Paris-Roubaix Preview

Paris Roubaix

Who can take on Alexander Kristoff? The Norwegian has been invincible and his biggest opponent could be misfortune, his chances were ruined last year by punctures and mechanicals. This is a race of last chances, the final cobbled classic of the season and just like last year time’s running out for Etixx-Quickstep to get that big win, the same for Sep Vanmarcke. Meanwhile Bradley Wiggins longs to end his road career in the Roubaix velodrome.

Amid the cobbled chaos there are many more names to contend with and it’s all live on TV for four hours.

The Route: it’s not flat, after the start in Compiègne a series of roller-coaster hills are taken in the big ring and just enough to help a breakaway get going as other riders feel the need to shut it down in case they tire too soon. The opening 100km are typically covered fast as riders fight to get in the early breakaway. Then the cobbles start…

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 130km Verchain-Maugré 1600m +++
21 133.5km Quérénaing – Maing 2500m +++
20 136.5km Monchaux-sur-Ecaillon 1600m +++
19 149.5km Haveluy 2500m ++++
18 158km Trouée d’Arenberg 2400m +++++
17 164km Wallers – Hélesmes, “Pont Gibus” 1600m +++
16 170.5km Hornaing 3700m ++++
15 178km Warlaing – Brillon 2400m +++
14 181.5km Tilloy – Sars-et-Rosières 2400m ++++
13 188km Beuvry-la-Forêt – Orchies 1400m +++
12 193km Orchies 1700m +++
11 199km Auchy-lez-Orchies – Bersée 2700m ++++
10 204.5km Mons-en-Pévèle 3000m +++++
9 210.5km Mérignies – Avelin 700m ++
8 217.5km Pont-Thibaut 1400m +++
7 220km Templeuve – Moulin de Vertain 500m ++
6 226.5km Cysoing – Bourghelles 1300m ++++
6b 229km Bourghelles – Wannehain 1100m +++
5 233.5km Camphin-en-Pévèle 1800m ++++
4 236.5km Le Carrefour de l’Arbre 2100m +++++
3 238.5km Gruson 1100m ++
2 245.5km Hem 1400m ++
1 252km Roubaix 300m +

The four and five star sections really are unlike anything else. The Flemish classics use plenty of cobbled roads but look closely and you’ll spot houses lining the route with ordinary family cars parked in the driveways, the cobbles are drivable. Here only off-road vehicles venture, whether tractors or or motocross bikes. 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.

Paris Roubaix

Cobble-mania should not run wild. As much as we focus on the pavé, they account for only 53km of the course or 20% 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.

The Finish: Held in the old velodrome, riders enter the 499.75m concrete track for one and half laps. The banking can play a part, riders exploiting the slope to the line to launch their finishing sprint.

The Scenario: thanks to the mythology of the race we expect a process of attrition from which the toughest rider will emerge. But reality is less poetic. Watch the early breakaway because for once going up the road early can be a fruitful tactic, see Stuart O’Grady’s 2007 win. If the move is infiltrated by strong outsiders they can get an option on the final result and as a consequence there’s one of the biggest fights of the year to get in the early move. Also the spectre of a bunch sprint has been looming for some time. Maybe not this year but one day a sprint from a sizeable group could happen.

Alexander Kristoff Roubaix

The Contenders: Alexander Kristoff is the prime pick because of his form, he’s almost invincible and lucky too. He might have joined Niki Terpstra last week in a move but was the engine that kept it going and he took Wednesday’s Schedleprijs to add to his invincible image, fortunately avoiding a big crash. If he’s the best pick, a win is far from certain given this race has yet to smile on him, he’s quit more times than he’s finished and his best result is a ninth place in 2013; he was undone by punctures and mechanicals last year. Now I wonder if his confidence gets the better of him, he went clear with 30km to go last week and could gamble even bigger again here when his best chances lie in marking others and pouncing in the velodrome.

