With the Spring Classics taking place in the warmest April in years, it?s going to be a lot easier to predict the weather at Paris-Roubaix than a winner. It?s set to be a dry and dusty race over the cobbles of northern France, and likely to be extremely fast.
The parcours has been slightly tweaked from 2006, but the race will really start when the peloton hits the cobbles at Troisvilles after 98 kilometres. There are 28 stretches of cobbles in total, covering a total of 52.7 kilometres. Last year Tom Boonen smashed the bunch to pieces on the Tranché d?Arenberg sector, an arrow-straight 2.4 kilometres of bike-juddering forest track. This sector, along with the Carrefour de l?Arbre 15 kilometres from the end, traditionally define the race.
2006 winner Fabian Cancellara is the logical favourite for the 2007 edition. He was rumoured to be out of condition over winter, but a storming ride in the Tour of Flanders when he single-handedly held off the combined Lampre and Predictor teams for 30 kilometres, showed that he is coming to form at exactly the right time.
The Tour of Flanders gave some interesting pointers to the form of the other top riders. Tom Boonen went into Flanders as the favourite, but left as an also-ran. Much as he would like to gain revenge at Paris-Roubaix, it is too late for him to gain the form he had when he won the race in 2005. It is more likely that the winner and runner-up at Flanders, Alessandro Ballan and Leif Hoste, will figure this weekend.
There are also a number of dark horses capable of ambushing Cancellara. Vladimir Gusev, disqualified from fourth place last year for ducking under a railway barrier, is still improving and was an ominous and almost anonymous fifth at Flanders. Juan Antonio Flecha has had two consecutive top five placings in this race, and has already come second in Het Volk this year.
www.cyclingweekly.com will be providing immediate results and reports from Paris-Roubaix, plus there will be a highlights video posted in the Videos section after the race.
Vladimir Gusev, Tom Boonen
Juan Antonio Flecha, Leif Hoste, Alessandro Ballan
Lars Michaelsen, Steffen Wesemann, Magnus Backstedt, Roger Hammond
Leon Van Bon, Bernhard Eisel, Stijn Devolder, Frédéric Guesdon, Stuart O?Grady
LATEST BETTING ODDS, from Unibet.com
Fabian Cancellara 3.5
Tom Boonen 3.5
Leif Hoste 9
Peter Van Petegem 11
Alessandro Ballan 14
Filippo Pozzato 20
Juan Antonio Flecha 22
Thor Hushovd 25
|14||187.5||Tilloy-Sars et Rosières||2.4km|
|13||194||Beuvry la Forêt- Orchies||1.4km|
|11||205||Auchy les Orchies-Bersée||1.2km|
|9||216.5||Mérignies-Pont à Marcq||0.7km|
|7||225.5||Templeuve-Moulin de Vertain||0.5km|
|4||242||Carrefour de l?Arbre||2.1km|
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2006 Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
2005 Tom Boonen (Bel)
2004 Magnus Backstedt (Swe)
2003 Peter Van Petegem (Bel)
2002 Johan Museeuw (Bel)