Paris-Roubaix Preview

Friday, 8 April 2016

Gregory Rast, Paris Roubaix 2015

The best for last. The cobbled classics come to an end this Sunday in the Roubaix velodrome. Former race director Jacques Goddet described this race as “the last act of madness”, the decision to take tiny farm tracks with their rudimentary cobbles and use them in a major race. What will Sunday bring: a double for Sagan, a conclusion for Cancellara, a breakthrough for Vanmarke or another story? You’ll be able to see it all yourself as the race is going to be broadcast live from start to finish, a first.

Starting in Compiègne, not Paris it’s 257.5km across the north of France. There’s almost 100km to cover before the first sector and these roads count, they’re more up and down than the profile suggests.

Then come the cobbled sections, all 27 of them with varying difficulties. There’d been fears about the first sector being skipped because of mud but extra work by farmers and the village mayor has got it race ready. Back for 2015 is the “Buatberg” on the Capelle sector which includes a 7% gradient. It’s a mere detail of the route but will add to the fatigue.

Sector Distance Location Length Difficulty rating
27 98.5km Troisvilles 2200m +++
26 105km Viesly 1800m +++
25 108km Quiévy 3700m ++++
24 112.5km Saint-Python 1500m ++
23 120.5km Vertain 2300m +++
22 127km Capelle 1700m +++
21 137.5km Quérénaing – Maing 2500m +++
20 141km Monchaux-sur-Ecaillon 1600m +++
19 154km Haveluy 2500m ++++
18 162km Trouée d’Arenberg 2400m +++++
17 168km Wallers – Hélesmes, “Pont Gibus” 1600m +++
16 175km Hornaing 3700m ++++
15 182.5km Warlaing – Brillon 2400m +++
14 186km Tilloy – Sars-et-Rosières 2400m ++++
13 192.5km Beuvry-la-Forêt – Orchies 1400m +++
12 197.5km Orchies 1700m +++
11 203.5km Auchy-lez-Orchies – Bersée 2700m ++++
10 209km Mons-en-Pévèle 3000m +++++
9 215km Mérignies – Avelin 700m ++
8 218km Pont-Thibaut 1400m +++
7 224.5km Templeuve – Moulin de Vertain 500m ++
6 231km Cysoing – Bourghelles 1300m +++
6b 233.5km Bourghelles – Wannehain 1100m +++
5 238km Camphin-en-Pévèle 1800m ++++
4 240.5km Le Carrefour de l’Arbre 2100m +++++
3 243km Gruson 1100m ++
2 249.5km Hem 1400m ++
1 256.5km Roubaix 300m +

The four and five star sections really are unlike anything else. The Flemish classics use plenty of cobbled roads often there are houses lining the route with ordinary family cars parked in the driveways. Here only off-road vehicles venture, whether tractors or or motocross bikes and all race motos on Sunday have to be the off-road variety. The higher the rating, the more nervous the approach too, the race has a rhythm where the pace accelerates to wild levels before the key sectors and then backs off once the sector is done as riders survey the damage.

As much as we focus on the pavé, they account for only 53km of the course or 20% of the race and the four and five cross sections account for precisely 10% of the course. Therefore 90% of the race is conducted on perfectly ridable terrain. A move can go any time and it’s accumulated fatigue that makes the cobbles so tiring, whether the high stress approach to the sector where the peloton thunders in like the approach to a bunch sprint or the moment after when riders are surveying the damage.

The Finish: Held in the old velodrome, riders enter the 500m concrete track for one and half laps. The banking can be exploited by a rider lucid enough to remember how to sprint on a track.

The Contenders
Fabian Cancellara

Fabian Cancellara is the prime pick. He’s been a brooding presence in the big races but has yet to deliver the win that seems to be within reach. Apparently last Sunday he was so confident he even had his victory salute worked out: he’d solo in and lift his bike aloft on the line. Now he’s back to a race he’s made his own with a strong Trek-Segafredo team around him. He can sprint well out of a small group, especially after 250km. A win and he can hang up his racing wheels for good on Sunday afternoon.

Sep Vanmarcke is next. He’s still lacking that big breakthrough win but has come so close here, you might remember him entering the Roubaix velodrome with Cancellara in 2013 only to get beaten by the stronger rider… and a broken wheel. He’s arguably stronger on a flatter course like this than on the hills. Against him is a lack of team mates for the finish and he’s been having a run of mechanicals, going through several bike changes in last Sunday’s Ronde.

