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Paris-Roubaix: Favourites for the crown

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Will it be number four for Belgium's Tom Boonen, the defending champion?

Will it be number four for Belgium's Tom Boonen, the defending champion? (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Roubaix's contenders are ready for the battle.

Roubaix's contenders are ready for the battle. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Fabian Cancellara celebrates on the podium.

Fabian Cancellara celebrates on the podium. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Belgian champion Tom Boonen (Quick Step) gives it his all on the Kapelmuur.

Belgian champion Tom Boonen (Quick Step) gives it his all on the Kapelmuur. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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George Hincapie before the start. He'd end the day with fourth

George Hincapie before the start. He'd end the day with fourth (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Bernhard Eisel (HTC - Columbia) celebrates his victory in Gent - Wevelgem.

Bernhard Eisel (HTC - Columbia) celebrates his victory in Gent - Wevelgem. (Image credit:
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Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) solos to the finish.

Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) solos to the finish. (Image credit:
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Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) on his way to third.

Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) on his way to third. (Image credit: Bert Geerts/
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Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) goes deep

Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) goes deep (Image credit:

Tom Boonen

PR-History: The most dominant protagonist of recent years with three wins and one second place.
RVV Performance: Boonen was second best but still an impressive second to Fabian Cancellara (pictured below). With the Belgian public cheering him on in an almost frenzied atmosphere only Boonen will know what was going on in his mind when Cancellara pulled away in such fashion.
Why he can win: He's won Roubaix three times and knows exactly what's needed. He's almost the perfect Classics rider: strong, aggressive, a dependable team and a deadly sprint.
Why he can't win: Does Fabian want the double? Is so we could all be in store for 'Flanders: The Sequel'. But physiologically, the big question is how Boonen will react to the beating he took last weekend. A hungrier beast or a wounded animal?
Cyclingnews rating: 9/10

Thor Hushovd

PR-History: A couple of punctures have hit at bad times and there was a top 20 but last year's third place cemented his spot as a favourite on cobbles.
RVV Performance: 'Now you see him, now you don't...' Made the selection early on in the race but faded after the "Molenberg massacre'.
Why he can win: Was the last rider to hold Boonen's wheel last year before crashing on the Carrefour de l'Arbre sector with 17km remaining. If he stayed with him to the velodrome he'd have challenged Boonen right to the line.
Why he can't win: Cyclingnews saw him in February and he was sick. It's April and he's still battling illness. The Norwegian simply hasn't raced enough in the last few weeks.
Cyclingnews rating: 5/10

Fabian Cancellara

PR-History: Won the race by an age in 2006 and followed that up with second behind teammate Stuart O'Grady a year later. Might as well have been sitting on a beach in 2009.
RVV Performance: You could probably list a hundred superlatives to describe his performance last week in Flanders (below). He was that good, that coming into Roubaix he'll be the number one favourite.
Why he can win: Arguably in the form of his life, Cancellara picks his goals carefully and works towards them with complete precision. If he has 90 percent of what he had in the tank and Flanders he'll at least finish second.
Why he can't win: Flanders was the target and his body language in the winner's press conference suggested to many that he'd take a back seat in Roubaix.
Cyclingnews rating: 9/10

Matti Breschel

PR-History: Has placed in the top 20 on three occasions. Not bad considering he's always had to work for others.
RVV Performance: Although assumptions are always dangerous it's fair to say that if it weren't for a mechanical mess-up Breschel would have made it over the Molenberg with both Boonen and Cancellara.
Why he can win: Just listening to his post-race comments from Flanders let everyone know he has a point to prove. One experienced rider from a rival team even picked Breschel over his own captain. Having taken 20th in 2008 and 10th in 2009... you do the math.
Why he can't win: Two things: He'll have to balance his own desires with Cancellara's, and, is he built for this race?
Cyclingnews rating: 8/10

Juan Antonio Flecha

PR-History: Second in 2007, third and fourth before that. Sixth last year after a crash near the end.
RVV Performance: Flecha was a possible favourite coming into the race after E3 but he had no answer to Boonen and Cancellara's violent acceleration on the Molenberg (below).
Why he can win: He's got the pedigree to challenge and unlike years past comes into the race with a string of good performances. Het Volk proved he can ride the bunch off his wheel.
Why he can't win: It speaks volumes when your own teammate turns around mid-press conference and declares that Flecha is better suited to Flanders than Roubaix. Can't sprint for toffee.
Cyclingnews rating: 7/10

Filippo Pozzato

PR-History: Last year was a breakthrough for the Italian who had previously been a worker rather than a leader in the race. If it wasn't for a crash he could have run Boonen mighty close in the sprint.
Why he can win: Looking on the positive side, Pozzato won't have to worry about starting the race tired after he was forced to skip Flanders through illness.
Why he can't win: Just how much the virus before Flanders has set him back is unknown; even a fit Pozzato isn't a clear cut favourite.
Cyclingnews rating; 7/10

George Hincapie

PR-History: Top 10 on five occasions and second in 2006 when he really could and should have won but Hincapie has had to contend with two hugely influential factors: bad luck and Tom Boonen. Neither of which are easy to battle against.
RVV Performance: Not bad at all. Claimed he was as strong as Cancellara and Boonen but hesitated when he really should have been on them in a flash (above).
Why he can win: If Ballan and Burghardt pulled their fingers out he'd have one hell of a foil but Hincapie, if he can find some aggression, has the tools to win.
Why he can't win: Is it all bad luck? After so many near-misses a harsh critic would say it's down to skill and talent.
Cyclingnews rating; 6/10

Bernhard Eisel

PR-History: Fifth in 2006. Other than that he's been a workhorse on all other occasions.
RVV Performance: Eisel was active just before the Molenberg, attacking with three other riders but described Cancellara as a motorbike as the Swiss rider went past him. Finished in the main group.
Why he can win: Eisel is one of the most respected riders in the bunch and this season, and an HTC-Columbia sans Cavendish means he has been let off the leash. In Gent-Wevelgem he was strong and rode the perfect race, so form and confidence are there.
Why he can't win: Gent-Wevelgem isn't Paris-Roubaix.
Cyclingnews rating: 6/10

Best of the rest

Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma-Lotto) - Getting better and made the selection last year. Team hasn't won a race since last October but Sunday could be their day. Perhaps.
Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Tranisitions) - Fourth a few years ago but needs a big performance.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) - Says he's there to help but he's got better form than Maaskant.
Stuart O'Grady (Saxo Bank) - Won the race before but father time is starting to catch up.