On the eve of the start of the Classics season, 34 year old Roger Hammond is embarking on his eight season as a professional cyclist. He started his career winning a Junior World Title in cross racing, and since then, he has been two-time British Road Champion, three-time British cyclocross champion (2004, 2006 and 2008) and has proven to be a great classics rider with a second place at Ghent-Wevelgem in 2007, and a third place in Paris-Roubaix in 2004.

After four year with Continental teams, in 2005 Hammond rode for the Discovery Channel team in crashed-marred two years. He then moved onto the T-Mobile team in 2007,and Hammond stayed with the team when it established its new direction of clean and fair sport and new name Team High Road for the 2008 season.

Hammond loves the Classics and still dreams of conquering the Hell of the North, Paris-Roubaix. We caught up with a relaxed Hammond on a sunny day during the Team High Road training camp in San Luis Obispo, California.

Hammond enjoys the friendly mood of the team and considers that the goal of riding clean helps in bringing people together. "We have this strong common goal and it brings the riders closer together, take away winning bike races because everybody has got different motivations, different ambitions in winning bike races so it's not a common goal but the anti-doping is a very strong common goal."

As a veteran, Hammond quipped that his role was to "keep the young lads in line." Team owner Bob Stapleton laughingly agreed that Hammond "wasn't far off" with his take of his role on the team where 20 men and women are under the age of 25.

For Hammond, cycling is like Formula 1, where very rarely does a new driver come in to win a race, a rider needs to learn a lot, and that winning is not just about being strong. He feels that he can show a lot to the young riders on the team.

"I've got 14 years of mistakes that I've made and hopefully if I can save the young riders from making my mistakes and reduces the number of mistakes that they'll make in their careers and I think that's very important, you need it in a team."

He explained that it takes more than talent to win the big races. "I think you saw with our results last year in the big one day Classics, it was the older riders that were there, and it takes quite a good deal of experience and knowledge to ride those races."

Experience counts and learning from racing in the Classics is very important. "Tour of Flanders you change directions five hundred million times in a race, so unless you've done it. It's a great race to ride, it can be the greatest in the world and the most frustrating thing in life and Roubaix is the same."

Saving energy is the way to win the Classics. "The first time I did Roubaix I wasted so much energy just fighting for the wrong section of cobbles, the first year, I was eighteenth but absolutely dead. the second year, I went I was third and it just shows you how much you can learn in one year, just by riding it once."

"And then you gain that experience each year, more and more experience and you can refine your efforts and that is how you win Classics. It's not be being ten times better than anybody else, it's by saving energy and not wasting it."

When asked about his favorite Classics, Hammond easily answered that it had to be Paris-Roubaix. "Right from the beginning to the end, I just have fun, I enjoy them."

He doesn't like the nasty weather that often occurs during the Belgian Classics, but uses it to his advantage. "I don't think anybody likes it, it's just some people go better in it. And when it's nasty weather, I can eliminate about fifty percent of the peloton and that's the way I look at it."

Hammond is starting his season focusing on "the one day classics so I'm just saving for those races", and is hoping that Team High Road gets an invitation to his favorite Paris-Roubaix.

He has not decided about the Olympic Games yet, as the circuit favors climbers. "So I'm not really sure how much emphasis I'll put on it, well we'll just have to see how it goes, it just depends how I'm climbing later on we'll have a look."

Roger Hammond and George Hincapie at the 2007 World Championship in Stuttgart, Germany