Niki Terpsta and Zdeněk Štybar are Etixx-Quickstep’s two best options. Terpstra won last year with a crafty late attack and he can do the same again. It might be obvious that he’ll try to jump at some point but knowing it now is one thing, remembering it after 240km is another, yet alone being able to react to it. Štybar meanwhile is proving to be the best cyclo-cross crossover and has come close in this race, notably crashing out right near the end in 2013. The team’s also got Stijn Vandenbergh who might seem an unlikely winner in other races but if he can barge clear he’ll be hard to pull back especially because other teams won’t want to do all the work.

Team Sky have Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard. Thomas has been in exceptional form and might rue the lack of hills here where his lean frame can get a slight advantage on others but he’s been good in this race before. He was just off the pace last Sunday, was he exposed too soon after Sky’s premature appearance? Stannard’s recovering after a mild illness, nothing serious in ordinary life but enough to ruin much of his spring campaign and now he’s got one chance left.

Bradley Wiggins Roubaix

What of Bradley Wiggins? We have little to go on, he’s been on the front in races when he’s wanted to be but at other times he’s been switched off. This is his final major race, the amusing irony of a track specialist who moved to the road and now longs to end his career with glory in the Roubaix velodrome. He’s said he’ll try to get to Roubaix even if he breaks his collarbone. It’s amusing to imagine the post-race story like one of those fantasy books where you roll dice to decide which page to turn to:

  • if he wins then he’s the first Tour de France winner since Hinault in 1981 to win in Roubaix and it was so predictable and another box ticked for the rider with the track record of cruise missile when it comes to locking on to targets who’s benefited from the support of a very strong team and put is TT power to obvious use
  • if he doesn’t triumph then Sky’s rationalism is undone by the cobbled empiricism in this most random of races and for all the talk and interest he’s not been anything like a contender after 200km in recent weeks. Besides in a 15 year pro career he’s only won thee road races, one stage of the Tour de Romandie in 2012, a stage in the 2005 Tour de l’Avenir and the 2011 British national championships

I think the latter narrative is more likely but a top-10 is firmly in grasp if all goes well. There’s hype around him but Wiggins himself has been talking about the goal reaching Roubaix rather than anything bolder. Either way he brings more to Team Sky’s tactical options.

Greg Van Avermaet was the best of the rest last Sunday and should be prominent again. The worry is that he’ll be nervous and try a move from too far out. This long range role should be assumed by BMC Racing’s Daniel Oss, the Italian has been a force this spring and the pavé are perfect for him. If he can get away then GVA need only sit tight. The giant Stefan Küng is worth watching, he won the Volta Limburg last weekend and could be a force in the future.

It’s not Sep Vanmarcke‘s last chance, he’s still 26, but he desperately needs that big win otherwise he’ll go from contender to pretender. He’s notionally got time on his side but the critical Belgian media probably don’t share this opinion. He made a big mistake in positioning in last week’s De Ronde and missed the move. However he needs to take care not to over-compensate on Sunday, at times he’s too visible too early in a race when he needs to save that power for late.

The stealth pick is John Degenkolb who was strong last year and has only got better. In a head to head sprint against Kristoff in Roubaix who would win? On paper Kristoff but this excludes all the potential for trouble on the way to the velodrome and if Degenkolb is there he’ll pounce.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan is a strong pick because he’s being overlooked. Like last Sunday he wasn’t central to the race but still salvaged fourth place and if he can to Roubaix with a few other riders then his sprint can do the rest. Again he can bide his time.

Lars Boom roubaix

Lars Boom might have spent the week doing a rain dance in the hope of replicating the muddy conditions of his Tour de France stage win. He’s been absent in longer distance races, as if his huge explosive power would run out after 200km but he was a force Flanders last Sunday.

Lotto-Soudal have Jurgen Roelandts and surprise neo-pro Tiesj Benoot. You can’t fluke a ride like Benoot did in the Ronde and he’ll bring options to the team but should really be on a learning mission. Roelandts is the stronger pick and he’ll have to gamble to win while André Greipel should be visible again.

