Britain's Mark Cavendish will get his first real taste of the cobbles when he lines up for his maiden participation in the grueling Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. The HTC-Highroad sprinter is famous for having won a record 15 stages in the Tour de France in the past three years, but the Isle of Man rider has so far avoided the race known as the Hell of the North. While specialists such as Fabian Cancellara (Leopard) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) will be favorites on Sunday, HTC-Highroad are hoping the confidence gleaned from victories in Milan-SanRemo (Matt Goss) last month and the Scheldeprijs (Cavendish) in midweek bode well for their ambitions.
"We've got three outsiders for this race: Mark Cavendish, Bernie Eisel and Matt Goss, but we've seen so far this year that the outside favorites have been doing really well," said HTC-Highroad sports director Allan Peiper. "Matt wasn't a favorite at Milan-San Remo and he won it, and in the Tour of Flanders last week two outsiders came first and second, so who knows if that couldn't happen again on Sunday?"
While Belgian Nick Nuyens pipped Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel to victory in Flanders, where Swiss powerhouse Cancellara was third, Paris-Roubaix's famous cobbles are generally thought to present a more difficult challenge. Peiper says Cavendish will play a support role for Austrian Bernhard Eisel, but believes the Manxman could realistically target victory in the future.
"He (Cavendish) had a good ride in Flanders, and after winning yesterday (Wednesday) he's obviously in good shape," added the Australian. "He'll be looking after Bernie Eisel as best he can, but he ticks a lot of boxes to make a good Roubaix rider in his own right, too."