Can anyone catch Cancellara?

2013-04-06 10:54
Fabian Cancellara (File)
Paris - Ask any of the riders and team officials involved who is going to win Sunday's Paris-Roubaix race and one name stands out above all others - Fabian Cancellara.

The 32-year-old Swiss rider, who has attracted the nickname "Spartacus" due to his power and resilience, is an overwhelming favourite for a third victory in the race, having completely dominated last weekend's Tour of Flanders.

The Paris-Roubaix, the most gruelling and arguably the most popular of the Spring classic races, takes the riders on a 256.5km ride from leafy Compiegne to a finish in the northern industrial town's velodrome.

The "Hell of the North", as it has been dubbed, offers no respite for the riders from start to finish with a series of climbs and the famed cobbled roads of northern France to contend with.

Cancellara, winner in 2006 and 2010, is aiming to become the 12th rider to pull off the Flanders-Roubaix double in back-to-back classics.

Even two bad falls in as many days this week, notably on Thursday when he and his RadioShack team went on the traditional reconnaissance ride of the race route, will not have shaken his resolve.

Coming hard on the heels of a nasty fall in Wednesday's GP d'Escaut, Thursday's setback saw Cancellara take refuge in the team car for 15km before resuming the training ride to the finish.

The previous day, he was able to pick himself up and finish the final 60km of the race but on Friday he admitted: "It's not ideal, but overall I'm happy to be sitting here and not in a hospital bed like I was last year."

Cancellara, who suffered a broken collarbone after a fall in the Tour of Flanders and missed the Paris-Roubaix a year ago, added: "A lot of people are talking about me as the favourite, but we'll see how it turns out."

Filippo Pozzato of the Italian Lampre team, who has race ambitions of his own, reflects the general opinion, when he says Cancellara will be a massive favourite. "All eyes will be on him," the 31-year-old Venetian said.

Belgian Lotto rider Jurgen Roelandts, third in Flanders, says he feels his best hope of victory is a slip-up by the Swiss rider.

"Like the Tour of Flanders, my aim is to anticipate an attack from Cancellara. He's difficult to beat if he hasn't got a problem, but it's up to us to make him make that mistake."

Frederic Guesdon, former winner of the race and sporting director of the French FDJ team, said: "Physically, he's head-and-shoulders above everyone else. For sheer strength, he's unbeatable!"

That view is echoed by another French team leader, Dominique Arnould of Europcar.

"He is a level above everyone else. The problem is he rides faster than any of the five riders behind him..."

But his rivals need not despair entirely, as in 2011 Cancellara was stronger than anyone over the Tour of Flanders but got beaten at the finish and, having dominated the Paris-Roubaix, he lost out in the final run-in to Belgium's Johan Vansummeren.

"The only possible tactic is to isolate him," Arnould said. "But that means setting off from way out and make all his team-mates work by battling to eliminate them."

Italian rider Pozzato, who was second in the Paris-Roubaix in 2009 but has had a disappointing season so far, still hopes to redeem himself after finishing 44th in Flanders. "I've got to be more competitive than last week," he said.

"At the start of the season I set myself three targets: Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix. This is my last chance."

One man who will not be troubling Cancellara, though, is last year's winner Tom Boonen of Belgium.

Boonen, who with compatriot Roger de Vlaeminck holds the record of four wins, is out with a broken rib picked up in a fall in last week's Tour of Flanders and will be in plaster for three weeks.

Read more on:    fabian cancellara  |  cycling

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