Peter Sagan the popular pick and in form and that could be enough for a repeat. Yet he’s got a relatively weak team again and I wonder if he’s made for Roubaix? His upright style gives him the aerodynamics of a builder pushing a wheelbarrow and he could find himself caught out on the long flat roads, this race has never suited him and he’s skipped several editions too, he’s more of a novice in this race for old men. In addition after last week’s race, no team will allow him to get away. Perhaps he accepts this, tracks the leaders and goes for the sprint? That’s not his style.

Lars Boom is one to watch. He seems in top shape and his 11th place in Flanders last Sunday came after a spate of punctures, with some luck he could do better in a race we were promised he’d win back in the day when he switched from cyclo-cross to the road however his chances have been falling this week as the cobbles dry out, still he was fourth amid the dust last year. Dmitriy Gruzdev and Lieuwe Westra prove more options and support for the team.

Terpstra

Etixx-Quickstep are a mess and desperately need that big win. It’s a refrain that’s been heard every spring in recent years. Take 2014 when Niki Terpstra “saved” them with a win in Roubaix and he looks capable of doing this again, a constant presence in the races hard to pull back once he’s away. Tom Boonen has been looking better and better but a win seems too much to ask for. Zdeněk Štybar is the key rider for them, the golden boy of team owner Zdeněk Bakala, the Czech rider has had a quieter classics season than we might have hoped for. Tony Martin won the “Roubaix” stage of the Tour de France last summer but surely he’ll be put to work again here so his chances of winning are tiny while Stijn Vandenbergh isn’t riding, he’s out with a saddle sore and this isn’t the race to ride with one of those. Finally Matteo Trentin has been a surprise for the team and sprints well.

Alexander Kristoff has been talking down his chances but he won the sprint for fourth place last week. There’s always the threat of a bunch sprint in Paris-Roubaix, it’s never happened but it’s been close in recent years with some very large groups coming in close behind the winner. It’s hard to see Kristoff pounding solo across the cobbles to victory but easy to see him poaching the sprint from a group. Katusha bring a strong squad and they’ll weigh on the race tactics like they did last week.

Team Sky’s Luke Rowe was fifth in the Tour of Flanders and has been quietly improving in Paris-Roubaix over the years but as much as he’s been serving an apprenticeship it’s a huge step up. Ian Stannard is the other protected rider who is built for this race and gets his last shot at glory before becoming Chris Froome’s summer bodyguard and a piston in the team trial trial engine room. Oddly that’s about it, the rest of the team has Elia Viviani but you can’t see him winning after 250km while Salvatore Puccio is a valuable helper, for once the team won’t have as many A-list riders.

Tiesj Benoot rides for Lotto-Soudal after crashing out last Sunday but it means he’s going to be sore and lacking condition. Jürgen Roelandts is probably their other top rider and he’ll have to take his chances while the big names mark either other. Marcel Sieberg will be a useful lead out to the cobbled sectors and André Greipel might try stomping around the cobbles too.

What to make of Edvald Boasson Hagen? Perpetually tipped as a contender for the big races he’s yet to deliver. But he gets a mention again because of his innate ability, the raw power and his strong sprint. Dimension Data team mate Mark Cavendish rides, a second appearance in this race after a go in 2011.

Arenberg

A few more names who will have to take risks rather than hope they can enter the velodrome with the Cancellara’s and Sagans.  Daniel Oss is probably BMC Racing’s best bet now they’re without Greg Van Avermaet because he’s a strong and experienced rider but before you rush to the bookmakers now that he’s got his chance, remember he’s only had two wins in a long career. Florian Sénéchal of Cofidis is the local and dreams of this race and if you dream too, his chances are better with third place in Le Samyn last month. Ag2r La Mondiale have Sebastien Turgot and Damien Gaudin, Turgot’s been on the podium here and Gaudin’s been fifth and they’re coming into form but sense they’ll going to be known for past performances rather than this Sunday’s exploits. IAM Cycling have several riders to try and place in the mix but notional leader Heinrich Haussler‘s top-10 in Sanremo hasn’t been followed up with DNF in his last two races. Orica-Greenedge’s Jens Keukeleire was sixth last year and in decent form now and his probably the team’s best bet but look to see if Luke Durbridge tries a move.

Finally never forget the surprise rider. Paris-Roubaix is a lottery, no story of the winner is complete without a story of the losers along the way, the riders in contention who puncture or crash out of the race. Similarly a rider can enjoy a streak of luck on the day, a domestique famous for their ability to pull on the front can suddenly find they’re left to themselves and riding to the greatest day of their racing career.