Lampre-Merida’s Filippo Pozzato reappeared with 12th place in Flanders and could feature while one place behind him was Stijn Devolder of Trek Factory Racing. Both are struggling to match past results and will have to gamble and can take risks knowing they have team mates for cover for example Davide Cimolai and Gert Steegmans respectively.

French hopes are on Arnaud Démare and this might look meagre but he and his team have had a run of bad luck which if it stops could bring a surprise. He had a decent race last year but 12th place plus being French means he’s been prematurely projected as a winner with Marc Madiot almost the pushy parent promoting his “son” Arnaud.

IAM’s leader is Sylvain Chavanel but he could be eclipsed by Martin Elmiger who was with the front group in De Ronde and even more suited to this Sunday’s course, he’ll need luck but is a strong rider with a good finish after 250km.

As for others there’s a long list of names who can surprise. Cofidis’s Florian Sénéchal is the local who dreams of this race and he does have the talent to impress. Johan Vansummeren hasn’t shown any form to suggest a repeat win of 2011 but his win then came after equally anonymous results, Ag2r team mate Damien Gaudin loves this race and was fifth in 2013. Topsport Vlaanderen bring Edward Theuns and Jelle Wallays, the former looks classier but Wallays has the brute force needed. Gerald Ciolek has been MTN-Qhubeka’s strongest rider this spring and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg could surprise. Finally Movistar have to ride as a UCI obligation Adriano Malori‘s power comes in handy as does the sprint finish of Fran Ventoso and J-J Rojas.

Alexander Kristoff
Greg Van Avermaet, Zdeněk Štybar, Niki Terpstra
Peter Sagan, Geraint Thomas, Sep Vanmarcke, John Degenkolb
Lars Boom, Ian Stannard, Stijn Vandenbergh, Jurgen Roelandts
Wiggins, Elmiger, Ciolek, Démare, Wallays, Theuns

Five chainrings for Kristoff but discount everything by the random ways of the race where punctures, crashes and even level-crossings can ruin someone’s chances.

Weather: mild, sunny and 15°C with a light breeze that will offer a tailwind from the start and a slight crosswind later on. Benign conditions for the tactics.

TV: the live footage will begin at 12.55pm CET with the finish forecast for 4.50pm. Watch as much as you can but be sure to tune by 2.20pm, the predicted time for the Arenberg Forest section when the race will take shape.

95 thoughts on “Paris-Roubaix Preview”

  1. Nice coincidence that this happens the same weekend as the Grand National. Both absolute lotteries in terms of picking a winner and both will have plenty of fallers.

    That said, it’s hard to look past Kristoff if he doesn’t come unstuck with punctures, mechanicals or a fall.

    I expect plenty of teams will attack Katusha on the pave so Paolini will have to earn his money and keep him well positioned.

  2. I think Wiggins may surprise a few people… make of that what you will!

    In last year’s race he was never at the very front but made the final selection when the pace eased back in the final sectors and the fragmented breakaways reformed before Terpstra attacked.

    Alternatively we get to see one last sulky bike toss after a mechanical and then we don’t see his sulking anonymity in the pack.

    The TT World Championships show he can perform at the very highest level when he wants to, maybe so far this spring its been about avoiding incidents, gaining experience and topping up form?

    • I’ll take that.
      I was very surprised to see him in the final move last year and the effort made me appreciate him much more (after he had been boring so much in the Tour he won).
      He surprised me again in the world TT.
      Stybar sees him as the most important contender.

      So why not?

    • Roubaix is no statistically programmed ITT and so working to power output, timings and stuff like that just doesn’t work. This is why Wiggins won’t win.

      • Roubaix is the most statistically analyzable of the Spring, with a large helping of chance folded into the mix.

        The only reason everyone talks so much about Wiggins’ failures is because of all of his successes…

        • Wiggins did well last year due to being helped by Thomas- he wont return the favour so the best thing that can happen for Sky is that he looses interest early doors- a scenario that is not unlikely.

