Cancellara seeks new Paris-Roubaix success
Fabian Cancellara (C) and his Trek Factory Racing team ride on a cobblestone road in Haveluy, northern France, on April 10, 2014, during a training session for the Paris-Roubaix cycling race - by Francois Lo Presti
Cancellara was among 199 riders who started the "Hell of the North" race under grey skies and cool tempertures at Compiegne castle, just north of Paris.
The 33-year-old, who is known on the tour as "Spartacus", is looking to equal the four victories registered by Belgians Roger de Vlaeminck and Tom Boonen.
Cancellara won the race in 2006, 2010 and last year. Boonen, winner in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2012, will be one of his main rivals in the 257 kilometer (160 mile) battle which includes 51.1km (31.7 miles) of bone-jarring cobble stones.
The Swiss rider calls Paris-Roubaix "a war with the cobbles".
Cancellara last weekend won the Tour of Flanders for a record-equalling third time.
His Trek team deputy Stijn Devolder withdrew from the Paris-Roubaix because of injuries sustained in the Tour of Flanders. But Cancellara's blistering finishing speed has made him the man to beat.
The race finishes about 1500 GMT at the Roubaix velodrome in northern France.