Can Cancellara do the Tour of Flanders Paris-Roubaix double again? He's the favourite this weekend, here are the people he'll have to try and beat
Fabian Cancellara, Trek With Cancellara riding this well, ‘How will he win?’ seems a more appropriate question than ‘Will he win?’ In recent weeks he’s deviated from his usual tactics of single-handedly trying to ride everyone off his wheel, instead waiting for the final sprint. This more subtle strategy saw him win in Flanders and register second in Milan-San Remo, but he may go for a long one on Sunday. If he avoids bad luck, a record equalling fourth Paris-Roubaix looks inevitable.
Sep Vanmarcke, Belkin
As the only rider to have hung on to Cancellara in last week’s Tour of Flanders and last year’s Paris-Roubaix, Vanmarcke has recently emerged as one of the peloton’s best classics riders. The Belgian has featured in most of the major classics this spring, but is yet to land a win. Despite last week’s outcome he is capable of beating Cancellara in a sprint, and the Swiss rider would be taking a risk by not dropping him before the finish.
Niki Terpstra, Omega Pharma-Quick Step
With Boonen under par, this may be the chance for Niki Terpstra to lead the team in a monument. The Dutch rider has looked good all spring, winning Dwars door Vlaanderen, and Paris-Roubaix is the race that best suits his attributes. He was fifth in 2012 and third in 2013; will he continue the sequence and finish first this year?
Tom Boonen, Omega Pharma-Quick Step
Tommeke may not look himself this spring, but when someone has as good record in a race as he does in Paris-Roubaix, he must always be considered a contender. Flanders was hardly a disaster for the 33-year-old, as he was able to follow all the major moves up until the decisive final accent of the Paterberg. If he can improve his form get into the right frame of mind, a record breaking fifth Roubaix win is not beyond him.
Peter Sagan, Cannondale
The prolific Slovak is a favourite for most races he starts, but this week’s Paris-Roubaix the odds are, for once, against him. He has fallen short in the monuments this year, managing only tenth in Milan San-Remo and sixteenth in Flanders (compared with second in both last year). He hasn’t much experience riding Paris-Roubaix either, and it remains to be seen whether his broad list of attributes extends to this idiosyncratic race.
Greg Van Avermaet, BMC
Van Avermaet’s performance at the Ronde last week – where he finished second having ridden aggressively for much of the final stages – was quite possibly the best in his eight year-long professional career. Taking into account his fourth place at Paris-Roubaix last year, the Belgian is now surely one of the peloton’s elite classics riders. He has difficulty finishing off races, and really should have outsprinted Ian Stannard to win Het Nieuwsblad last month. This, as well as his probably fatigue after his effort last weekend, suggests a win will be beyond him this time.
Alexander Kristoff, Katusha
Victory in Milan-San Remo and fifth at the Tour of Flanders has made Kristoff the revelation of the spring. He has an extraordinary ability to retain his strength over the longer distance of the monuments; in San Remo he retained his sprinting speed while Cavendish and Sagan floundered, while in Flanders he managed to attack and break free from a tiring chasing group to very nearly single-handedly catch the leaders. His sprint makes him a threat, if he can hang on.
Bradley Wiggins, Sky
Wiggins’ form remains something of a mystery going into Paris-Roubaix. He finished an impressive albeit unspectacular 32nd in the Tour of Flanders last week, but will have held a lot back given that Paris-Roubaix is his biggest goal of the spring. Expect him to finish higher on Sunday – perhaps even in the top ten – but victory in such a specialist’s race is surely beyond the Tour winner, considering his lack of experience and recent practice.
Taylor Phinney, BMC
The BMC rider is looking to make the select group in this year’s Hell of the North, but he doesn’t quite have the fire power to get away from the Cancellara’s of the world. Having said that, strange things can happen in this race, and there’s always the chance that someone can get a gap at an opportune moment. Making the break in Flanders suggests he has the form to be at the front.
Geraint Thomas, Sky
The Tour of Flanders was Thomas’s main goal for this spring, but he’s no slouch over the cobbles of northern france. The winner of the 2004 junior event was also second on the last Tour de France stage that went over the pavé. Eighth in Flanders after two crashes suggests he has the form to be a contender.
Zdenek Stybar, Omega Pharma
One of the best cyclo-cross riders of his generation, Stybar has all the skills to do well in Roubaix. Last year he was matching Cancellara pedal stroke for pedal stroke over the final sectors of pave until he got poleaxed by an over enthusiastic spectator