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Cozza eager for third Paris-Roubaix start

The early part of the 2011 season hasn't gone as planned for Team NetApp, but Steven Cozza is looking forward to the team's WorldTour debut Sunday in Paris-Roubaix. It will be the American's third appearance in the “Hell of the North.”

“It's awesome. I love it. I love Roubaix,” he told Cyclingnews.

Cozza and his teammates were on the course Thursday, which he says is “always important.” He noted that, “they've changed it a bit this year after the Arenberg Forest. There are a couple more cobble sections. It will be a different race and I look forward to the change.”

He has ridden the race the last two years for his previous team, Garmin. “I learned that Roubaix is only good if you are feeling good. In 2009 I had really good legs and was in the break all day.

“In 2010 I didn't have good legs, and couldn't do anything. If you are not doing well, it is truly hell.”

Both Cozza and teammate Eric Baumann have ridden the elite race before, but it will be the Paris-Roubaix elite debut for the remaining riders of the young German team. “It's going to be a good learning experience. It will be an educational experience. Michael Baer won the junior version in 2005 and Baumann won the U23 version in 2000, but the pro race is much different,” Cozza told Cyclingnews.

“The distance is different, the pace is different, the way it is raced is different. It is a really good opportunity for some of the younger riders on the team.”

The key spot on the race is not Arenberg Forest, but the section just before it. “It is a long sector with a right-hand turn. That's where most of Garmin crashed last year. It is a hard sector because everyone wants to be a good position going into the Arenberg. It sets the pace of the race.”

The Professional Continental team has modest ambitions: “to make the early breakaway. That would be great. And hopefully to have some guys in the finish.”

Cozza's lead up to the race hasn't gone as planned. "I crashed hard in West Flanders and had a bad concussion. I've been working hard the last three weeks. “

He says he feels good again and has. "But you don't really know how you are until the day. I will know when we get to Arenberg Forest. I hope to be in the front at that point.”

There was no question as to who the 26-year-old expected to see atop the podium. “Cancellara. For sure.”

Cozza came into the season without the moustache which had been has trademark, and is still clean shaven. “No facial hair,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe when I feel better on the bike again.”

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