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Paris-Roubaix: start line gallery

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Waiting for Superman/Spartacus. The crowds gather to catch a glimpse of Fabian Cancellara.

Waiting for Superman/Spartacus. The crowds gather to catch a glimpse of Fabian Cancellara.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Gatis Smukulis (HTC-Highroad) looks forward to a day on the cobbles.

Gatis Smukulis (HTC-Highroad) looks forward to a day on the cobbles.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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William Bonnet (FDJ) in Compiegne.

William Bonnet (FDJ) in Compiegne.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) will be hoping for better luck than in Flanders.

Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) will be hoping for better luck than in Flanders.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) speaks to Norwegian television before the start.

Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) speaks to Norwegian television before the start.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) looked focused ahead of Paris-Roubaix.

Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) looked focused ahead of Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Peter Sagan's progress on the cobbles will be interesting to observe.

Peter Sagan's progress on the cobbles will be interesting to observe.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and some young fans before the start of Paris-Roubaix.

Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and some young fans before the start of Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad) is looking to gain experience on the pave.

John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad) is looking to gain experience on the pave.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Johan Van Summeren and Garmin-Cervelo need a result.

Johan Van Summeren and Garmin-Cervelo need a result.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was in determined mood in Compiegne.

Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was in determined mood in Compiegne.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Lampre-ISD started Paris-Roubaix under a cloud.

Lampre-ISD started Paris-Roubaix under a cloud.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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The experienced Jeremy Hunt is a huge part of Sky's Roubaix plans.

The experienced Jeremy Hunt is a huge part of Sky's Roubaix plans.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Matt Brammeier and Bernhard Eisel are two of HTC-Highroad's strong men.

Matt Brammeier and Bernhard Eisel are two of HTC-Highroad's strong men.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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A moment of calm before the chaos of the Hell of the North.

A moment of calm before the chaos of the Hell of the North.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Danilo Hondo (Lampre-ISD) in Compiegne before Paris-Roubaix.

Danilo Hondo (Lampre-ISD) in Compiegne before Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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UCI president Pat McQuaid catches up with Irish champion Matt Brammeier.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Lars Boom (Rabobank) was in confident mood before the start.

Lars Boom (Rabobank) was in confident mood before the start.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Wilfred Peeters and Quick Step have two aces at their disposal in Chavanel and Boonen.

Wilfred Peeters and Quick Step have two aces at their disposal in Chavanel and Boonen.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) will ride deep section rims over the pave.

Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) will ride deep section rims over the pave.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Omega Pharma-Lotto ride Canyon bikes.

Omega Pharma-Lotto ride Canyon bikes.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Alessandro Ballan's BMC bike was ready and waiting outside the team bus.

Alessandro Ballan's BMC bike was ready and waiting outside the team bus.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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BMC's management team of John Lelangue and Jim Ochowicz had a big call to make before the race.

BMC's management team of John Lelangue and Jim Ochowicz had a big call to make before the race.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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RadioShack's Treks lined up outside the team bus before the start of Paris-Roubaix.

RadioShack's Treks lined up outside the team bus before the start of Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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The Eddy Merckx steeds that will carry Quick Step across the pave.

The Eddy Merckx steeds that will carry Quick Step across the pave.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Ag2r-La Mondiale manager Vincent Lavenu reads L'Equipe before the start of Paris-Roubaix

Ag2r-La Mondiale manager Vincent Lavenu reads L'Equipe before the start of Paris-Roubaix
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Sebastien Minard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and his biggest fan ahead of Paris-Roubaix.

Sebastien Minard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and his biggest fan ahead of Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Garmin-Cervelo directeur sportif Peter Van Petegem was hoping to inspire his charges to victory.

Garmin-Cervelo directeur sportif Peter Van Petegem was hoping to inspire his charges to victory.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Jimmy Casper (Saur-Sojasun) heads to sign on.

Jimmy Casper (Saur-Sojasun) heads to sign on.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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George Hincapie (BMC) is chasing an elusive Paris-Roubaix victory.

George Hincapie (BMC) is chasing an elusive Paris-Roubaix victory.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Simon Zahner (BMC) ready for the start of Paris-Roubaix.

Simon Zahner (BMC) ready for the start of Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Manuel Quinziato could have a big role in BMC's day.

Manuel Quinziato could have a big role in BMC's day.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Alessandro Ballan (BMC) rides to the start of Paris-Roubaix.

Alessandro Ballan (BMC) rides to the start of Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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In the eye of the storm: BMC's decision to allow Alessandro Ballan start attracted controversy.

In the eye of the storm: BMC's decision to allow Alessandro Ballan start attracted controversy.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Leopard Trek's armada of bikes.

Leopard Trek's armada of bikes.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) is looking to better his second place finish from 2009.

Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) is looking to better his second place finish from 2009.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Three-time Paris-Roubaix winner Francesco Moser was at the start in Compiegne.

Three-time Paris-Roubaix winner Francesco Moser was at the start in Compiegne.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)

Paris-Roubaix may be the Hell of the North, but it all starts a little closer to heaven, in the tranquil environs of the Chateau de Compiègne, 70km north of Paris. With 258km and 27 sectors of pavé ahead of them, however, the peloton had little mind to soak up their ambient surroundings.

As the Classics bandwagon shifts southwest out of Belgium, the size and the sheer intensity of the crowds at the start line dropped accordingly, but the French fans were still out in numbers to applaud the 197 hardy souls setting off on the cobbled pilgrimage to Roubaix.

Last year’s winner Fabian Cancellara’s Leopard Trek team bus attracted much of the attention at the start in Compiègne, and the Swiss rider naturally lines up as favourite. His defeat in the Tour of Flanders last weekend will have given a number of his rivals heart that he can indeed be defeated on his privileged terrain, however, and chief among them is the Quick Step tandem of Tom Boonen and Sylvain Chavanel. The latter received the most raucous cheers of the morning when he went to sign on, with speaker Daniel Mangeas doing his best to whip the home crowds into a frenzy.

Thor Hushovd and Garmin-Cervélo are desperate for a big result to salvage their Classics campaign, and the world champion was in a determined mood before riding to sign on in Compiègne. Although he failed to make an impact in Flanders last weekend, the Norwegian was looking forward to a race better suited to his characteristics.

Another man in search of a result is Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), as he battles internal strife in his team as well as the cobbles themselves on the road to Roubaix. Although the Italian has struggled for form in 2011 to date, he has a history of coming to life in the Hell of the North and he will be hoping his panache on the pavé is telling today.

Meanwhile, Alessandro Ballan signed on as anticipated as part of the BMC line-up. He was accused of undergoing a blood transfusion during his time at Lampre in the Italian newspapers on Saturday but unlike last year, when news of his involvement in the Mantova anti-doping investigation first broke, his team decided not to pull him from its Paris-Roubaix line-up.