Crisp blue skies greeted the peloton at the start of the 110th edition of Paris-Roubaix. Ahead of the field, 257.5km, 27 sectors of cobbles, and the famous velodrome finish.
The Hell of the North is the final cobbled classic of the spring and the air was thick with anticipation and excitement in Compeigne this morning. Defending champion Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Barracuda) signed on mid-way through the startline process but the biggest cheers were for two other riders.
Tom Boonen is the outright favourite for his 4th win in the race and will be hoping to make it a Flanders-Roubaix double for the second time in his career.
But Frederic Guesdon was greeted with the most applause, from fans and press alike. The veteran FDJ rider won the race in 1997 and this will be his final race in a long and distinguished career. His teammates and even his boss Marc Madiot sported ‘Merci Fred’ t-shirts in a sign of thanks and although Guesdon is no longer considered a favourite for Roubaix he has etched his mark on the race’s illustrious history.