Fabian Cancellara
Sep Vanmarcke, Peter Sagan
Lars Boom, Niki Terpstra, Luke Rowe, Alexander Kristoff
Zdeněk Štybar, Jürgen Roelandts, Tom Boonen, Ian Stannard
Benoot, Boasson Hagen, Vandenbergh, Stuyven, Trentin

Weather: dry. Mild, sunny and 13°C with a light SE breeze of 15km/h that will offer a tailwind for much of the second half of the race but remember the route changes direction so much in the latter stages and if the wind picks up it be exploited by riders.

Paris Roubaix TV

TV: it’s live from start to finish. Should you watch it all? Why not, it’s the least you can do given the riders are out there racing all the time. But probably it’ll pay to watch the start, see the attempts for the breakaway to form and once a move has gone clear and the race has settled down then make plans to return for the cobbles later on.

The roll out is at 10.40 CET and then the race begins at 10.50. The first cobbled sector is forecast for 1.10pm, the Arenberg Forest at 2.40pm, the Carrefour de l’Arbre at 4.30pm and the finish for 4.55pm.

It should be on the same channel you usually watch the Tour de France, if not cyclingfans, cyclinghub and steephill have the schedules and streaming links.

Roubaix TV Photo credit: Thomas Sweertvaeger from the Belgian book “Supporters Leven Voor de Koers

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Andy F April 8, 2016 at 10:15 pm

I’m all in for Phil The Thrill! #Pray4Phil

channel_zero April 8, 2016 at 11:12 pm

Haha. Yes. Me too.

Let’s hope team Argyle upsets and has someone in play at Le Carrefour de l’Arbre and Phil was a big help.

Shawn April 9, 2016 at 12:32 am

Maybe Dylan van Baarle can have another good ride for a top 10, or better?

Gus April 8, 2016 at 10:21 pm

Great preview. There’s a repeat on Daniel Oss

The Inner Ring April 8, 2016 at 10:24 pm

Thanks, will remove that.

sifter April 8, 2016 at 10:22 pm

Great preview!

There are a couple of bugs you might want to sort. You’ve missed the r in Terpstra, and the Oss/BMC paragraph is in there twice.

Thanks for all the effort you put into these. Always a perfect accompaniment to breakfast down here in New Zealand.

I’ll be cheering for Jack Bauer on the day!

Anonymous April 8, 2016 at 10:35 pm

Great preview, as always. Really can’t envisage a scenario that allows Sagan to win this. Head says Cancellara. Heart says Sep. That man is overdue some good fortune!

Dave Hinde April 9, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Or a team with some decent kit?

Anonymous April 8, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Am so excited, can’t wait till it is finally sunday! And after the race I am sad, because it is all over for this year. That’s why Paris-Roubaix to me feels like the Tour: After it you surface again to reality from that strange fever you had, shake your head to wake up, look around, try to work out where you are and then you slowly begin to find a new focus. But that all is now miles away and doesn’t matter: First all the excitement of the race and all the lamenting and arguing afterwards is ahead. Yeah!

channel_zero April 8, 2016 at 11:01 pm

Pont Gibus goes by in a flash! Watch for it. For those who don’t know, the bridge tagged Pont Gibus is the point where Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle is said to have launched his attacks (plural) on his way to his wins at the young age of 37/38.

My sentimental favorite is Lars Boom.

Safe race for all participants.

Bemused April 8, 2016 at 11:54 pm

Agreed, I was roadside when he won stage 5 of the tour 2 years ago. Yes, he had the Astana duo working with him but the Boom delivered big time that day. Nibali was very impressive too but Lars Boom – what a ride!

I hope he can repeat that on Sunday, he is due.

Ecky Thump April 8, 2016 at 11:14 pm

Or, in other words, Zertz Inserts vs IsoSpeed decouplers vs Dogma Suspension System vs CounterVail carbon layup.

Inner Ring has gone for the Iso Speed decoupler. Interesting.
I’ll go Zertz Inserts (only ‘cos there’s more of them!).

MultiplexRant April 8, 2016 at 11:36 pm

Surprise rider? A little birdie has suggested Bert De Backer.

I’m wondering about Koen De Kort. And someone should probably mention Taylor Phinney.

Myself, I’m leaning Fabian-ward, though I couldn’t resist a small bet at 100/1 on Luke Rowe a couple of weeks ago… fingers crossed.

channel_zero April 9, 2016 at 1:32 am

“Mini” Phinney won the under-23 version of the event and was a little active last weekend.

I don’t recall if he went down in the BMC debacle in Flanders, but coming in 7 minutes down may not be good.

Fabian will have 3 or 4 riders from different teams assigned to just following his wheel. It would have to be another extraordinary race for him to come into the velodrome with a small group, much less the first one.

