Four-time Paris-Roubaix winner Roger De Vlaeminck has called on Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) to show more courage in his quest to win the Hell of the North on Sunday. While De Vlaeminck believes that Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) is the favourite to win Paris-Roubaix, he was impressed with Pozzato’s display at the Tour of Flanders last weekend.
“In Flanders [Pozzato] was the strongest, he showed it with what he did on the Paterberg,” De Vlaeminck told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I really like him as a rider, his style on the pavé is exemplary. He’s beautiful to watch on a bike, but sometimes he should have more courage and not settle for a placing, because in a sprint with Boonen he is going to be beaten the majority of the time. He has a great chance at this Roubaix, he mustn’t let it go.”
In particular, De Vlaeminck noted that Pozzato appears leaner than he has done in years gone by. “On television, I noted that he was thinner than I remembered,” he said. “Good for him.”
In spite of his admiration for Pozzato’s stylish showing in the finale of the Tour of Flanders, De Vlaeminck reckons that the Italian had inadvertently helped Boonen to victory by bridging across to Alessandro Ballan (BMC) on the Oude Kwaremont.
“When Ballan went on the Kwaremont, wasn’t it Pozzato who countered and brought Boonen with him? Only for that, I think Ballan could have finished alone,” De Vlaeminck said. “It’s true that he and Ballan don’t ride for the same team and so he did his own race and tried to win, but it still suited Boonen that it was like that.”
Boonen is on course to equal De Vlaeminck’s record of four victories at Paris-Roubaix, and Monsieur Roubaix himself agrees that his fellow countryman is the outright favourite for victory.
“It’s clear to me that he’ll be considered the favourite, he’s barely put a pedal stroke out of place since the start of the season,” De Vlaeminck said. “If he finds someone who can close the gaps for him again, it’s done.”
While De Vlaeminck lauded Boonen as the best rider in the world on current form, he wondered if Fabian Cancellara’s crash and broken collarbone had considerably eased Boonen’s path to victory in Flanders and Roubaix.
“Let’s go back to Flanders – Cancellara was the strongest and without the crash, I don’t know if Boonen would have won,” De Vlaeminck said. “He won’t be at Roubaix either and that’s a nice advantage for the others.”
De Vlaeminck noted that while Boonen will be enshrined forever more in the lore of the cobbled classics, he will never win all five monuments, a feat achieved only by Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy and De Vlaeminck himself. “I used to ride all the classics and win them too," he said.