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by Shane Stokes
April 10, 2016
Photography by Kristof Ramon
Saturday in Compiègne was the final build-up to one of the toughest races of the year, and the big crowds were out in the town. Each team was presented in the square in front of the Palais de Compiègne and there the big stars were asked about their chances for today’s race.
Here are the pre-race thoughts of a number of riders.
It is another race. Of course, what is behind is always small details. I think that tomorrow on the start line, concentration will be vital.
I hope I don’t fall asleep at 1.30 at night [as happened before Flanders – ed.]. Then the rest we will see. The day has to start good and when it starts good, I am confident. Even more than maybe last week.
Q: Are you sad that next year you won’t have that press conference [in other words, that he will have retired – ed.]?
No, I think that is how life is. Life is about going on, and going on in another way. This afternoon, I spoke to one of our riders, Marco Coledan, and it is his first time in Paris-Roubaix. I said to him let’s go to the presentation, let’s do the loop with all the supports and also the sponsors. But then we come in and we don’t do the loop anymore with all the small gifts. So also this has changed.
Everything is changing. There is a new chapter coming and I am looking forward to this. I am ready for that.
Q: Would you say you are the main favourite for tomorrow?
It is the same. Always the same riders. Nobody has changed. There are a lot of good riders in the group.
Q: What do you expect of Fabian Cancellara?
I don’t know. We will see in the race. For sure he wants to be in the front.
Q: How do you feel after the recon yesterday?
Q: What about the cobblestones, did you see that it is a little bit wet or was it okay?
Ah, yesterday was dry. We will see tomorrow because tonight maybe it will rain. But for everybody it is the same.
Q: What about the other riders. There are two main favourites, but who can be the third favourite?
Everybody is a favourite.
Q: Compared to the other years you are not the same rider…
Q: Well, the jersey changed…
Just the jersey, but not the rider.
Q: But not only the jersey. There is Flanders and the other victories.
It is just victories. But I am the same rider.
Q: To say the question another way, would you say you have more experience and are stronger this year?
Stronger I don’t know, but I just feel good. Experience you take every day.
Q: Are you scared tomorrow that it will be everybody against you? You said already that nobody wants to work with you now that you won Flanders?
Well, Roubaix is different. The winner of tomorrow for sure needs a lot of luck to be in good shape and to be in the front.
Q: What do you think about Boonen?
He is also very dangerous. He feels at home on the cobbles.
Q: Is he too old?
Not too old, I think.
Q: How do you feel today before Paris-Roubaix. Is it like every day before another race, or is a special race for you?
It is very special for everybody. It is unique in the world. It is a special race.
Q: Do you feel afraid? Do you feel nervous?
Ah, how I said it before. A race is a race. It is another race. A different race, but the same race like all the races we are going. We have to participate.
Q: You won the first big Classic of the season and of your career with Flanders. What did it change – maybe less pressure for tomorrow, maybe more experience? What did it change for you to win last week?
Nothing…just more interviews.
Q: What do you remember from riding this before?
I was doing all right and then…ah, I don’t know. I got off at the second feed, that is it, really. I was doing all right. I had to sit up and wait for Gossy [Matt Goss] and he had stopped already.
Q: Did you learn much from it?
Absolutely f**k all. And what I did learn, I have forgotten by now.
First of all I am really happy to be here. I am looking forward to the start tomorrow. I expect a crazy race. I don’t really know what is going up but I will see how it goes.
I just hope for a good race and a good result for our team.