Is Fabian Cancellara going to win Paris-Roubaix? You bet your Arenberg, he will.
Despite his two recent crashes — one at Scheldeprijs and the other during his Hell of the Recon — Cancellara (RadioShack-Trek) remains the massive favorite.
His thighs haven’t gotten any smaller since Flanders. Is his wattage off by 1% because of those two unfortunate mishaps? Maybe, but it doesn’t really matter, right? He’s that strong, He’s Spartacus and he will suck it up and met out the torture.
It’s hard to imagine anyone else winning the hard-man’s race besides the Swiss time machine. But let’s ramble through the possibilities just to amuse ourselves and talk up the darkhorses. Might as well down a few beers while we’re at it.
We are fans of the attacking style of Sylvain Chavanel. He’s got that French panache thing down but sometimes you do wonder what would happen if he wasn’t quite so aggressive and played it a little smarter, saving the legs for that one crushing move.
We think he was a bit tired after his overall victory in De Panne and that didn’t help his odds in Flanders. Now, he is ready to go and we are pulling for him — “Allez Chava, Allez, mon vieux.” Omega-Pharma Quickstep boss Patrick Lefevere is still frothing at the mouth about Cavendish’s sprint train and his boys need a podium for Roubaix. Everybody has to ride for Chavanel including Lady Luck.
Sky’s Matthew Hayman summed up their underwhelming team performance in Flanders with a bit of perspective — “nobody died.” Well, according to CJ Sutton, they were all prepared to die for captain Geraint Thomas.
So were have some confusion about death and dying that needs to get sorted before the Hell of the North. Ian Stannard is a big diesel but say his name and Winner Paris-Roubaix and you have to admit it sounds strange.
We simply can’t see Edvald Boasson Hagen grabbing this race by the shirt collar and slapping it around. He needs a violent streak and that’s what we’d be working on if we were race coach Tim Kerrison — making Edvald a little nasty. We can see Geraint Thomas in with a top ten and then it’s back to the marginal gains blackboard for Cobbles Planning Rev2.
What is going on with BMC’s Thor Hushovd? Despite claims that he is back to form after last year’s mystery virus, we don’t see the proof. Thor is a bad-ass when he needs to be but he’s starting to look like a Norse version of Juan Antonio Flecha — close but no rock and on the slow fade. Still, this is his favorite race and by the velodrome we will know exactly where Hushovd will be this year. If he makes an impression, then we’ll see him with a stage win in July in Le Grand Shindig, if not, well, it’s gonna be a long season.
We’d rather put our BMC dollars on the young Taylor Phinney. He eats cobbles for breakfast and is a 6’5″ monster on the bike. In our humble op, he has a better shot than nearly man Greg Van Avermaet or Hushovd. Get behind The Kid, we say. Phinney could be the Johan Van Summeren of the race if he jumps to the front early. A wildcard but a very dangerous one.
Speaking of Van Summeren, why all this loose talk about him being tipped as a contender? Lightening doesn’t strike the same person twice, miracles don’t have sequels, you don’t love the same dream double. Besides, what would happen if he won again — he can’t propose to his girlfriend a second time because now they’re married. Sure, we like the gangly Van Summeren and he knows how to race Paris-Roubaix but really, just can’t see anybody from Garmin-Sharp near the podium.
We said it in Flanders and we’ll say it again because we’re pig-headed. Lars Boom is the man and will be a force to be reckoned with in Roubaix. He almost made the top ten in Flanders so maybe he is ready to rock and roll on the cobbles. Our crystal ball says Boom is at least top ten and in the mix until the end.
Master P, Filippo Pozzato, admitted that he’s done jack-shit this season and that Paris-Roubaix is his last chance to redeem himself. The Cycling Gods have turned against the Italian and we expect major mechanical issues for Filippo and plenty of “woe-is-me” frustration and excuses afterwards. He doesn’t deserve to be on the podium and no matter what goodies Dr Ferrari has for Master P, it ain’t gonna happen.
Would Garmin-Sharp like to have Heinrich Haussler on the Roubaix roster right about now? They sure as Hell of the North would. The Austra-German spent the winter cross country skiing and he is back on serious form. He’s mad, he’s aggressive, his hair looks dazzling and his IAM squad is firmly behind him — although they haven’t promised to die for him like Sky. We’re hoping Heino gets his share of good luck because we could easily see him on that podium.
The renaissance of French cycling is almost a dead story now. Everybody can see the French are back, winning races and kissing podium girls and making that sourpuss Bernard Hinault mad — just cause nobody is good enough for the Badger.
That said, Sebastien Turgot looks like the real deal and the real turbo. A surprise second last year and eighth in Flanders, the Europcar rider is good to go all the way. Anyone who saw Damien Gaudin in his skinsuit at the prologue of Paris-Nice knows the guy is built like Cancellara. Which is pretty much all you need to get my vote for Roubaix — Le Spartacus.
Who else could possibly win Paris-Roubaix? Marc Madiot, that’s who. He won in ’85 and ’91 and is still somebody you cannot underestimate. Why? Because Madiot is the finest motivational yeller from the team car in cycling history. He is going to be screaming 200 proof encouragement to Matthieu Ladagnous if his guy makes the front near the finish. That alone will push Mathieu beyond what is humanly possible on a bike. Bah oui, c’est bien possible.
Cancellara won Flanders but the other big winner was Jurgen Roelandts of Lotto-Belisol. His team was the only one that truly delivered on the pre-race promises to be hyper aggressive and throw as many troublemakers up the road as possible. So Roelandts will get the full mark job on Sunday but he says Roubaix suits him better than Flanders and he is confident and riding without pressure — an ideal set of circumstances for a great performance. His squad goes into the race without stress and with the knowledge that just one week ago they delivered the goods.
Our dream podium: Cancellara first, Chavanel second and Phinney third.