        • I’m happy to agree with Sean Kelly that, for his talent, Wiggins should have achieved more. The fact is that by the time Sky started backing Wiggins on the road they already had a better rider called Chris Froome. Froome would have won the Vuelta in ’11 if Sky had backed the right man and the Tour in ’12 had they not backed Wiggins. Thereafter, Wiggins was demoted and hasn’t gone toe to toe with the top on the road really since, settling for lesser targets against lesser riders (save for his ITT success and P-R ’14).

          That said, IF he does win tomorrow it will make him one of the greatest all-rounders (road + track) of all time.

          • True that Froome’s chances were reduced by team tactics, especially during that Vuelta, quite false that he “would have won”. It’s a possibility, I agree, but far it’s far from granted.
            Perplexing it may be, that year Cobo appeared just stronger.
            And the 2012 Tour… well, it just had a “poorly balanced” course (to say so, we can also consider it a legitimate decision by ASO, strategic in many senses), since it favoured ITT specialists quite a lot.
            There’s not so much of team strategy in ITT (yes, you can have some form of team strategy, like asking the gregari to sit back, but apparently it wasn’t Froome’s case), and Froome was more than 2′ down compared with Wiggins. With the “easy” mountains featured by the race that year, him surging and taking the victory from his teammate is far from certain.

          • Undoubtedly, Sky backed the wrong man in the 2011 Vuelta – and Cobo’s win isn’t perplexing: he was drugged up to the eyeballs, so he could get one big contract (look at his palmares before and since – especially since). (And he can’t wear a helmet properly.)
            As for the 2012 TDF, we’ll just never know – but you can’t fault Sky there: they got a 1-2. (Also, mind-numbingly dull though it was, that’s not Wiggins’s fault; that’s all of his competitors’ fault for failing to challenge him.)
            Wiggins is nowhere near as bad and nowhere near as good as those lacking objectivity say he is: his palmares is impressively varied, whilst at the same time his grand tour record is two thirds, apart from the win. He’s not a donkey and he’s not Hinault.
            I think a lot of people – myself included – are just irritated by the hype (but, again, that’s not his fault).

          • ‘Anonymous’ – See Gabriele’s comment below about doping accusations; or at least spell out what you actually mean – with evidence, preferably.

    • If he rides like Flanders, he’ll be cooked before the end, and it seems he’s been cooked all week due to that ride!

      Inrng – Is there a reason why Lotto-Soudal don’t try protecting Greipel a little more? If he could get to the end he’d be a favourite. Can he not last the distance?

      • Greipel was on Belgian TV this week saying the classics are where he repays the team for their work for him in the summer. He’s riding for Roetlands

  3. My heart says Wiggo just for the great story it would make, despite my dislike for SKY. Same with Sagan who could finally get the 1000 kg monkey off his back. My head says all that stands in Kristoff’s way is bad luck…….and John Degenkolb. In the spirit of Paris-Roubaix we took a little ride today over a road with paving stones as vicious as those of the Hell of the North. Not only that, it was a switchbacked climb as well! But we used MTB’s as there’s ZERO chance I could ride this climb without 2.0″ tires @ 40 psi. Tomorrow we’ll bounce around on cobbles even worse on the Appia Antica in Rome before settling in to watch the big boyz battle it out.

  4. Glad you didn’t go heavy on the Wiggins hyperbole. To my mind he should be happy if he gets near the top ten again. Roubaix, as you said, is a most unpredictable race. You can’t program it like a track meet or a Tour stage. Has Wiggins got the nous and the guts and the luck?

    No chance.

    PS Going with Kristoff to make it a classics season to remember!

        • Sorry, that was me. I am not sure that Andrew E is interested in debating. He seems to take every opportunity to have a go at Wiggins. I would be surprised if he wins tomorrow but that doesn’t take away from his status as the best British rider of this generation. I am not sure if there is anything wrong with being a fan.

