Team Sky's leader previews one of the toughest events in cycling ahead of his final weekend as a WorldTour rider
The 253.5km Monument this Sunday will be Wiggins’s last race before he leaves Team Sky and switches his attentions to the track, and his own team.
Wiggins has targeted a win in Roubaix as his swan song on the WorldTour, and talked us through the most important parts of the race, from its notorious cobbled sectors to the final laps of Roubaix’s velodrome, near Lille.
Lull before the storm
“Definitely the first two hours are the most free,” he said. “And then comes the first sector, which everyone goes crazy for. I’ve always gone in near the back, in the last 10 riders, just because I find it a lot easier than the mess at the front.
“After that first sector people tend to stop for a piss or whatever, and it’s not so bad. You wonder why people were stressing so much. It’s just a matter of getting through those first sectors.”
The middle section
“Arenberg is the first key, coming out of that in a good position with no troubles. Then you get that middle part of the race where you’ve got 100 guys who could potentially do something in Roubaix, and 80 have gone who had no chance.”
The famous Arenberg Forest, sector 18 (they count down from 27 to one), comes 158 kilometres into the race and leaves 95.5 kilometres and 17 sectors to cover. Some of the most dangerous are numbers 11, Auchy-lez-Orchies – Bersée, 10, Mons-en-Pévèle, and four, Le Carrefour de l’Arbre.
“The second feed to the finish is the next part — you have 50 guys who really can do something, rather than the guys who are just dreaming about it,” Wiggins continued.
“It’s the business end. You get a group of guys who are constantly getting dropped, getting back on… and then you get to that middle part of that last section, from Orchies to Mons-en-Pévèle, when the first big moves will be made. So many guys have gone there who have gone on to win the race.”
Mons-en-Pévèle leaves 47.5 kilometres to race, with the finale coming on the cement 500-metre outdoor velodrome, where cyclists cover one and a half laps.
“In road racing, that one and the Vigorelli velodrome [in Milan are the most important ones], but more so Roubaix because it is still in existence. It’s probably the most special one, for a road rider anyway.”
Wiggins didn’t give much away concerning Sky’s tactics, but did discuss a few details.
“The main strength we’re going to have is numbers. We had numbers last year but we didn’t use them. We always had numbers in this race looking back to 2012, but we don’t have anyone who can finish it off in a sprint, so we have to go from a small group or alone. It’s about how we use those numbers,” he said.
“A lot of the time, you can start with a plan, as we did last year with Eddy [Boasson Hagen], but he blew in the final stretch, so the whole plan changed. So it’s a case of us talking together in the end.”
Wiggins and Geraint Thomas made the final group last year but they could not respond to the eventual winner, Dutchman Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick Step). The British riders finished ninth and seventh, respectively.
“If we are in the same position as last year, I’d actually open my mouth and talk to [Thomas]. I think that’s the key,” Wiggins said.
“I was a bit starstruck last year. We didn’t talk enough last year, because none of us knew that Eddy wasn’t feeling great.”
Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen left Sky after the 2014 season and now races for MTN-Qhubeka.
Wiggins will lead his team with Thomas, Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe, Bernie Eisel, Andy Fenn, Christian Knees and Salvatore Puccio in support.
Earlier today, to refamiliarise himself with the course, he rode from sector 27 to 16, or 80 kilometres of Paris-Roubaix.
Sean Kelly on the challenges of riding the cobbles