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Paris-Roubaix: Rate the Contenders!

OK, no more love stories. Let's get straight down to business...

  • Martin Elmiger -- Rating: ★★
    Coupla nice finishes in the past (18th, 24th), and he's rolling pretty well these days.
  • Baden Cooke -- Rating: ★★
    Whoops -- I honestly meant to say something here, starting with the fact that he once bagged 17th, which means that among Barloworld's guys he at least should have a puncher's chance. I'd say he's going OK and shouldn't be overlooked... but that is what I always say when I run out of ideas.
  • JJ Rojas Gil -- Rating: ★
    I've taken it upon myself to promote Spanish contenders on the cobbles, and we've got two podiums to show for it. I don't plan on stopping now. Go JJ!
  • Nick Nuyens -- Rating: ★★★
    Second at de Ronde last weekend was something of a breakthrough for Nuyens. At 27, he might be on the verge of hitting his stride. That said, he's more of a Ronde rider than a beefy Roubaix type. Anyway, this is as good a chance as he'll get, so we'll see.
  • Staf Schierlinckx -- Rating: ★★
    Cofidis' plan B, if Nuyens doesn't hold up. He's been 10th and 16th before, so he's got the chops.
  • Thor Hushovd -- Rating: ★★
    Big guy's been 9th and 16th. If he could somehow make the finale, he'd be a threat to win. When's the last time we had a bunch sprint at Roubaix anyway?
  • Steffen Wesemann -- Rating: ★★
    One of the most consistent performers in the race's modern epoch:  2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 16th twice. Hard to see him breaking though now, after all these years, but he's as good a bet to be hanging around as anyone.
  • Christophe Mengin -- Rating: ★★
    Coupla top-25s... I suppose he'll be there someplace.
  • George Hincapie -- Rating: ★★★
    Looked fabulous Sunday. He's certainly one of the more interesting story lines out there, being one of those older guys who's still young enough to win and has seen a lot of close calls. Also, not to sound like a broken record, but he should have competent support.
  • Roger Hammond -- Rating: ★
    High Road's Plan B. He's got a third place in his palmares, and was actively helping Hincapie all day last Sunday. One way or the other, he'll be visible.
  • Alessandro Ballan -- Rating: ★★★★★
    One of my two favorites. I just think he's going great. His only decent performance was his third place two years ago, which was more like a 6th (train crossing incident). But he can perform here, and he won't melt away easily.
  • Filippo Pozzato -- Rating: ★★★
    He hasn't come here much, though Pippo has a 15th place in his palmares. As mentioned earlier, he's in outstanding shape. In 21 starts so far this season he has 10 top-ten's. A strong bet for a high placing... but he doesn't strike me as a perfect rider here.
  • Tom Boonen -- Rating: ★★★★★
    The other favorite. Experienced, strong, fit. Excellent team. Won it before. Blah blah blah.
  • Stijn Devolder -- Rating: ★
    Man of the week... but he doesn't have a chance here. First, I doubt he'll be allowed to. Secondly, he's got to be tired. Finally, he doesn't have much experience here.
  • Wouter Weylandt -- Rating: ★★
    He's got the body type. No experience here, though he hadn't exactly been hanging around Gent-Wevelgem much before today's third place.
  • Juan Antonio Flecha -- Rating: ★★★★
    I've blogged enough about him already. He's got a 2nd and 4th. This is his race, and he's in top shape.
  • Seb Langeveld -- Rating: ★★
    His 1st start here. Doubtful it will be that memorable, but he'll be here to win someday, soon.
  • Leif H\o/ste -- Rating: ★★★
    Whatever. He'll be in the mix. And he won't win.
  • Bert Roesems -- Rating: ★
    Another big lug. Has an 8th two years ago. Been resting all week. A solid fallback for Silence! Lotto.
  • Magnus Backstedt -- Rating: ★★★
    Another consistent performer here (7th, 4th, 1st). Hard to know what you're getting from him right now, with the lack of race days. But he's not too old to win here, not by a long shot.
  • Fabian Cancellara -- Rating: ★★★★
    CW: he's leaking oil. So why will people be watching him so nervously Sunday? Because it's the perfect race for him.
  • Stuart O'Grady -- Rating: ★★★
    Last year was a fluke. Fluke weather, fluke winner. No such luck this year. O'Grady's looking strong, but you never know.
  • Kurt Asle Arvesen -- Rating: ★
    Little more in his palmares than a lone 26th. But he's looking like an ideal man for the CSC plan B option.