Last minute Roubaix-eve thoughts

Bryn Lennon

Paris - Roubaix is finally upon us. Just hours away from the race here are the questions that come into my mind. It's a race that has been dominated by the idea that Cancellara is unbeatable in the last week but we all know better than that when it comes to the Hell of the North. There are no sure things going into Roubaix, only questions.

S.O.S ! (Save Our Season) Team Sky and Omega Pharma calling
Who stands the best chance to pull of a season saver a'la Garmin/Vansummeren in 2011 ? Both Sky and OPQS are in dire need. Both of them with huge ambitions and huge talent a few weeks ago and more or less nothing to show for it. I can''t even think of a season as meager as this for Omega/QS/Domo/Mapei. Did it ever happen? Brailsford obviously had they idea that this was going to be the year that Sky's results matched their payroll talent but they'll need to pull it off tomorrow to make it a reality. What happens if thy don't? Clean up the roster for next year? Bring in a big hitter *cough* Cancellara *cough* to put numbers on the board? More Tenerife trips? For both teams, a win tomorrow is totally within their grasp but yo have to wonder if either of them have a pre-planned strategy to make it happen because "hold Cance's wheel" isn't going to get the job done.

Have teams made plans on how to break Cancellara?
To everyone on the outside it seems obvious that you have to throw Cancellara some curve-balls to keep him from turning this into a procession. For me. any team strategy that doesn't feature the phrase "let's piss Fabian off" seems like a loser. Let's not sugarcoat it, we all know Cance's strengths by now and we all know the level he is on atm. And we also know the one thing that throws him off his game. Having people race negatively against him. So while it may not be pretty, it may not be the "cool" thing to do, beating Spartacus (beyond hoping he has crashes or punctures) is best achieved by frustrating the man. Or frankly, by pissing him off. We waited for this in Flanders but it never really happened for whatever reason and the outcome was the predictable. When was someone going to gamble and send someone up the road and force his hand (and Sagan in that case) but it never happened. In Roubaix it will be necessary. If DS's haven't been watching tapes of 2011 and drawing conclusions I'm inclined to call it sleeping on the job.

When is BMC going to deliver?
I'm seriously struggling to think of a better Roubaix team than BMC. Two leaders Thor and Phinney who are custom-built to win this race. Powerful rouleurs, with sprints that match the best in the world and a passion for the race. Helpers that other teams would fork over copious amounts to sign in Schär, Burghard and Quinziato. Add to that two wildcards in Oss and van Avermaet who are both likely winners on the cobbles. Van Avermaet may not love the race but physically it's hard to see a better rider for the race and Oss looks lethal star-material if he'd only grow his hair back. so how are they not winning yet? Really they ought to go in the S.O.S. column for all they've gotten out of their quality so far. Tomorrow has to be the day, no?

When are we going to see Lotto on top in Roubaix again?
It's been ten years since the Belgian Lotto squad won Roubaix. That time it was Peter van Petegem doing his Ronde /Roubaix double but since then they haven't put a man on the podium and that can't be right. In my youtube inspired Roubaix -dreams there is always a Lotto rider involved somewhere in the fight in Paris-Roubaix, it just feels like how it ought to be. Be it van Petegem, unlucky Leif Hoste or the ultimate hardman Andrei Tchmil, it just feels like Lotto should be up there in this race. This year they really have some options. Jürgen Roelandts could ride the wave from Flanders and be a player here as well. the race suits him well enough and there' no way you can over-estimate momentum when it comes to picking winners at Roubaix. With him he has two guy who make for interesting spoilers. Lars Bak got in the right break in 2011 and showed he can win one day given the right circumstances and André Greipel is the 180 lb gorilla in the room. Surely no one has missed his form in the latest races and throwing him in the mix could be maybe the most intriguing scenario we could hope for. Since he was suggested to me as a possible winner I've been strugging to come up with reasons he shouldn't be on the favorites-list and I can't really think of a single one (Except no way can he win. Can he?)

However this plays out it will be a spectacular show, it always is. Weather looks like sunny, a bit warmer than last Sunday and mostly little to moderate sidewinds, nothing that should play a part. How many are willing to take the Cancellara vs. the field bet right now?

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