Foley April 9, 2016 at 4:03 am

Half of the finishers in RVV were @7:19, Phinney would have liked to be in the select 34 but it was probably an OK ride apart from what happened to his team. I would have no expectations of a result for him at Roubaix, but he finds himself in a great position to gather valuable experience in this race.

palladium15 April 8, 2016 at 11:40 pm

Another excellent write up inrng, thank you.
I wonder if the last week or so for Cancellara has just been more emotional than he envisioned it would be and has stopped him from mentally at least having the clarity he needs at the critical points in these races. If that’s the case then he’ll feature and podium on Sunday, but won’t win.
Sagan will still be on a high from last weekend – and he could win the race on pure adrenaline but, again, you need a clear mind and he may just be happy to show himself at times but hope he can hang in to take a reduced sprint.
Vanmarcke, again could be close – but he’s been the bridesmaid a few too many times now – I just can’t see how he can win unless there’s rain and it becomes truly attritional.
For some reason I think Stybar will be the one to come out on top and rescue Etixx this time around – simply because the other favourites just won’t be at the races – don’t ask me why, it’s just a hunch. I also think one of Sky will get on the podium – quite possibly Rowe – his form and ability have been outstanding and he’s been still able to attack and make the moves late in every race he’s been in this season. Would be fantastic if he did.

MultiplexRant April 8, 2016 at 11:43 pm

Are Sky officially no longer Crap At Classics?

Bemused April 9, 2016 at 12:18 am

No, they are finally going to win their first Monument!

Apparently Rod Ellingworth has reverse engineered PR after a detailed study of every individual cobble. Cross indexed of course for every possible wind and rain condition. Regardless of dust vs mud they have been programmed to ride at the correct power in every sector.

The Australian paid Monaco tax exiles are going to make a clean sweep of the podium – it will be like 1996 all over again except less exciting.

channel_zero April 9, 2016 at 1:33 am

Exactly why I love the one day races. Cheers.

Augustas Pablo April 9, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Haha love it!

Fokatukc April 9, 2016 at 11:36 am

Sky haven’t sucked at classics for a few years now. Between G, Stannard, Kwiatkowski, Rowe, etc, they’ve turned in some pretty solid results recently.

Mortinsky April 9, 2016 at 12:30 am

Jempy ducker!

AndyRaff April 9, 2016 at 1:08 am

Stijn VDB is out, due to a pain in the @rse.

Replaced by Van Kersbuilck

The Inner Ring April 9, 2016 at 9:51 am

Thanks, have updated the piece above. They’ll miss him and the role he could have played.

StevhanTI April 10, 2016 at 9:18 am

You still gave him a ring though, that’ll give him plenty confidence.

opignonlibre April 9, 2016 at 1:24 am

You are saying that cobbled sectors are only 20% of the course but you have to take into account there are none of them in the first 100k. Nearly a third of the last 150km are cobbled sectors. Having ridden the sportive event last year which used the race course starting from the first sectors, I can say they really come one after another with little time to recover. You can’t really drink or eat during those sectors which means each transition is a time for refueling, which can be difficult in a race situation when there are attacks to follow or you are trying to catch back the group in front of you.

channel_zero April 9, 2016 at 1:37 am

Which is why staying in the lead group is a talent all by itself.

In the race, the pace tends to slow after the sectors to regroup, then you turn it on again over the next sector.

opignonlibre April 9, 2016 at 1:55 am

True. Magnus Backstedt once said P-R was like a succession of track pursuit like efforts repeated 15-25 times. Anyone who has done some track racing would understand how hard it is to repeat such efforts.

The Inner Ring April 9, 2016 at 9:52 am

A good description of the effort. I wanted to suggest that it’s more than the cobbles, the sections in between can be just as important. In recent years the winning moves have happened probably happened as much on the normal roads as the pavé.

Anonymous April 9, 2016 at 1:38 am

More ASO Awesomeness!!

Tomski April 9, 2016 at 2:21 am

I’m going with Spartacus. I have a feeling he and self titled Hulk are going to be watching each other all day. Sagan has really beefed up this year. Coupled with his bike handling skills, he’s going to be really hard to handle.

As Channel Zero said, safe race for all riders, cars and motorbikes. Bring it on.

SuperDom April 9, 2016 at 3:52 am

I’m for Spartacus!

Larry T. April 9, 2016 at 8:18 am

Nicely done! I’m kind of hoping for rain. Both there and also here in Sicily. That way I have a great excuse to sleep in, have a late breakfast and watch the whole damn thing on TV. Sentimental favorite for me is Boonen to get 5 wins and break the tie with the original “Mr. Paris-Roubaix” before he hangs up his wheels. I’d be happy to see Cancellara or Sagan win as well since even bikes with rubber bumpers, hinges, flax-fiber layups or whatever ALL have to be pedaled to go anywhere. May it ever be so.

