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
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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