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The cobbles take their toll even before the racing starts

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And you thought your local roads were rough?

And you thought your local roads were rough?
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Riders obviously have to be careful

Riders obviously have to be careful
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The Liquigas team checks out the conditions.

The Liquigas team checks out the conditions.
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Français des Jeux riders have experimented

Français des Jeux riders have experimented
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Race favorite Nick Nuyens

Race favorite Nick Nuyens
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The curved rear end

The curved rear end
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Agritubel and Saunier Duval-Scott riders

Agritubel and Saunier Duval-Scott riders
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Agritubel rider Emilien-Benoit Berges

Agritubel rider Emilien-Benoit Berges
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Box-section rims are the norm at Paris-Roubaix

Box-section rims are the norm at Paris-Roubaix
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Vittoria's 24mm-wide Pavé tubulars

Vittoria's 24mm-wide Pavé tubulars
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Quick Step riders check out key sections of pavé before Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.

Quick Step riders check out key sections of pavé before Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Riders obviously have to be careful on the treacherous cobbled roads, but so do the team drivers.

Riders obviously have to be careful on the treacherous cobbled roads, but so do the team drivers. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Spare bikes and parts will be a key element to the success of the winner come Sunday.

Spare bikes and parts will be a key element to the success of the winner come Sunday. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Quick Step bikes were fitted with massive 27mm-wide tubulars said to be sourced from Challenge.

Quick Step bikes were fitted with massive 27mm-wide tubulars said to be sourced from Challenge. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The Liquigas team checks out the conditions.

The Liquigas team checks out the conditions. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Liquigas star Filippo Pozzato is one rider that is certainly hoping conditions stay dry.

Liquigas star Filippo Pozzato is one rider that is certainly hoping conditions stay dry. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Liquigas' Manuel Quinziato gets a last taste of what's to come.

Liquigas' Manuel Quinziato gets a last taste of what's to come. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The heavily crowned cobbled roads leave little room underneath the car.

The heavily crowned cobbled roads leave little room underneath the car. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Race favorite Nick Nuyens bundles up for his pre-ride on Saturday.

Race favorite Nick Nuyens bundles up for his pre-ride on Saturday. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Cofidis' Frank Hoj packs on the layers for the cold but still appears decidedly upbeat.

Cofidis' Frank Hoj packs on the layers for the cold but still appears decidedly upbeat. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Is that who we think it is? Yes, indeed, Laurent Fignon pays a visit to the Cofidis boys.

Is that who we think it is? Yes, indeed, Laurent Fignon pays a visit to the Cofidis boys. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) raced Paris-Roubaix for the first time just four years ago but is a favorite to win if the conditions stay dry.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) raced Paris-Roubaix for the first time just four years ago but is a favorite to win if the conditions stay dry. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Agritubel and Saunier Duval-Scott riders hit the cobbles to shake out the legs and equipment.

Agritubel and Saunier Duval-Scott riders hit the cobbles to shake out the legs and equipment. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Agritubel rider Emilien-Benoit Berges is one of the bigger riders on the team.

Agritubel rider Emilien-Benoit Berges is one of the bigger riders on the team. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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An extra collar clamped directly to the post helps keep Berges' saddle from sliding down.

An extra collar clamped directly to the post helps keep Berges' saddle from sliding down. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Tied-and-soldered wheels grace the bike of Berges.

Tied-and-soldered wheels grace the bike of Berges. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Box-section rims are the norm at Paris-Roubaix and Ambrosio was one of the most prominent brands in use.

Box-section rims are the norm at Paris-Roubaix and Ambrosio was one of the most prominent brands in use. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Vittoria's 24mm-wide Pavé tubulars are a popular choice at Paris-Roubaix.

