Sky pair primed for Roubaix
Queen of the Classics a race apart
By Jonathan Turner. Last Updated: 09/04/10 4:11pm
Flecha: Heads Team Sky line up
Team Sky pair Juan Antonio Flecha and Mathew Hayman are both looking forward to another tilt at Paris-Roubaix this Sunday.
The duo relish the cobbled classics each year, none more so than Paris-Roubaix which is the most iconic one-day race on the cycling calendar.
"It's a great race," Flecha told us when we caught up with him on Thursday evening, shortly after Team Sky's recon of the final 150km of the 259km epic.
Flecha, a brilliant winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad earlier this season, has an outstanding record at Paris-Roubaix in recent years.
He was runner up in 2007, third in 2005, fourth in 2006 and sixth 12 months ago after a crash in the closing stages destroyed his chances of winning.
"It's a race that I've always enjoyed," he explained. "Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes unlucky but at the end of the day it's a great race. It's just one day a year and you really try and enjoy everything about it.
"It's the Queen of the Classics and harks back to the early years of cycling. There's often a lot of adversity - the mud, the weather, the way you have to race it - so it makes it pretty different to all the others."
That's echoed by Australian Hayman who admitted: "The Tour de France is always going to be the race that most teams are judged on, but that's a shame in a way because these classics are also pinnacles of the sport."
Asked what makes Paris-Roubaix so special he explained: "There are 60km of cobblestones which you don't find in any other race. Plenty of them are just farm roads which are only used to race on this one day a year.
"The history of the race goes back so many years too and it's difficult to put into words just how special it is. And then to be able to ride in it and battle with the elements and the roads is another whole experience.
"The atmosphere around the cobblestones is amazing too - it's not just French or Belgian supporters either as there are a lot more English, Australian and American fans coming over these days too."
Hayman has been in fine form himself in recent weeks, claiming 13th after a prominent showing at Flanders which came hot on the heels of a fifth-placed finish at Dwars door Vlaanderen.
"Flanders and Roubaix are the two biggest classics and I went pretty well at Flanders last week so hopefully I can hold onto that form for another week and be up there either helping Flecha or having a good race myself," he told us.
"Flecha has been on the podium and right up there in this race a few times so he's going to be the guy we try and give the best chance of winning."
Good to go
The preparation has gone smoothly and everything is in place for another bold showing from Team Sky, with Hayman explaining: "We went out on Thursday and tested the bikes and equipment which was all good and did a fair bit of the parcours for Sunday.
"We showed we're a strong team at Flanders and we're all pretty relaxed and ready to go again this weekend."
And that team ethic was underlined by Flecha who added: "We're really happy about the way we're all riding. We're a real group and that's important for this race in particular. Everybody wants to work together and everything looks good for Sunday."