Classics veteran Roger Hammond is keeping alive his dream of a win in Paris-Roubaix. If not for him, then at least for a Garmin-Cervelo team mate
The Hell of the North has long been the focus of Hammond’s season as the tough terrain perfectly suits the former junior world cyclo cross champion.
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He finished third in 2004 behind Magnus Backstedt when riding for the relatively small MrBookmaker team, and last year rode to an impressive fourth behind Fabian Cancellara, who escaped with 48 kilometres to go.
“I think [Cancellara] is better than he was last year,” Hammond said. “He’s human, though, he looked like he made a mistake on Sunday in Flanders, he didn’t eat enough… I don’t know, maybe he was like me, slightly sick. You know, it just shows he’s human and it gives everyone else in the peloton a bit more motivation. We can never give up, there’s never any reason to give up.”
Garmin-Cervélo’s classics season has been less than perfect this year. They were billed as a Superteam for the races from Milan-San Remo to Paris-Roubaix but have so far failed to impress. A crash for Tyler Farrar in the Scheldeprijs yesterday underlined the team’s disappointing spring campaing.
Team Manager Jonathan Vaughters noted that no one on the team has ever won a classic, and that expectations were set too high. But he is refusing to give up and want’s to turn the team’s fortunes around on Sunday.
“I’m starting to feel fit and healthy again and that’s the most important thing,” Hammond continued. “Last Sunday, I started to feel healthy for the first time since January. I felt better today [yesterday – ed.] and hopefully, I’ll be better yet on Sunday.”
Hammond’s role on Sunday will depend on the team’s reconnaissance of the cobbled sectors today. Vaughters may decide for him to patrol early escapes as he did in Flanders or he may reserve him for the final alongside Thor Hushovd and Farrar.
“I don’t rule anything out. When you’ve got the team we’ve got, normally, we should be able to play all sorts of different cards,” Hammond continued. “If you’ve only got one leader, one chance, then you have to ride a bit defensively. We haven’t, we’ve got options, so we race aggressively.”
“I think everyone knows, it’s been my dream since I was six to win this race. In my older age, I’ve become more realistic and changed that ambition to ‘just as long as we win as team.’ I don’t think it would be right of us to go to the start line without any other ambition.”
Hammond hopes to celebrate a win on Sunday night, sharing a champagne or beer with his team-mates. In those rare moments, his beer of choice is Belgium’s Urthel.
“If Roubaix was a beer? It would be something with a sting in the tail, probably a Duval, it’s the one that just sneaks up on you and smacks you the face when you’ve had too many of them.”
Garmin has yet to finalise its eight-man roster for Roubaix, but will likely be Farrar, Hushovd and Hammond with Heinrich Haussler, Andreas Klier, Brett Lancaster, Gabriel Rasch and Johan Van Summeren.