cancellara... The easiest answer is: you simply have to get rid of everybody. It's been written in the papers and media for a week now. Always asking: 'What's the plan to beat Cancellara?' The race still has to be ridden. So many things can happen in these races so I think we'll have to anticipate the right moment in the race. I'm not the kind of rider who has to fool around with tactics. If I seize the moment, I have to go," Vansummeren said.
As a former winner in a similar situation, Vansummeren is a man to take into account. The parallel situation may seem obvious to some, but Vansummeren thinks this year is different, especially with riders like Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan not lining up in Compiègne on Sunday morning.
"For me, it would've been better if Boonen and Sagan were here. Against Cancellara, it's better if there are more riders who can beat him," Vansummeren said.
Back in 2011, Vansummeren's win came as a major surprise. His breakaway move was covered by the presence of his teammate Thor Hushovd in the Cancellara group. Cancellara couldn't shake off Hushovd and didn't want to take him along into the vélodrome for a sprint. That worked out well for Vansummeren, who stormed to a solo win after getting rid of his final breakaway companions at the pavé sector of Carrefour de l'Arbre. Right after crossing the line, Vansummeren asked his girlfriend to marry him.
"I dream about winning Roubaix again. It was my best moment as a bike rider. I hope to have that feeling once more. It will not be easy."
Even without the backup coverage of Hushovd, Vansummeren says it's possible to repeat his win.
"It's possible, but far from a certainty. For me it's harder to win than for Cancellara but I'll give everything I can to achieve it. I did everything that was in my possibilities to try and be good for this period. I hope I have the form, and I hope it's enough. I can't do more than that. It will all be decided tomorrow."