O'Grady: "We will do our best"

By Gregor Brown in Compiègne

Team CSC is lining up as favourite number one for the 2008 Paris-Roubaix. In its ranks are the past two winners, Swiss Fabian Cancellara and Australian Stuart O'Grady, and, although 2007's winner, O'Grady, is not in top form, he will pose a threat and he is ready to give his all in the team's effort.

When the 34 year-old won last year it was the result of team-work and the benefit of having 2006's winner in the team's ranks. O'Grady fired and won solo in Roubaix's Velodrome – the traditional finish of the race that features over 50 kilometres of cobbled roads – and it was 12 months after Cancellara had accomplished the same, albeit a little further out.

If 2008's early season is anything to go by, the Denmark-based team is ready to dominate the French race once again. Cancellara has racked up wins thanks to his sheer power in Eroica, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, but, perhaps equally as impressive, was the team's domination in the E3 Prijs. It played every card in its hand to perfection when it won with Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen

The team's director sportif for E3 Prijs and this Sunday's Monument, Scott Sunderland, confirmed the good early season and the team's readiness. "It has been a very good last few months, and very rewarding up until this point, and we hope the same for tomorrow," said the Australian on Saturday in Compiègne."

He confirmed the two champions' roles and explained some of the team's tactics. "We have two favourites, the two winners from the last two years. Tomorrow, we will go into the race with a lot of confidence."

The Forest of "Arenberg [kilometre 163.5 and sector 18 of 28 - ed.] is the turning point; we will assess the situation there. I would like to arrive at Mons-en-Pévèle [kilometre 210.5 - ed.] with eight riders, but that would be a dream scenario.

"Ideally we will have Stuart there in the finale, the more riders you have there in the finale the better. You've seen the ideal scenario from Mapei a few years ago, where you come with three or four team riders out of the group of 20 into the finale."

O'Grady has almost fully recovered from his devastating crash last July in the Tour de France, but can't say he will be the out-and-out favourite for Sunday, preferring to give that title to his team-mate.

"I think we are pretty much going to take the same tactic that we did last year," the only Australian to win Roubaix confirmed to Cyclingnews. (For more on O'Grady's 2007 win read 'Nobody wanted it more than me'.) "We have the same mentality; Fabian is the leader like last year, and that is that. However, the strength in this team is the way we adapt and the way we are able to change tactics according to the conditions. Last year, we adapted quickly and we worked it out.

"Sunday, if it is going to be wet then it will be a completely different race, it will be another sport," he continued. "So we will have a plan A, B and C, and be ready to do whatever is possible."

Surely, O'Grady had his morale bolstered with his performance in Gent-Wevelgem. He and Kurt-Asle Arvesen formed part of a five-man last-minute escape that put Team Rabobank on its heels. Although the move did not work out and Oscar Freire won, he got what he needed – strengthened morale.

"I needed to do a good ride on Wednesday for my confidence and my morale," continued O'Grady. "I have not been quite up to the standards as I was last year, due to missing out of half of last year's season. Wednesday was probably the best I felt since my crash in the Tour. I may not be 100 percent like last year, but I am not far off either."

"I don't think they were dominating, I think they rode a good race," he stated of Rabobank's ride in Gent-Wevelgem. "However, we rode a good race as well. The reason they were out on the front is that we were at the front as well [with two men in the escape]. They are a very strong team, but they are going to have all their cards on [Juan Antonio] Flecha [for Paris-Roubaix]."

He is not worried about the risks involved in the "Hell of the North" and looks forward to another CSC win in Roubaix. "It is all or nothing. If you crash and break something, it is the last race for a month and there is plenty of time to recover. There is no holding back tomorrow, we are there to win and we are going to take risks.

"If the weather is bad, it is not about if you are going to crash it is about when and how bad is it going to be. ... Obviously, I prefer hot and dry, but tomorrow is going to be cold and wet... It will make for good TV," said O'Grady.

"We have had some great wins and a fantastic last couple of Paris-Roubaixs. Tomorrow, we will do our best."

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