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Straight to Hell: Who will be first to Roubaix?

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Who will rise from the dust in Hell tomorrow?

Who will rise from the dust in Hell tomorrow? (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC)

Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabaina Cancellara (Team CSC)

Fabaina Cancellara (Team CSC) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen (Quick Step)

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stijn Devolder (Quick Step)

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) (Image credit: AFP)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre)

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank)

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto)

Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Nick Nuyens (Cofidis)

Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas)

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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George Hincapie (Team High Road)

George Hincapie (Team High Road) (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Steffen Wesemann (Cycle Collstrop)

Steffen Wesemann (Cycle Collstrop) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H3O)

Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H3O) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Who will rise from the dust in Hell tomorrow?

Who will rise from the dust in Hell tomorrow? (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen (Quick Step) gets 4.5 jerseys.

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) gets 4.5 jerseys. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabaina Cancellara (Team CSC) is likely to be his team's best bet.

Fabaina Cancellara (Team CSC) is likely to be his team's best bet. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) doesn't have the strongest team for the Spring Classic.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) doesn't have the strongest team for the Spring Classic. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) may rise to the occasion.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) may rise to the occasion. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) may be the defending champion, but is he up for a repeat?

Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) may be the defending champion, but is he up for a repeat? (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) has already preview the course.

Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) has already preview the course. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stefan Wesemann (Cycle Collstrop) is an outside favourite for the victory.

Stefan Wesemann (Cycle Collstrop) is an outside favourite for the victory. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H3O) has been set back by an injury in Qatar.

Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H3O) has been set back by an injury in Qatar. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) will try to continue the French team's strong season.

Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) will try to continue the French team's strong season. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) could come out of Boonen's shadow.

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) could come out of Boonen's shadow. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) is a true contendor.

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) is a true contendor. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
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George Hincapie (Team High Road) has a history with Hell, but it's the future he's focused on.

George Hincapie (Team High Road) has a history with Hell, but it's the future he's focused on. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)

Rating the riders in Hell, April 12, 2008

Straight to Hell: Who will be first to Roubaix?

The dangerous game of predicting the winner is here again. After getting it so spectacularly wrong in last week's Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Cyclingnews' resident psychic Ben Atkins raises his head above the parapet of prediction once again.

Okay, who out there managed to see Belgian champion Stijn Devolder winning Ronde Van Vlaanderen in a solo attack from 25km out coming? Anyway, at least I predicted Nick Nuyens and Juan Antonio Flecha doing well, kind of…

The Paris-Roubaix is an entirely different animal to the Vlaanderen. As well as the 28 secteurs of cobblestones, riders also have to cope with the weather in this race like no other. If it's dry, as it was last year, those secteurs become dustbowls choking the lungs and stinging the eyes; if it's wet the stones become glacial, the mud clogs the gears and sprays in the riders' faces making it almost impossible to see.

This week, the finger in the air technique is joined by a blindfold throw at a dartboard, and an assessment of how they got on in last weekend's Ronde. Place your bets now…on anyone but these ones we're just about to put a curse on.

Stuart O'Grady - Team CSC

Cyclingnews

Fabian Cancellara - Team CSC

Tom Boonen - Quick Step

Stijn Devolder - Quick Step

Alessandro Ballan - Lampre

Juan Antonio Flecha - Rabobank

Leif Hoste - Silence-Lotto

Nick Nuyens - Cofidis

Filippo Pozzato - Liquigas

George Hincapie - High Road

Steffen Wesemann - Cycle Collstrop

Magnus Backstedt - Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H3O

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 been up there in the top 10 many times since. He may well be a bit too old for it now, but his experience will be invaluable for any challenge from his team-mates - but who they might be, we couldn't say.

Other names worth a mention include Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner) who sadly is not the rider he once was but has had some great days here. Also, Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) could be a name to watch out for, he seemingly knows no fear and is no respecter of reputations.

Finally, the most appropriate name in the race award goes to Agritubel's Benoit Sinner. Who better to do well in Hell?

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