Vittoria's 24mm-wide Pavé tubulars are a popular choice at Paris-Roubaix. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Paris-Roubaix is a treacherous course even for pre-riding - Berges frame was damaged by a wayward rock, according to a team spokesperson

Paris-Roubaix is a treacherous course even for pre-riding - Berges frame was damaged by a wayward rock, according to a team spokesperson (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Berges runs SRAM Rival cranks in lieu of the lighter Red model…

Berges runs SRAM Rival cranks in lieu of the lighter Red model… (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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…but it's only because his long legs needs 177.5mm-long crankarms.

…but it's only because his long legs needs 177.5mm-long crankarms. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Agritubel's bikes are otherwise fitted with SRAM Red, which makes its official debut at Paris-Roubaix this year.

Agritubel's bikes are otherwise fitted with SRAM Red, which makes its official debut at Paris-Roubaix this year. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The SRAM Red cassette is undeniably a star of the group. Some team riders have even chosen to fit one to their bike in spite of conflicting official sponsorship.

The SRAM Red cassette is undeniably a star of the group. Some team riders have even chosen to fit one to their bike in spite of conflicting official sponsorship. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Français des Jeux will use softer Lapierre S-Lite frames to ease the pain of the cobbles.

Français des Jeux will use softer Lapierre S-Lite frames to ease the pain of the cobbles. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The curved rear end supposedly acts as a bit of a leaf spring for a cushier ride.

The curved rear end supposedly acts as a bit of a leaf spring for a cushier ride. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Français des Jeux riders have experimented with Hutchinson's Road Tubeless system through many of the spring classics…

Français des Jeux riders have experimented with Hutchinson's Road Tubeless system through many of the spring classics… (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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…but they won't be using them on Sunday, opting instead for traditional tubulars.

…but they won't be using them on Sunday, opting instead for traditional tubulars. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Critical sections of the race are marked right on the top tubes.

Critical sections of the race are marked right on the top tubes. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Paris-Roubaix opens its arms (and its jaws) to the riders on Sunday.

Paris-Roubaix opens its arms (and its jaws) to the riders on Sunday. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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And you thought your local roads were rough?

And you thought your local roads were rough? (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Angry clouds loom on the horizon.

Angry clouds loom on the horizon. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The Paris-Roubaix cobbles already took its toll on the oil pan of a passing vehicle.

The Paris-Roubaix cobbles already took its toll on the oil pan of a passing vehicle. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)

Race Tech: Paris-Roubaix, April 13, 2008

As expected, teams and riders arrived days in advance of Sunday's Paris-Roubaix to reconnoiter the critical sections of the course for the last times. However, the test sessions also served as a last-minute shakedown of the team's bikes and equipment and not everything fared well.

Now in its 106th edition, there is little about the course and potential conditions that aren't well-known at this point but team sponsors continue to push the limits with their machines. Some bikes were little more than slightly beefed-up road machines while others were somewhat bizarre hybrids of road and 'cross. As a result, complete bike weights ranged from around 7.5kg (16.5lb) all the way up to 8.5kg (18.7lb).

As riders returned from scouting missions on Friday and Saturday, though, it was clear that not everything would make it through unscathed. Team pits were awash in the smell of tubular glue as punctured tires were replaced and mechanics were almost universally found adding extra layers of bar tape to help cushion the blows for the far more punishing demands of race day.

Some mechanics were also replacing frames, though, particularly for the larger or heavier riders among the peloton or teams that apparently opted for ultralight equipment for their scouting rides. Our quick scans already yielded no fewer than two broken bikes and Sunday's race pace (and possibly horrific weather conditions) will most certainly produce more.

Readers should also keep in mind that the heavily crowned cobblestone roads will not just be hard on the bikes and riders, but also on team vehicles. Stories about hopefully crippled vehicles are mostly based on truth and the aggressive pace of the race caravan must also be matched with driver skill.

How bad could it be, you wonder? As we chased riders around the parcours on Friday, we had to pay particularly close attention so as not to bottom out the undercarriage of Cyclingnews' own Peugeot 308 rental car. Someone else apparently wasn't so mindful, though, judging by the giant streak of fluid left down the center of the pavé courtesy of a pierced oil pan.

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