Featuring 52.8km of gruelling cobbles over a course of more than 250km at average speeds of over 40km/h, Paris-Roubaix has truly earned its nickname “The Hell of the North”.
The 114th edition of this prestigious race clocks in at a mammoth 257.5km and, with the weather forecast predicting a good chance of rain before and during the race, many of this year’s competitors will be nervous about the having to ride on the famous cobbles at their worst.
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Although some riders (such as Team Sky hard man Ian Stannard) are happy riding over slippery cobbles, wet conditions will inevitably lead to crashes throughout the race (as it did in the last wet Paris-Roubaix in 2002), meaning Sunday’s victor could well be an outsider. Here’s our pick of the best bets for this year’s Paris-Roubaix.
Solo attack to win the race?
Last year’s race was decided by an elite group of six riders, with John Degenkolb outsprinting Zdenek Stybar, Greg van Avermaet and Lars Boom to the line in the Roubaix Velodrome. But Niki Terpstra, winner in 2014, won by 20 seconds from Degenkolb with a brilliantly-timed solo attack.
In 2013, Fabian Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke battled it out 31 seconds ahead of the rest, Spartacus coming out on top to record his third Paris-Roubaix success, but between 2009 and 2012 the smallest margain between first and second place was 19 seconds, between Johann Vansummeren and Cancellara in 2011.
Last week’s Tour of Flanders was won in emphatic style by a Peter Sagan solo attack and, with one-day specialists such as Sep Vanmarcke and Niki Terpstra knowing they won’t be able to outsprint the likes of current world champion Sagan or multiple winners Cancellara and Tom Boonen, we may well see the race decided by an individual blast off the front.
This year’s winning margain to be 2 seconds or more is 13/10 with Unibet and 32Red and 6/5 with Paddy Power and looks a good bet with the likely messy conditions causing havoc in the bunch.
Yes, it’s dull and predictable – and you certainly didn’t need to read this article to work it out – but world champion Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara are favourites for a reason.
Spartacus has won this race three times, only finishing outside the top ten twice (49th in 2009 and 19th in 2007) in ten finishes. Sagan has this year already won the Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem, finished second at E3 Harelbeke and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and managed seventh at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and 12th at Milan-San Remo.
A remarkably talented rider in top form, Sagan represents very good value at 3/1 with Paddy Power, while Cancellara at 10/3 with the same bookmaker is also worth considering, especially as he will be fired up to perform in his last-ever Paris-Roubaix.
Stybar to continue good Classics form
Zdenek Stybar has only ridden Paris-Roubaix three times, but the 30-year-old could already be considered a specialist, having finished sixth on debut in 2013, fifth in 2014 and a close second last year.
The Czech rider is as high as 12/1 with Betfair and Betway to win the race outright, but much more tempting are odds of 9/4 with Unibet and 32Red for the Etixx-Quick Step rider to finish on the podium for the second consecutive year.
Stannard to shine in the rain
As mentioned above, Ian Stannard told Cycling Weekly earlier this week that he was hoping for rain for Sunday’s race, believing poor conditions would play into his hands. While cycling just a few miles to and from work in the rain is an arduous test for most of us, Team Sky’s joint leader (alongside Luke Rowe) said he thrives in bad weather.
“If it rains, it’s going to be a mess,” Stannard said. “I like those conditions, and the colder the better, as well. A dry Roubaix is probably nicer to race, but a wet one is better for my riding characteristics.”
The two-time Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner came third in E3 Harelbeke at the end of March, so is carrying good form into Sunday and is 33/1 with Bet365 to win this year’s edition of the race. With the forecast promising to deliver the rain Stannard is hoping for, an each-way punt is hard to turn down.
Best of the rest
Much like the Grand National, Paris-Roubaix is attractive to punters because the best on paper don’t always win in practice. Naturally, Sagan and Cancellara are the bookies’ favourites – but what if they skid on a greasy cobble, hit the deck and abandon?
Tom Boonen must warrant a mention, as both a four-time winner of this race and one of the best one-day racers of his generation. Although his form hasn’t been as strong as he would like, his experience of this race can’t be written off and 28/1 with Marathon Bet represents a solid punt.
Edvald Boasson Hagen has been there or thereabouts in the big races of the last few weeks, finishing 23rd in the Tour of Flanders, 18th in Gent-Wevelgem and 26th in Milan-San Remo, with his distinctive Norweigan national champion’s jersey visible at the front of the race regularly. He is 28/1 with Boyle Sports, Unibet and 32Red.
Honourable mentions: Andre Griepel, 40/1 (Bet365, Boyle Sports, Ladbrokes); Stijn Vandenbergh, 80/1 (Winner Sports); Mark Cavendish, 125/1 (Bet365); Jens Keukeleire, 150/1 (Betfair).