Fresh from a great ride in the Tour of Flanders, Britain’s top cobbled Classics racer Roger Hammond (Cervélo) says he will be on the hunt for another top result in Paris-Roubaix this Sunday.
Seventh in Flanders for Hammond last week was Great Britain’s best finish in the Ronde since 2001, when Max Sciandri took the same result after forming part of the winning break. But whilst Hammond’s Flanders ride was more than encouraging, the Briton is now fully focussed on the Hell of the North.
“I know from how Flanders that my form’s good,” Hammond told Cycling Weekly whilst heading south in a Cervélo team car for the Roubaix start at Compeigne – after a day spent checking out the cobbled sections of the race.
“Hopefully Sunday will suit me even more, although in Roubaix you always need to be lucky, too. Everything needs to come together.”
Third in 2004 in his second ever Paris-Roubaix, when he was riding for the tiny Mr.Bookmaker.com team, Hammond has stronger back-up all round at Cervélo.
“Everybody’s in good shape, we’re more motivated for Sunday than ever and everybody believes we can do well,” Hammond says. That ‘we’ includes British team-mate Jeremy Hunt, a former top 20 finisher in Roubaix, and Norway’s Thor Hushovd – third in last year’s race.
“I’ve been ill quite a bit this year, but I’m coming back up now,” Hunt told Cycling Weekly on Thursday
“Right now I’d give my form about seven and a half out of ten. I’ll be riding on Sunday for Thor and Roger. They’re going well. We’ve got a strong team.”
The entire Cervélo squad rode most of the last 100 kilometres of Paris- Roubaix on Thursday, from the sector before Arenberg to the end of Carrefour D’Arbre.
“The cobbles always feel worse in training because you’re not going so fast as in the race,” Hammond said, ” so you bounce around a lot more. However, it’s all pretty much the same as other years.”
One section of pave which Hammond would have liked to see back on the route is still missing.
“They’ve still kept out a section they used to have after Arenberg which made it more difficult for anybody left behind to get back on. Now there are about 16 kilometres of normal roads after Arenberg, and last year a massive group caught up again with the front. The race didn’t split up as much as it could have.”
The weather for Sunday is expected to be dry with a headwind, making it tougher for breaks to go clear,too.
“I’d have prefered a tailwind because that way the breaks can stay away and don’t get caught so quickly,” Hammond says. “It means people are more reluctant to commit themselves.”
Hammond has seen the route, done his training and is ready to go. With all the boxes ticked, between now and the race start on Sunday, the Briton has one objective and one objective alone: staying healthy.
“I’ve done all the hard training I needed to, plus Flanders last Sunday, Scheldeprijs on Wednesday,” Hammond said.
“Now it’s just a question of resting as much as possible – and not getting ill at the last minute.”