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Tom Boonen: Backstedt’s the man to watch at Roubaix

Former world champion Tom Boonen said he is determined to make amends for his mediocre season so far by winning the prestigious Paris-Roubaix one-day classic. However Boonen is wary of a few rivals who he said have been preparing specially for cycling's toughest one-day classic. Boonen won the race for the first time in 2005, and goes into Sunday's epic knowing it could be his last chance to save his season after being upstaged by Quick Step teammate Stijn Devolder at the Tour of Flanders last week.

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By Agence France Presse

Former world champion Tom Boonen said he is determined to make amends for his mediocre season so far by winning the prestigious Paris-Roubaix one-day classic.

However Boonen is wary of a few rivals who he said have been preparing specially for cycling’s toughest one-day classic.

Boonen won the race for the first time in 2005, and goes into Sunday’s epic knowing it could be his last chance to save his season after being upstaged by Quick Step teammate Stijn Devolder at the Tour of Flanders last week.

“I’m not saying I’m going to be the definite winner, but on my side everything is as ready as it will ever be for me to be the champion,” said Boonen, the former world champion.

“Now we just have to see how the race unfolds. In Paris-Roubaix, the circumstances are usually a lot more important than the condition of the riders.”

Danish oufit CSC will also be fired up to make amends for their debacle on the cobble of the snow-hit Flanders last week when they line up two former champions Sunday.

Swiss Fabian Cancellara won in 2006 and Australian Stuart O’Grady claimed victory last year.

However CSC, and every other team lining up for the second of the cycling season’s one-day ‘monuments’ — after Milan-San Remo — are aware the race has a flavor all of its own that can leave even the best prepared, and most determined teams with a painful aftertaste.

“To win these big classics it takes a lot more than a lot of good luck. Everything has to fall in your favour on the day,” warned O’Grady.

Luck becomes arguably the number one factor in Paris-Roubaix, where the ever-present likelihood of punctures and crashes makes the race one mostly of attrition.

Boonen believes he is on better form than last week but is wary of a bunch of fellow favorites, with Sweden’s former winner Magnus Backstedt his number one rival.

“I was in good form last week for Flanders, but I’m in even better shape now after the training sessions we’ve done this week,” added Boonen.

“The favorites will be the same as in Flanders, but I think Magnus Backstedt is a serious contender. From what I can gather he’s been preparing for Roubaix pretty seriously.”

Rabobank’s Juan Anotonio Flecha is another serious contender, and he could give Spain their first win on the race having finished second behind O’Grady last year and third last week in Flanders.

Having also placed fourth, third and second in Roubaix in the past, Flecha is an odds-on favorite — but he is not getting carried away.

“I’ve got so much respect for this race that, even going on past results, I know I’m in no way guaranteed a win,” he said.

American George Hincapie will be backed by a confident High Road team that will be dedicated to grinding out a win — if they get luck on their side.

“All we need is a bit of luck because luck is a key factor in Roubaix,” said team manager Brian Holm.

“I always spend the whole of the race with my fingers crossed, hoping that nobody will puncture at the wrong moment or crash.”