A broken rib and damaged pride keep Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) from defending his Paris-Roubaix title and contesting what would be a fifth win on the cobbles of Northern France.
With Peter Sagan also absent, the contest to be the first across the line in the bleak arena of the Roubaix velodrome will be fierce. We take a look at some of the main pretenders to the famed cobbled trophy and the title of “Vainquer du Paris-Roubaix.”
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Fabian Cancellara, 32, Radioshack-Leopard
The undisputed king of the cobbles following last Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, Spartacus goes into the race as hot favourite to do the Flanders-Roubaix double for a second time. He took a couple of tumbles during Scheldeprijs and while out training on the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector of cobbles on Thursday, but it will take more than that to write him out of the race.
Taylor Phinney, 22, BMC
At nearly 6’6″ and with one of the biggest engines in the peloton, double U23 Paris-Roubaix winner Phinney is seemingly built for the cobblestones. A self-professed lover of the Hell of the North, he finished 15th last year while working for teammate Thor Hushovd. With the Norwegian off-colour in 2013, this could be Phinney’s year.
Sylvain Chavanel, 33, Omega Pharma-Quickstep
With Boonen out, Frenchman Chavanel finally gets his chance to lead the beleaguered and criticised Omega Pharma-Quickstep into battle on the cobbles. He just missed out on the selection in Flanders but should find the flat parcours this weekend suit him better.
Ian Stannard, 25, Sky
Paris-Roubaix is Sky’s last chance in this year’s Classics, and Stannard is likely to be their main man. Without the kick needed to win races like the Tour of Flanders or Milan-San Remo, the cobbles give the British champion the ideal springboard to break away from his rivals.
Will Sylvain Chavanel and Ian Stannard come head to head in the finale of Paris-Roubaix like they did in Milan-San Remo?
Jürgen Roelandts, 27, Lotto-Belisol
Perhaps the surprise package of last weekend’s Tour of Flanders, where he finished third, Roelandts and his Lotto-Belisol team know how to ride a tactical race that makes up for their lack of a proven race winner.
Sébastien Turgot, 28, Europcar
Sébastien who? The Frenchman finished a surprise second last year, pipping Alessandro Ballan to the line in the velodrome, but has strung together some very consistent results in recent weeks, including top 15s in San Remo, Dwars Door Vlaanderen, E3-Harelbeke and the Tour of Flanders.
Sébastien Turgot (l): remember the name.
Filippo Pozzato, 31, Lampre-Merida
As elusive as he is unpredictable, the Italian will at least be easy to spot in the fuchsia Lampre-Merida kit.
The Best of the Rest
Mathew Hayman, 34, Sky
Consistent Aussie who lives and breathes Roubaix and longs for a big result in the velodrome.
Juan Antonio Flecha, 35, Vacansoleil-DCM
A peculiar tactician but a strong rider with an intimate knowledge of the secteurs pavés.
Alexandr Kristoff, 25, Katusha
Olympic road race bronze medallist who looks to be building his form at just the right time.
Heinrich Haussler, 29, IAM Cycling
A battling, gutsy rider who has been rejuventated by his move to IAM Cycling.
The gloves are off: Haussler leads at Ghent-Wevelgem
Matthieu Ladagnous, 28, FDJ
The protégé of Frederic Guésdon, the last Frenchman to win in 1997, Ladagnous was sixth in Ghent-Wevelgem, fifth in Flanders, and finished 12th in Roubaix last year.
John Degenkolb, 24, Argos-Shimano
The German proved he had the legs with a top ten in Flanders; this weekend he just has to hang on to the front group in order to deploy his sprint finish.