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KORTRIJK, Belgium (VN) — Fabian Cancellara enters Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix without equal, of that there is no doubt. But as far as teams in the race go, BMC Racing is capable of attacking throughout the Queen of the Classics, and perhaps springing one of several riders loose in the velodrome.
American Taylor Phinney rode to 15th place in his first attempt as a professional at Roubaix last season, and looks to improve here this year with more experience and sharper condition. Former world road champion Thor Hushovd has finished third, second and eighth at the Queen. The squad also has Greg Van Avermaet and Daniel Oss, who’ve shown form this classics season. Along with Sky, BMC is one of the deepest teams in the race.
BMC’s northern classics season hinges upon Roubaix; the superteam has yet to win in this year’s campaign, though it has come close. Van Avermaet finished seventh at Flanders and third at Ghent-Wevelgem, while Oss took third at E3 Harelbeke.
“The goals are like all the other classics: Try to get on the podium,” said director Fabio Baldato. “Sunday’s first goal is to be on the podium. And afterward, we see.”
Phinney has made no secret of his adoration of Roubaix, a race he won as a U-23. He sat out of Flanders with a knee problem in hopes of peak form Sunday.
“I’m all better from my little knee problem. I probably could have done Flanders with the knee the way it was, but it would have been a risk for Paris-Roubaix. So, with the team, I decided to skip Flanders and go 100 percent for Paris-Roubaix. And now I’m here, and my knee feels a lot better. And I’m happy to be here,” he said via a team audio recording. Phinney would like to do a strong ride in his own right, but has said he will line up to work for teammates.
“I think we come here with obviously a really strong team, and a guy like Thor, who’s, you know, very passionate about this race, and I’m very passionate about this race. Like Fabio said, podium.”
For Hushovd, it’s one more chance at his favorite race on the calendar.
“I would say it’s the most important one-day race of the year for me. I think it’s the race that suits me best,” he said. “I’m really focused on Sunday. I had my little issues last week, but now I feel much better.
“My goal is to finish on the podium. I know Cancellara is a difficult guy to beat. But anything is possible. So I’ll look forward to Sunday’s race. I also need a result.”
Cancellara, meanwhile, said Phinney had made steps toward a winning classic ride, but that not racing Flanders might hold him back.
“We know his values and his talent, he’s made steps to be come closer to the high level,” Cancellara said. The distance — nearly 250 kilometers — may be a lot to ask of younger riders, he added.
“Younger riders suffer more. He skipped Flanders, his last race was Ghent-Wevelgem. … How are the chances are for him? I don’t know. He has a chance now and for sure for the future.” said Cancellara.
Those chances begin again Sunday, in a race that comes down to legs — and chance — as much as any.