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Rollin relishes cobbled classics

When Dominique Rollin soloed to victory after a 7.5-hour slog through heavy rain and wind on stage 6 of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California, one couldn’t help but think the French Canadian was a man for the classics.

After the California performance, Rollin, then 25, told VeloNews, “The cobbles would suit me. When I was riding for Vélo Club Roubaix I was happy to be there and riding the cobbles, because Paris-Roubaix would be the ultimate race for me. I love those long, hard days on the bike, where the strongest man always wins.”

At 6-foot-1 and 183 pounds, Rollin had carved out a name for himself on the domestic circuit as a sprinter and a man for the breakaways, evidenced by his California stage win and third overall at the 2007 Tour of Missouri, a race won by George Hincapie after a 12-man escape ran away with the general classification.

Peloton insiders knew Rollin’s California stage win, ahead of ProTour riders — Hincapie finished a distant second that day — had likely secured him a contract to the big leagues. Soon enough he’d signed with the new-for-2009 Cervélo TestTeam squad alongside Thor Hushovd and Carlos Sastre.

After a 2009 season spent familiarizing himself with new races, riders, teammates and staff, Rollin was called up to Cervélo’s classics team this year. He crossed the finish line 42nd in Ninove Sunday, in his first cobbled classic, after riding in support of an ailing Hushovd, who finished 57th. Both men finished in the second peloton, 5:13 behind winner Fabian Cancellara.

“Thor was feeling bad after the Taaienberg so I had to wait for him,” Rollin told VeloNews. “So I was just doing back and forth between the caravan and the peloton. I’m quite happy to finish with the second peloton. It’s a pretty good first race.”

Reminded about his 2-year-old statement of intent to chase the cobbled classics, Rollin smiled. “This race is up my alley. I just need more experience,” he said. “I can come here with more confidence, maybe do something the next few years. For now I’m just quite happy to be in my first Flanders, to be working that much, and to be finishing top 50.”

Rollin will have his first crack at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, but first, on Wednesday he’ll return to Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen, where he took third last year — his best result of his ProTour debut season.