Rating the riders in Hell, April 10, 2009
After a tumultuous start to the 2009 season, the game of predicting the winner has been made more difficult. The Cyclingnews staff used its collective Classics crystal ball to tackle the heady task of analysing who may come out on top in the 107th edition of l'Enfer du Nord.
With the absence of big hitters Stuart O'Grady and Alessandro Ballan, the 'semi-retirement' of Magnus Backstedt and the bad luck Fabian Cancellara has been experiencing lately, the Paris-Roubaix game has changed in 2009.
Perennial contender Steffen Wesemann has retired and won't be around this year, and Silence-Lotto's Leif Hoste is somewhat struggling with his form leading up to the big day. It leaves the door open to emerging Classics rider Martijn Maaskant and the irrepressible 'Australian' Heinrich Haussler.
Many people have said it's Quick Step's race to lose, and with Stijn Devolder scoring another emphatic win in last weekend's Ronde Van Vlaanderen, they may have a point.
Don't be fooled by the voices around you, however; we certainly try not to, which is why we've brought you a line-up of those who could provide a shakeup on the 28 sectors of pavé throughout Roubaix's 259 kilometres.
Tom Boonen - Quick Step
Stijn Devolder - Quick Step
Martijn Maaskant - Garmin-Slipstream
Fabian Cancellara - Team CSC
Juan Antonio Flecha - Rabobank
Heinrich Haussler - Cervélo TestTeam
Sylvain Chvanel - Quick Step
Filippo Pozzato - Katusha
George Hincapie - Columbia-Highroad
Leif Hoste - Silence-Lotto
Wild Cards - the best of the rest
No review of the likely contenders would be complete without mentioning the last Frenchman to win in Roubaix: Frederic Guesdon (Française des Jeux). That win was way back in 1997, but Fred has the invaluable experience for any challenge from his teammates - but who they might be, we couldn't say.
Other names worth a mention include former winner Servais Knaven (Milram) and – barring team tactics – the Columbia-Highroads Edvald Boasson Hagen and Marcus Burghardt. Also watch out for Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil), who may create a surprise.
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