Mats April 9, 2016 at 8:38 am

I’m keeping fingers crossed for Sep V. It’s not just his immense raw power but he can also read the race very well. Without crashes or mechanicals he will be there in the finale.

Stuck in a car on Sunday April 9, 2016 at 9:01 am

Thanks for a great preview.

Is anyone aware of any UK or internet radio stations that will be covering the race live?

Chris J April 9, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Doubtful. It’s definitely not on 5 live sports extra.

Record it on TV and watch when you’re back?

The Inner Ring April 9, 2016 at 2:47 pm

If you want radio, look up RTL and RMC Sport from France as they’ll be covering the race.

Chris J April 9, 2016 at 3:02 pm

Ah, didn’t see that you’d also mentioned internet radio. You can get that in your car?

Lukas April 9, 2016 at 9:04 am

Sagan and Cancellara on 5 stars in my book. Both have the best – almost untouchable – form and the way they watch each other during the races suggests to me that it is just between them (memories of Conta vs Andy in that “chaingate” TdF).

Also remember that – as sad as it sounds – this is last monument for Fabian. He will not be playing tactics too much. He is too proud for this but this also puts so much pressure on him. We will see some cobbles being ripped out from the pavement behind his rear wheel. Problem is, Sagan is just too strong and with the big win in his bag, he can play it cool and will probably just hang around behind Cancellara, who will try every trick to shake him off.

I expect a great Duel

STS April 9, 2016 at 12:49 pm

“He will not be playing tactics too much. He is too proud for this but this also puts so much pressure on him.”
But that’s exactly what he did in the rvv last Sunday. I’m not sure Sagan was beatable by any rider in that race but Fabian let the move go conciously and certainly lost the race against Sagan in that moment. Look at some video of Kwiat’s attack and you can see Fabian saw it and had enough time to react and do what Sep did but he chose not to.
I think it’s not a matter of pride to him. In fact when was the last race Fabian won without playing the tactical game?

I think he learned one of his last lessons as a bike racer last Sunday and won’t let Peter go once again. But other than that P-R is certainly THE race where you have to be on top of your tactical abilities. Especially for an edition like this one with quite favorably conditions and so many strong contenders whom you are not going to simply ride off your wheel by just putting the hammer down some 40ks from the finish. It won’t happen. Those times are fortunately over.

Peter could afford to watch Fabian carefully making sure he doesn’t miss his move. He can be sure Fabian would not ride him off his wheel. But fortunately Peter is not that kind of racer.

I agree though that the preconditions are predicting a very exciting race and really hope it materializes.

Augie March April 9, 2016 at 9:19 am

Perhaps the race organisers can actually ensure the Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre sectors live up to their ratings by fencing them in and forcing the riders to actually ride the cobbles instead of permitting them to roll along the smooth dirt or grass next to them.

AK April 9, 2016 at 8:34 pm

+1. Especially the Carrefour because it is at such a crucial point in the race.

Anonymous April 9, 2016 at 10:04 am

I just noticed, that every comment here (minus one, but well, there is always one) actually is in a nice way about racing, the race and the riders. This is rare. Shows the excitement PR creates – we even forget to be negative and grumpy. Keep it up, people, it is a joy to read this.

Lewis April 9, 2016 at 5:50 pm

+1

J Evans April 9, 2016 at 10:36 am

Amazing first photo – still hits me every time you get a close look at the pavé, just how difficult a terrain it is.
Brilliant that we get to see the whole race – think I’ll feel obliged to watch all of it.
How wet is the ground? Is there no chance of rain? Does anyone know?
I’ll go for Sagan over Cancellara, but sentimentally hope it’s the other way round.
Let’s hope they don’t leave it to a sprint.
I’ve never heard of Vanmarcke having a broken wheel in the 2013 sprint.

Chris J April 9, 2016 at 2:19 pm

The few weather sites I’ve checked have only a very slight chance of rain for the region around Roubaix tomorrow. Looks like it’ll be dry. It’s drizzling today, however, so I suppose the ground could be a bit muddy tomorrow.

J Evans April 9, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Thanks.

betabug April 9, 2016 at 10:39 am

Hoping for Cancellara here, even if it’s only so he has to call in the carpenters to remodel his Sauna to fit in another stone trophy!

CM April 9, 2016 at 11:09 am

Surely it’s going to be an Etixx rider isn’t it? They have one hell of a line up for the Hell of the North. If they stay patient and hide a lot more one of them should get lucky.

I shall be amazed if Sagan does it. I am not so sure he is that upright in style on the bike though. But if it is as inrng says, is that not a plus over the bumps? Or in terms of weight distribution do you need to keep your front wheel more planted on Roubaix cobbles than you do on (the climbs of) Flanders stones?

