Paris-Roubaix 2011: Who will win?

It’s the start of April, which can only mean one thing: Paris-Roubaix time.
 If the “Hell of the North” is as thrilling as last weekend’s Tour of Flanders, it will be another running of the cobbled classic that we’ll be talking about for years on end.

Cycling Weekly assesses who is capable of being triumphant in this year’s race on Sunday (April 10).
For an in-depth preview of this year’s race, including a detailed look at the race route, see  Cycling Weekly’s Paris-Roubaix: The Big Preview article >>.

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Paris-Roubaix 2011: Previous winners
Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) 2010, 2006
Cancellara was gracious in defeat last weekend, but will surely be hurting nonetheless. Boonen is the only active rider to have more victories here than the Leopard Trek rider, who will be seeking to level Tornado Tom’s tally of three triumphs in the Roubaix velodrome. Forget last Sunday’s disappointment: Cancellara remains the overwhelming favourite with CW.

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) 2009, 2008, 2005

Since Boonen completed his PR hat-trick in 2009, he has been in Cancellara’s shadow. He was convincingly beaten last year, and failed to impress in the Tour of Flanders last weekend. 2010 was the first year since 2003 that Boonen failed to win a single one-day race. Despite winning Ghent-Wevelgem recently, he needs to put this bad run to bed on Sunday – but can he?

Stuart O’Grady (Leopard Trek) 2007
The effervescent Aussie will surely play second-fiddle to Cancellara, but he remains a strong card to play. 

Frédéric Guesdon (FDJ) 1997

39-year-old Guesdon pulled off one of the biggest shocks in cycling, beating Andrei Tchmil and 1996 winner Johan Museeuw, when he sprinted to the victory in 1997.

Paris-Roubaix 2011: Podium finishers

Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) 2010, 2009
Bernard Hinault was the last reigning world champion to win the Paris-Roubaix. 30 years on, can Hushovd give Garmin-Cervelo’s classics campaign the boost it so desperately needs?

Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) 2010, 2007

Flecha has been Mr. Consistent in across the cobbles of northern France, having finished in the top ten every year since 2005. Hindered by his sprint, if Team Sky are able to have their dream-ticket of Thomas and Flecha in contention come the closing stages, could the Spaniard finally take the victory in the velodrome?

Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) 2009
The Italian was comfortably best-of-the-rest in 2009, and finished a lonely seventh twelve months ago. Pozzato has the ability to finish in the top three on Sunday, although a strong showing in Milan-San Remo last month has surrounded a lack of good results in 2011.

Alessandro Ballan (BMC) 2008, 2006
We cannot help but feel that BMC rescued the Tour of Flanders from the realms of predictability; with Cancellara and Chavanel a minute ahead with 40km to go, it appeared that the race was over. If they can take control of proceedings as well as they did last weekend, Ballan will have a great chance to at least replicate his two previous third-place finishes

George Hincapie (BMC) 2005
Somehow, Hincapie has just one podium finish to his name in this race, despite continuously making it his goal. He will surely be used in a support role, particularly as his knowledge of the race is exemplary- if not tainted by mishaps.

Roger Hammond (Garmin-Cervelo) 2004

Podium finisher in 2004, Hammond told CW this week that he still dreams about winning the “Hell of the North”. His team desperately need a result on Sunday – if Hushovd and Tyler Farrar are misfiring he could be called upon to deliver.

Paris-Roubaix 2011: Form riders

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)

Chavanel was the real star in Flanders, and how we longed for him to take his first classic. It wasn’t to be, but don’t discount him on Sunday. Eighth here two years ago, the Frenchman could step in to lead Quick Step if Boonen is out of sorts again.

Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank)
The Dutchman has been one of the revelations of 2011 thus far, having won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and finishing a solid fifth in Flanders. Since losing Juan Antonio Flecha to Sky, Rabobank needed sometime to fill that void for the northern classics. Langeveld appears to be that man.

Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM)
“Who is this guy?” we asked when we saw Belgian Leukemans ride brilliantly to fourth back in 2007. Having been caught taking things he shouldn’t have, he proved a point by coming sixth here last year – the Vacansoleil rider also looked good last Sunday on the way to seventh in the Ronde.

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)

A former winner of the junior Paris-Roubaix, Thomas has been elevated to team leader status for Sunday’s race, alongside Flecha. Having finished tenth in Flanders, and second in the Dwars door Vlaanderen, it’s not hard to see why.

Paris-Roubaix 2011: Desperately seeking a result

Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo)

Last year, Farrar won the Scheldeprijs, just days after coming fifth in the Ronde. 2011 may have started well with a stage win in the Tirreno-Adriatico, but a distant 13th at Flanders and a nasty fall in the closing stages of Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs further added to Garmin-Cervelo’s spring woes.

Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM)
Former winner of the Tour of Flanders, Devolder looks horribly out of form. The Belgian national champion came 7th here in 2008, but needs to surpass that to save a grim early season.

Related links

Paris-Roubaix 2011: The Big Preview