          • Wondered when you would turn up tovarish. I said wiggo would get shelled out on the oude kwatemont last week. A little flippant I know but didn’t he just ride round at the back of the ronde abusing pinarellos on the way? As intng pointed out he has no history of winning individual races other than its why would he suddenly start winning with the queen of classics. And how? TT away from everybody in a world class field? Not a likely scenario is it?

      • Wiggins fanboys are forever touchy. Its almost as if they are imitating their hero. I said why I think Wiggins can’t win. You tell us why, on form and with recent history, he can.

        • Simple really, P-R is definitely an event for riders with big engines and core strength. As current world TT champion, he definitely has those. He has also put a huge effort into preparing himself for this event. As I said, I don’t expect him to win but it is disingenuous to write off his chances so lightly.

  5. I’m going with GVA for three reasons.

    1. He’s super strong, as has been proved by him constantly being at the business end of hard classics over the past few years.

    2. He’s got a great team. BMC have looked better this year than they have in the past, especially Oss who could be key (or as INRNG suggests, a second option).

    3. Statistical probability. He’s been on the podium of big classics so often the law of averages means he has to wind up on the top step eventually.

  6. Paris Roubaix will prove once again to be the most race of them all and will elude Kristoff. Boom wins from a small group – maybe with Vanmarcke and Sagan on the podium? I would love to see Sagan but I think he needs a complete reboot.

  7. It’s much easier (for me) to figure out which pavé they’re on using [Distance Remaining], which is the data point provided by the broadcast. If my math is correct:

    Sector Distance from Velodrome (km)
    27 155 – 152.8
    26 148.5 – 146.7
    25 145.5 – 141.8
    24 141 – 139.5
    23 133 – 130.7
    22 123.5 – 121.9
    21 120 – 117.5
    20 117 – 115.4
    19 104 – 101.5
    18 95.5 – 93.1
    17 89.5 – 87.9
    16 83 – 79.3
    15 75.5 – 73.1
    14 72 – 69.6
    13 65.5 – 64.1
    12 60.5 – 58.8
    11 54.5 – 51.8
    10 49 – 46
    9 43 – 42.3
    8 36 – 34.6
    7 33.5 – 33
    6 27 – 25.7
    6b 24.5 – 23.4
    5 20 – 18.2
    4 17 – 14.9
    3 15 – 13.9
    2 8 – 6.6
    1 1.5 – 1.2
    0 0 – 0

  8. Not sure why everyone is do down on Wiggins chances. I’m not a Wiggins fan but he looked good last year, is built for it, and is the worlds best tt’r right now. Plus had a strong team. Sounds like a lot of Froone fans want to see him lose.

    • He’s won three road races in a 15 year pro career, one of which was the national championships so a reasonably shallow field and another other was the Tour de l’Avenir. His record of success in one day races isn’t proven. Still he can get into TT mode in this race and try to ride away but go early and he risks being brought back, leave it late and it’ll be very tactical.

      • It’s such a striking stat that it is well worth repeating. 3 road races in 15 years! Given the press hype around him for this race ( and generally), I would never have guessed that his road wins would be so sparse.

        Wiggins has many talent but most of all the ability to generate news copy. Win or lose tomorrow, I look forward to fewer Wiggin’s news stories in the future but that’s just me.

        • The interesting thing is that Wiggins says he just wants to reach Roubaix first, it’s sections of the media who go to town with the coverage. Presumably his high profile celebrity status in Britain accounts for some of this and his Tour de France status means he’s a more familiar name around the world than Vanmarcke or Kristoff etc.

          • Inrng, I expect better of you than that. It isn’t just the British media that are talking about this as Wiggins last race at this level. He is iconic because he has the unique (?) achievement of both World and Olympic championships on the road and on the track. I didn’t notice anyone complaining about the eulogising of Cadel Evans on his retirement.