As many have said, the changes of pace in this race are gruelling and the repetitions of them coming at the back end of the race are brutal. I would think if large parts of the course beyond the Arenberg are slippery, it breaks up the rhythm even more for tired legs. And in this race it’s not so much slipping in a high cadence as having to grind harder on slower cadence bigger gears. But though late Saturday looks to be wet, race day looks to be dry and a lot of the cobbles are in open countryside. Thus it seems doubtful the pave will remain slippery. If it is just damp under wheel late punctures could feature more. As inrng notes Sep V may have got through enough Bianchi CVs at Flanders already and could be due for a reward this time.

Larry T. April 9, 2016 at 11:43 am

“As inrng notes Sep V may have got through enough Bianchi CVs at Flanders already ”
Does anyone know if he’s breaking these frames or are they other issues with mechanical, flat tires, damage from someone running into him as in bad luck? As most who have been pro mechanics at any time know, some riders are just very hard on equipment while others can ride the same stuff over the same courses for the same amount of time with no issues, even if they’re the same size/weight. In some ways I thought this guy was the moral victor at Flanders – how many times did he come back to the front after bike swaps?

CM April 9, 2016 at 12:09 pm

According to Team LottoNL-Jumbo (what a ghastly name):-
The 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders didn’t run completely smooth for Sep Vanmarcke. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s front man crashed in the descent to Kortekeer after 120 kilometres of racing. “I returned in the peloton, but I noticed the damage of my crash, Vanmarcke said. “My bike broke and it took a while before I was back in the race. I had changed the position of my saddle on purpose, just before the race, and I didn’t have the chance to do that with my second bike as well. After 170 kilometres, I suffered.” “My team-mates gave it all to bring me back in the race. Maarten Wynants did a lot of work in the beginning of the final,” he added.

Larry T. April 9, 2016 at 12:31 pm

Geez, really? Made such a radical change to the primary bike (and failed to do it on the spare) that he suffers after a broken bike from the crash forces a swap to the point it affects his performance? Sometimes you make your own luck I guess? If I was a team mate of a guy like this I’d be scratching my head.

Ecky Thump April 9, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Good question. He had lots of problems with his bikes last year too, didn’t he?
At some point, bad luck becomes something more than sheer chance?

In the same way that sports scientists map an athlete’s progress, do the team mechanics / R&D people log the bikes’ performances? Either generally or together with their respective riders?
I’d have thought that there is potentially great merit in such data.
I’m aware that riders certainly give anecdotal feedback on equipment but I wonder if teams record anything more definitive than that?

Larry T. April 9, 2016 at 2:42 pm

Back-in-the-day we were taught at the USA Cycling Race Mechanic seminar to keep written records on the bikes including a spec sheet for each rider so a spare bike could quickly be adjusted if needed. I’m sure it’s all done with laptop and spreadsheets these days? I’m sure a guy screwing around with his saddle position with no time to duplicate the specs on the designated spare bikes has the mechanics scratching their heads too?

Ecky Thump April 9, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Cheers Larry.
My initial post above on the various cobble bike specs was a semi-humorous commentary on the marketing aspect of this race and, checking out Inner Ring’s piece this time last year, confirms that P-R is one of the biggest shop windows for bike sales.
So a big day truly for the Trek IsoSpeed decoupler. The new bike has had some favourable write-ups so far.
Conversely, if Sep Vanmarcke has another mechanical disaster, I wonder if a future sales hit would be felt for Bianchi?

CM April 9, 2016 at 5:26 pm

I agree. Remember Wiggins at the Giro when he chucked his bike away and it parked perfectly by itself – he was part way through a mountain stage (in a race where Nibali was admittedly already the main man and sorting him out) but the replacement bike that Sky provided had different gearing. No wonder Wiggins bitched. I thought then: so that’s marginal gains is it?

CM April 9, 2016 at 5:43 pm

In contrast and as usual Contador has the right idea – his mechanic the great Faustino Munoz has, at the drop of a hat, all the detail you could want on his man’s bikes and set up, and has done so for pretty much all of this century.

Ferdi April 9, 2016 at 1:55 pm

I don’t want my compatriot Fabian Cancellation to win. I don’t like his retiring-on-top-of-his-game diva story. If he really loved his vocation, he would race until it was clear he was no longer competitive. Sagan is a more likely winner, in my view, anyway. And Vanmarcke will be at their level, he started later than them to be on top form, waiting for this day. I think both of them will be able to follow the Bern prima ballerina.

