The 2015 northern classics draw to a close on Sunday with Paris-Roubaix, arguably the toughest and most prestigious one-day race on the calendar.
With former winners Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) out of the race with injury, could we see Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) successfully defend last year’s victory? Or will man-of-the-season Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) make it a Tour of Flanders/Paris-Roubaix double?
We rate the chances of the leading favourites.
Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep)Last year’s winner is currently on a remarkable run of second-places, finishing runner up in Flanders, Het Nieuwsblad and Ghent-Wevelgem. His lack of a sprint has proven his downfall, but this race usually favours lone attacks, and Etixx often redeem their classics season with a win here. Teammate Zdenek Stybar is also very well suited to this race, and himself stands a very good chance of winning.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)Three DNFs and just one top ten finish hardly sounds like the record of a Paris-Roubaix favourite, but such has been Kristoff’s form of late that he looks like one of the men to beat in spite of his unremarkable previous attempts at this race. Like Tom Boonen, he’s displayed an ability to win from sprints and breaks, and will be difficult to beat even with all eyes on him.
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)Van Avermaet was arguably the strongest rider at the Tour of Flanders last weekend, but again failed to land his first ever monument. He’ll have another chance at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, and seems to have the form to finally pull it off, although he’s probably a little better suited to Flanders.
Bradley Wiggins (Sky)The most intriguing pre-race story of this year’s Paris-Roubaix has been that of Wiggins’s bold plan to win the race. It still looks like one of his most difficult aims to date, but when Wiggins puts his mind to something he usually gets it, and a finish in the second group at last year’s race proves he can handle the cobbles.
A look ahead to the 2015 edition of Paris-Roubaix (Sunday, April 12): route, TV guide, teams, map, past winners and
Geraint Thomas (Sky)Victory at the E3 Harelbeke and an eye-opening ride at Paris-Nice makes Thomas one of the men of the season so far, but he’ll be disappointed if he fails to translate such form into a monument win. The Tour of Flanders looked like his best shot, but his co-leadership with Wiggins could actually play in his favour if the pair work well together to put their rivals under pressure.
John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin)A superior sprint would have seen Degenkolb win last year were it not for Terpstra’s late attack, so the favourites will be keen to drop him as early as possible. Degenkolb and his team will probably have to ride the races of their life if he’s to win, though – he’ll be planning to follow wheels rather than make a move himself, but on only one occasion in the past six editions has the winner not come from a lone attack.
Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo)Just a week ago Vanmarcke looked like one of the men to beat at Paris-Roubaix, but his form dipped dramatically at the Tour of Flanders, where he was put out of contention with over 30km still to ride. Without any real explanation for his troubles, it’s difficult to see even a rider as talented as he is bouncing back for his first win of the season at the toughest classic on the calendar.
Lars Boom (Astana)Sixth place at the Tour of Flanders reminded everyone of how good over the cobbles Lars Boom is, and his 6’3” frame is perfectly suited to the challenges of Paris-Roubaix. He claimed the biggest win of his career the last time the peloton visited this region at the Tour de France last year, and is an outside bet to pull off an even bigger win on Sunday.
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo)Of all the spring classics, Paris-Roubaix is the one Sagan has least experience of, so don’t expect him to better the fourth place finishes he managed at Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders. Another top 10 finish would round off a decent spring for the Slovak, albeit one that falls under the very high expectations surrounding him.
Johan Vansummeren (Ag2r)At 34 years old, Vansummeren is getting on a bit now, and looks unlikely to participate in the end game of his favourite race. His victory in 2011 does, however, show how an unfancied rider can surprise everyone by winning, if they can get into the right break early on in the day.