          • My take is those guys were super domestiques who often raced in this format and essentially had a lucky day in the way the race played out. They’re not on the winning list because that was rarely their role. I am neither fan nor critic of Wiggo and just hope that he has a decent day which settles things once and for all. He is a great bike rider and has the good grace & luck to be retiring on one of the greatest days of the year.

            As for his chances: If I were to use a bookmakers’ cold logic; Wiggo has mostly won when he is in control of his environment. Track, TT, GT. He does not seem to thrive when things get messy or complicated. Thus, if I were a bookie, I’d be giving long odds.

    • I think Inrng has it right. Wiggins has no great record of winning road races. If anything, people should be asking why his fans think he can win when he has so little history of it ON THE ROAD.

      • Because their fans: so objectivity is removed. O’Grady, Vansummeren, Backstedt, Knaven were all P-R regulars, whereas Wiggins has done well once. In his favour is his obvious physical ability; against him is the fact that other than last year he’s never shown any great aptitude for either cobbles or one day racing.

        • Personally, I always want British riders to lose. Not because of my utter disdain for nationalism, but because if cycling becomes popular in Britain (so this applies especially to the TDF) I might end up having to pay Sky £40 a month to watch it, instead of £4 to Eurosport.

  9. Degenkolb beat Kristoff in the sprint last time they went head to head in a sprint, so if they arrive together I don’t know what will happen. I expect many long range attacks from Good riders to avoid getting to the velodrome with either of them, so I’m hopeful for an interesting edition. Bring it on!

    • It was a 350 m sprint for Kristoff. Although Degenkolb started far behind I think Kristoff wins head to head.

      I think i showed he have the acceleration with what must have been very tired legs after being the engine in a 28 km brake away in RVV. Terpstra isn´t a sprinter, but still.

  10. I am thinking Sagan is being underestimated here. I think he may well win. GVA is another good bet. Wiggins? In my view he is a rank outsider.

  11. I’ll never get over that Paolini stopped his lead out 75m for early Milan – Sanremo. Could he not waited 100m to hit the front ?

    M – SR , RRV and PR in the same season had made Kristoff the hero he deserves to be.

      • Sorry*: If he wins tomorrow i´ll never forget:) Now its okei.

        Paolini did a fantastic job. What he did up Poggio is some of the best I’ve seen by a domestique. BUT: when he obviously was tired, why did he hit the front with 1 k to go?

        Anyway: it´s a shame that Kristoff don´t have a better team around him . It´s not too much to ask that the world’s best classic rider has two domestique afterPoggio, or at least one with fresh legs.

        Then Kristoff is almost unbeatable in M- SR.

  12. I think Wiggins does have a chance of winning, but Thomas seems like the stronger Sky rider at the moment, but of course this is Paris-Roubaix. Anything can happen. I would like to see Sagan take it but I have a sense of inevitability that Kristoff will win; Katusha are just on fire right now.

  13. Wiggins creates an enormous amount of enmity, which is a great shame. He is a personality who has helped generate terrific global interest in the sport. His success has been without the use of illicit drugs when he comes from the tail end of a generation that largely relied on drugs.

    It appears the enmity stems from his Tour de France success. Where many of his detractors say Froome should have won that year. Froome was not employed to win, he was employed to help Wiggins win. Froome tried to upstage Wiggins but was unable to follow up that attempt to upstage in the TT’s which formed an integral part of the Tour that year. Wiggins won, end of story. So can he win Paris Roubaix? Yes of course he can. Why? First off the race itself is a bit of a lottery and luck plays its part. Second, he has the cycling strength, the determination and the support required. Finally, if he makes it to velodrome and is in with a shout of winning, Ttere can few better experienced riders in the field when it comes to a track race. I hope he does well and would be delighted for him to win, even just for the romance of such an achievement.

    • Cycling has a fundamental problem. Everyone the federation likes is clean until the statute of limitations kicks in. You want me to believe a guy that somehow wins a single grand tour, and podiums one other time at the same event did it clean.