Larry T. April 9, 2016 at 2:48 pm

I’m 180 degrees the opposite Ferdi. I LOVE the idea of someone calling it a career while at the top of their game. Last one I can remember was Bernard Hinault, a guy whose career I still admire. I would really love it if (assuming my sentimental fave Boonen can’t win and do this as well) he were to win tomorrow and call-it-a-career at the post-race interview. Do you really enjoy watching a former great go on and on until he’s just a sad shadow of himself? Far too many don’t know when to quit – or can’t stay with their decision once made. I’m no fan of BigTex but I have a tough time believing he doesn’t regret his comeback. I think Eddy Merckx regrets not stopping sooner?

J Evans April 10, 2016 at 8:44 am

I think LA might regret his for somewhat different reasons.
I quite like a rider continuing for the joy of it – and the fact that they are then not as good when they’re older doesn’t detract from their career. I think better that than giving up too soon and wondering if you could have won more.
I know Hinault had said before that he would retire that year, but I think he might also have looked at LeMond and thought ‘I’m not going to win another TdF’. Of course, had he continued LeMond was out for the next two years.
I also wonder if Cancellara, with hindsight, wishes he’d done it the Boonen way and just not say when you’re retiring. I’ve always thought the pre-announcement is a bad idea, although I don’t see it as diva-ish.

Ferdi April 9, 2016 at 3:06 pm

I personally think Hinault regrets leaving too early more than Merckx quitting too late. Hinault could have won lots of things, TdF included in 87 or 88, and he would have had a lot of fun. Merckx, on the other hand, has nothing to regret, he won all he could win, he squeezed his career to the last drop. He did the “cyclist” thing to do: never give up, always go on, until you absolutely cannot do it anymore.

Larry T. April 10, 2016 at 12:09 am

Perhaps, but the C&A and FIAT years weren’t too good for Eddy. I think The Badger might regret not cashing in a bit more when the big money started to flow in, but he chose his retirement day years before. I’n ready for P-R 2016 now that I’ve watched for the umpteenth time “A Sunday in Hell” a film I never tire of.

Cd April 9, 2016 at 3:57 pm

I’m tipping Kristoff. It think it’s a reduced bunch this year and he takes sprint. Just a feeling.

Anonymous April 9, 2016 at 5:10 pm

Eurosport UK have Hatch n kelly commentating, thank the Lord.

Richard S April 9, 2016 at 6:03 pm

Haha, get in

Leerf April 9, 2016 at 9:31 pm

Thank the Lord!
I wasn’t going to watch much of tomorrow’s race because the thought of Kirby all day makes me feel angry. Already sick of Kirby, if anything this year he’s worse than ever (and I think he’s one of those people (see Clarkson et al) who revels in being disliked). He was going on the other day about ‘lazy’ Spaniards (in his annoying coy manner) and I’ve still not got over all his ‘jokes’ about miserly tight Yorkshireman during the UK TDF.
Mind boggling how much a decent race can be spoilt by him.
One trick I’ve learnt is to stream some French or Italian or Spanish commentary whilst watching the HD Eurosport pictures but they often fall out of sync. When will we be rid of this menace!?

J Evans April 10, 2016 at 8:46 am

E mail Eurosport and complain.

I too was massively relieved – don’t think I could have taken 7 hours.

Chris Dyke April 10, 2016 at 8:59 am

+1

The ‘joining the fun’ catchphrase is infuriating

Anonymous April 10, 2016 at 9:38 am

I don’t mind Carlton generally as he is fairly light hearted and I can SEE what’s going on anyways but his commentary of Flanders was too “Hollywood” at times, building up the drama all the time for gads sake!! and that infuriates me. After viewing the Basque Tour all week I feel I need a change of tone for PR and thankfully my prayers have been answered. Now looking forward to a 7 hour Hatch n Kelly combo.

Larry T. April 10, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Why not do what I do with TV’s Heckel and Jeckel or comments from Anonymous and his large family? MUTE/scroll down? Sometimes I wish TV would offer a way to nix the commentators but keep the sounds of the race, seems like the technology exists? When RAI commentators go on strike that’s all we get – I sort of enjoy it!

J Evans April 10, 2016 at 7:43 pm

Larry, Eurosport online does this – and no adverts. I switch to it when the adverts are on.
Good commentary adds to a race – like today’s. Kirby, I mute.

