The 1987 Triple Crown winner is backing Sagan to win Paris-Roubaix, but says Cancellara won't go down without a fight
Chief among his rivals will be Flanders runner-up Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo), who will be looking to take his fourth win in the Roubaix Velodrome in his final professional season, but it’s the young Slovakian who Stephen Roche is backing.
Roche, who became only the second winner of cycling’s Triple Crown with victories in the 1987 Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and World Championships, is a big fan of Sagan.
“He’s very cool… I think he’s great for cycling because of his attitude,” he said.
It’s not just his attitude that the Irishman likes, but also his showmanship, in particular the “wheelies across the finish line and the long hair.”
“I think he speaks very, very well,” he continued, “and he’s very good for the next generation.”
It’s the way in which Sagan won the Tour of Flanders that sets him up as favourite for Paris-Roubaix, as far as Roche is concerned.
“Well you don’t lose form in one week, and he rode it [Flanders] very, very intelligently. He got away from Cancellara first of all and then he heard he was coming across and he went again before Cancellara came across to him.”
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Although backing Sagan to eventually come out on top, the 56-year-old hasn’t written Cancellara off by any means.
“Cancellara’s going to be on revenge this weekend. It’s his last Roubaix and his career is over basically on Sunday so he’s going to be pulling out all the stops.
“He’s a killer, he’s a winner you know, and Roubaix probably suits him better than Flanders because there’s no hills… it’s just sheer power and speed.”
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Cancellara has said that this will be his last season and that he is ready to retire. Roche thinks that this Sunday’s Monument could be the perfect send-off for one of the best Classics riders in the history of the sport.
“What a way to go, finish in Roubaix on a win, beating Sagan and all the rest of the guys, hanging up your wheels at the end; what a way to go, a fairytale.”
As anyone who follows the race knows, however, there are so many factors to take into account during the Hell of the North, that the race could be blown wide open.
“Roubaix is very special,” adds Roche. “There’s crashes, punctures, form and everything else to take into consideration.
“But Sagan’s going to be the man to beat.”
Stephen Roche is event ambassador for the Human Race Events Telegraph London Cycle Sportive powered by Maserati.
The sportive takes place on Sunday June 26 and finishes with a lap of the iconic Herne Hill Velodrome, the only remaining venue from the 1948 London Olympics.