      This is cycling. It’s only a matter of time.

      • The difference with Wiggins’s victory in the TDF was that it was so unexceptional – he didn’t blast the others away, he just churned up the hills in his own style.
        Also, the riders who have been found doping were rarely so vociferous in their condemnation of doping – because they feared being outed by others/looking silly when caught – with one obvious exception (and look how vilified that person has – rightly – been since caught).

        • I can remember various exceptions to the correlation between being vocal against doping and being clean.

          That said (and not answering to J Evans anymore), I feel that crazy conjectures about specific riders being clean or not is part of the wind of change that the closing of CN’s comments section has brought to inrng – I’m not here since very long ago, hence I’m not sure if it was usual before, but for certain it wasn’t in my first months on these pages.
          Is that really needed, considering that we won’t know before ten years or so (if ever)?
          Trying your guess about the winner of the following race or about the racing season can be fun, you’ll be able to check if you were right… but this?
          Don’t get me wrong, postmodern cycling has found a new source of entertainment in debating if a team/rider is clean and why you can argue that or the contrary, but I somehow feel that’s a more private form of entertainment, whose appropriate context would be in person, with friend, with a clearer joking attitude.
          When it’s made publicly, to prove other points, it looks like a tricky argument, since nobody will soon be able to state that it’s valid or not.
          Discussing the possible general state of cycling is equally theological, but at least lacks of the inquisitorial (or exonerative) part that makes the “bespoke”, tailor-made debate sound a little cynical, too, both when people try to assume than “X” was clean and when they try to show that, no, “HE” was a dope. Whenever we look at doping in a very personalised way, we are getting it wrong, IMHO. Rant mode off 😉

          • True, it’s no guarantee.

            As for the second part of your comment, I completely agree: see the quote from above ‘without Michelle Cound’s money, we’d never have even heard the name Froome. He’s a dog…’ – baseless, anonymous and meaningless.

    • There are I believe as many evidence of Wiggins riding on the limit and winning in the rain as there is of him “descending like a girl” as he unfortunately put it.

      If it rains I still expect Wiggins to do well.

    • Don’t need rain. He can ride back into the lead group if conditions are juuuust right. But, that’s it. Other teams know this and can/will act accordingly.

      Meanwhile, Sky has at least two other strong contenders and will waste them as they go off to ride their own races. Or, it will be Flanders and the Olympics all over again. Too much work, too early, and for no good reason anyway.

  14. I wonder if the 3 wins has a ring of “lies, damn lies and statistics” about it? Yes, only 3 in 15 years, but how many years has Wiggins concentrated on the road? And when he has done so it’s been about tours, hence about not expending too much energy in one day, keeping in touch and winning with a great TT time.

    Throughout his time with FDJ and Cofidis the road was used to build form for the track. Up until Bejing 2008 his focus was track, so then we’re talking about 2009 to 2013 really.

    Nevertheless I also can’t see him winning. The only way I think is similar to Terpstra last year – but in reality he froze a little last year not expecting to be in that position and 2013 may have been Wiggins’s best chance of a win.

    • While I agree with the general sentiment that it will be difficult for Wiggins to win, he does have a chance. His sprint is not as bad as some make it out to be. If he arrives at the velodrome with Kristoff, or Degenkolb, or even Sagan or Van Avermaet, he’ll probably be outsprinted. But if gets there with guys like Boom, or Vanmarcke, he still has a chance. He won a field sprint in the 2012 Tour of Romandie after going for a long one, and if he arrives at the velodrome with guys who are decent but not spectacular sprinters, he has a chance. In fact, if people think he has to go solo to win, it might play in his favor, as he could team up with some guys who are confident they could beat him. But, all that aside, I think Sagan finally gets the monkey off his back and takes it.