Mick Tarrant April 10, 2016 at 7:34 pm

It was a huge relief to discover that CK was not covering Roubaix. In recent weeks he has diluted my enjoyment of several races. Your comments re his prejudice and stereotyping in connection with the Spanish and Yorkshire folks surfaced again in his obvious disdain for the Basque Country (don’t think the commentary position was even remotely near Pais Vaso either)

Today was great, the Rob Hatch, Declan Quigley, Sean Kelly triumvirate was (for me) the perfect accompaniment to a great edition of Paris-Roubaix. Watched just about all of it as there was no desire to fast forward because the comment was informed and relevant. With CK on the mic, I would have skipped vast swathes of what was on screen.

Great to see the roll out and early skirmishing too, credit to Eurosport for full coverage.

Alan April 11, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Hatch + Kelly was perfect.

Rob Hatch is my favourite of all the Eurosport commentators – I love his “proper” pronunciation of everything (I know some don’t like this, but I do).

Declan Quigley is a close second.

Why do we get Kirby when Eurosport has these 2 excellent commentators ?

Kelly is great, and I think much better when paired with either of these 2 (I think he must get really irritatated with Kirbys inane ramblings – you can almost hear it in his voice when he has to flat contradict what kirby has just said).

Having watched most of basque country with sound muted (Kirby, obviously, but I also find Magnus Backstedt’s delivery and selection of little catchphrases really irritating), P-R was great.

Richard S April 9, 2016 at 6:02 pm

I called Stybar at the start of the year for this one but I can’t see it now. I’ve got a feeling somebody will sneak up the road while ‘the group of big favourites’ (my favourite Sean Kellyism) I.e. Sagan, Cancellara and Vanmarcke sit and look at each other, like when Terpstra won. I’m thinking maybe Luke Rowe, Roelandts, Terpstra again or another quickstepper. Someone like that. In fact it could actually be Stybar. There you go I’ve talked myself round.

Karl April 9, 2016 at 7:40 pm

I’ll be up early watching and pulling for Stybar. It’s also nice to see another young cyclocrosser in Lars Van Der Haar get the start for Giant Alpecin. Excited to see how he does as a last minute injury replacement.

Steppings April 9, 2016 at 7:57 pm

I will be rooting for Standard whilst enjoying the “full” race live, what a way to spend a Sunday! apart from actually being there.

Velovibes April 10, 2016 at 1:24 am

Dylan van Baarle is definitely one I will look for in the race. 2 years ago as a neo-pro he already came 64th in PR and 89th in Flanders (37th last year) and he has shown great progression since then. I reckon he could get a top 5 placing today.

Anonymous April 10, 2016 at 5:06 pm

Unmissable, awesome, fantastic! what a race!!

zephyr April 10, 2016 at 5:11 pm

“a domestique famous for their ability to pull on the front can suddenly find they’re left to themselves and riding to the greatest day of their racing career…”
It’s like you knew!
Hayman FTW! Particularly impressive given his recent fractured radius!

Ferdi April 10, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Oh, what a great race. If only every stage in a GT was so chaotic! A GT victory after 21 days like this, would mean so much more!

MRJ April 10, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Great race – gripping all the way throughout.

This sort of result has me wondering if Cancellara may re-think his decision to retire. Surely he doesn’t want this to be his last memory of Roubaix!

It is a pity he has been so public about the retirement. But if he does change his mind, he can say he is just copying Il Pistolero (if the news reports are to be believed).

Mats April 10, 2016 at 6:38 pm

What a race! I’m still speechless in 2 hours after the finish. Gosh, I was 100% sure Boonen was cooked in 40km to go and everyone else but Sep V. or Stannard or B-Hagen in the top group seemed like just waiting for their last moments in the race. How wrong I was (again). Yet, I’m happy to be proven wrong because THIS is what makes cycling so irresistible and a thrilling sport to follow. I will remember this P-R edition for a long time.

Dai Bank April 10, 2016 at 9:43 pm

I thought you were just covering all the angles but as zephyr said you knew all along.
This race will stay on the box for a long time alongside a few other terrific races from the last 5 years rather than being deleted and the dvd bought.
Yogi was excellent, screamed at the TV for Boonen to get 5 but so pleased for someone who showed such belief in his riding and such disbelief as he came to a stop that the result was his.

Bemused April 10, 2016 at 10:42 pm

I just watched the video of Ella Vivian being hit from behind by the moto and knocked into the railings. The Trek rider who stops alongside’s reaction to the moto pilot says it all.

So so stupid and unnecessary! And did Contador really need 5 motos surrounding him at Basque? Knowing what has happened recently that must add unnecessary stress to an already challenging environment!

Bemused April 10, 2016 at 10:45 pm

PS Elia – predictive spelling misfire

Lee Woodhead April 10, 2016 at 10:44 pm

Probably the best Roubaix I have seen, brilliant race. Also, think Carlton Kirby is from Yorkshire? I don’t mind him but he is better on the stage races IMHO.

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