No two-way battle between Sagan and Cancellara
Compiègne (France) (AFP)
Fabian Cancellara insisted on Saturday that Sunday's prestigious Paris-Roubaix one-day classic would not be a two-way battle between him and Peter Sagan.
Cancellara has won the 'Hell of the North' three times in his career and is racing his last season as a professional.
Victory on Sunday would take him level with great rival Tom Boonen and Roger De Vlaeminck, both Belgians, on a record four victories.
World champion Sagan, though, is the form rider on the cobbles at the moment having won the Tour of Flanders last week, just a week after winning Gent-Wevelgem, having finished second at E3 Harelbeke two days before that.
But having been trumped by the likes of Australian Stuart O'Grady, Belgian Johan Vansummeren and Dutchman Niki Terpstra during his decade-long rivalry with Boonen, Cancellara knows the dangers will be lurking from all sides on the cobbles.
"It's a race that's not just about me and Tom, that's clear. I also think it's not a race just about Cancellara and Sagan," said the 35-year-old Swiss.
"Already we come from Flanders with rivals, with riders in great form, but this is Roubaix and it's not Flanders -- that's a big change.
"It changes everyone's method, it's a race like every year and that's important for me.
"There are the riders, and the tactics of other riders of the other teams. I think Etixx (Boonen and Terpstra's team) will try to make it a tough race because they have the most riders able to make big attacks.
"But it's Roubaix and I know what I have to do."
Sagan ended a long run of near misses in Monuments last week by winning in Flanders but he says he doesn't feel any different now that he's been catapulted into the position of primary favourite.
"It changes nothing, I just have more interviews," he quipped.
"It's a unique race. I'm the same racer, I just don't have the same shirt," he added, referring to the fact he will ride the race for the first time in the world champion's rainbow jersey.
"I feel well with all the recognition I got this week. It won't be the same race as the Tour of Flanders: the winner will be very lucky and will need to have good legs!"
One of the main outsiders is Belgian Sep Vanmarcke, who was in good form in Flanders, finishing third behind Sagan and Cancellara.
But for falling a couple of times, he may even have been stronger in the finish.
His main weakness is that he does not have a strong kick like Sagan and Cancellara, so he knows he must ditch them before reaching the outdoor velodrome in Roubaix.
"What's the tactic? I don't know, just be stronger and try to drop them. But that won't be easy with those two," said the Lotto-Jumbo team leader.
"I will have to see how the race goes. I hope to have luck on my side and I will try to drop them."
© 2016 AFP