  15. Bring it on! I love this race so much. This one is more open than it has felt in years. Such a toss up. My money is on Kristoff who is riding out of his skin at the moment. Anything can happen with punctures and mechanicals but that’s true for all of them. I’d love to see Dege do it here and he’s my other pick. Sagan and Sep Vanmarke are off the boil. Stybar and Terpstra are impossible to pick between but I’d favour the cyclocross rider. Wiggins has the engine but listening to him here in the uk he doesn’t really sound like he wants to win – he’ll be happy with a respectable place and a shower. Would love to see G win as well but it’s not his year. Anyway, who knows?! This race is a total toss up and watch something completely unexpected happen- which will look totally obvious in retrospect! C’mon Kristoff!

  16. I’ve got a feeling that a sky rider will get the teams first monument win. So that means, based on the usual accuracy of such feelings, that they’ll all be punctured, crashed or lost by the time the winner hits Roubaix. Spending the day preloading on sleep after a good, windy hack about this morning. No cobbles here, just an over zealous use of coarse chip seal that.i have developed many devious routes to avoid the worst of :). Kristoff can’t win again, can he?

  17. I too think Degenkolb can take Kristoff (And the rest) in a sprint on the Velodrome. I can’t see Wiggins in the top 5 and I think the 4/5 that neither he nor Thomas finish in the Top 3 is a decent bet.
    I would love to see GVA soloing to the finish, he deserves a big win like this for his continuous agression, ambition and bad luck… It’s going to be great..

    If you fancy a punt on the race, have a peek here too..

    • What a brilliant ride by Degenkolb. The strongest rider all day, permanently in the first 10 on the road, smart enough to realise that Van Avermaet was too good a rider to let go with all those around him dithering. A sprinter to go in chase of those two guys? Incredible. Kelly-esque. A very profitable day for me, I hope a few of you got on, especially the Thomas/Wiggins bet, that was giving money away.. 🙂

  18. In the absence of the great Fabian Cancellara I’m supporting Geraint Thomas. Despite the unpredictability of the race and the supposed need for options Sky should be doing everything they can to help him. Other teams work exclusively for one outstanding rider, Sky should do the same.

    With this in mind, if sideshow Brad’s stated aim is merely to finish (and this is no mean feat), I would hope, if for nothing more than the Wiggins P-R machine, he puts in at least one decent turn in support of the man most likely.

    Failing that, go Sep!

  19. Oh dear oh dear. I really wish Cycling News had not removed their comments section. I think we all agree that the Inner Ring produces articles of exceptional quality. But over the last few weeks, with the focus predominantly having been on the cobbled classics, the amount of wiggins and sky LOVE or wiggins and sky HATE in the readers’ comments has really dampened the intelligence and impartiality of the blog. Yes this blog is written in the English language, but I have never read it as an English blog. (Velo News articles have an American bias, for example; Cycling News has an English bias.) In today’s post, I can feel the Inner Ring is at pains to downplay Wiggins’ chances but the comments just shout about him both for an against. Please, do as the Inner Ring does and forget any nationalistic bias. I cringe every time I see the word W******s or Team S*y on here. There are so many more players to discuss.

    Sorry for the lengthy rant.

    • It’s generally a reaction to a comment that borders unnecessarily on the vitriolic, Beno.

      Anyway, for my part I hope for a great race. My money’s on Stybar.

      Walked the Carrefour de l’Arbre on Sat. That secteur gets worse every year, I’m sure of it. Lots of sportive riders digging in yesterday in a whole world of hurt.

  20. Topsport Vlaanderen bring Edward Theuns and Jelle Wallays

    They stole one race from WT teams, I genuinely hope one or both podium.

    • In particular, the story of this Jelle Wallays is quite incredible. This guy won a Paris-Tours and a Dwars door Vlaanderen in less than one year, 2 big races while he has been nowhere in monuments so far. When he has an opportunity he delivers.
      I think a GVA for instance would just change all of his placings over the last year for these 2 victories.

  21. Wow, great win by Degenkolb. Those last 12 km were really crazy, but he took the race into his own hands and won quite handily on the velodrome.

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