Seven British riders will take part in Paris-Roubaix this Sunday, with five squads fielding at least one Brit in the ‘Hell of the North’.
Among the line-up of Britons are a couple of genuine contenders, some solid team workers and a couple of younger riders gaining experience. Here are the seven Brits taking part in the 2016 edition of Paris-Roubaix, in alphabetical order:
Adam Blythe (Tinkoff)
Age: 26 (born October 1 1989)
Home town: Sheffield
Adam Blythe goes into Paris-Roubaix having been one of Peter Sagan’s key helpers during the previous week’s triumphant outing at the Tour of Flanders. Blythe told Cycling Weekly that Sagan is ‘super-motivated’ to try and take the Flanders-Roubaix double.
As one of the top favourites, Sagan will be a heavily marked man throughout the race, and Blythe and his Tinkoff team-mates will have a tough job as the race unfurls to assist in policing attacks and taking the pressure off Sagan.
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)
Age: 30 (born May 21 1985)
Home town: Douglas, Isle of Man
Mark Cavendish makes a rare appearance in Paris-Roubaix, the first time he’s taken part in the race since 2011. Rather than going for the win, Cavendish will ride it to ‘see what happens’ and provide support to Dimension Data leader Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Cavendish has already shown this week that his road form is rapidly improving after a successful winter on the track – where he took the madison world championship title with Bradley Wiggins. He took a close second behind Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) at the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday.
Expect to see Cavendish earlier on in the race fulfilling team duties, but also expect him to battle his way to the finish line and place as well as he possibly can… particularly as Dimension Data DS Roger Hammond, who finished third in the 2004 race, says he reckons Cav has the attributes to win it…
Andy Fenn (Team Sky)
Age: 25 (born July 1 1990)
Home town: Hertfordshire
Winner of the junior edition of Paris-Roubaix in 2008, Andy Fenn is no stranger to riding on the cobbles. He joined Sky from Omega Pharma-QuickStep for 2015, and will once again play a support role for the British squad’s main hopes this year: Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard.
Fenn has long-term aims to be a Classics leader himself, but he’ll be chalking the 2016 edition of Roubaix up to more experience. At 25 years old, he’s still got plenty of time to reach his goal.
Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept)
Age: 24 (born January 3 1992)
Home town: Born in Wellington, New Zealand, brought up in Leicester
Tenth place in the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday shows that Dan McLay is rapidly improving in the company of some of the top names in the classics in only his second year in the professional ranks.
With no clear leader in his Fortuneo-Vital Concepts team, McLay may be allowed to take his own initiative and see how he fares. He did not finish last year on his debut, but it will be interesting to see how he progresses this season.
Watch: Paris-Roubaix essential guide
Luke Rowe (Team Sky)
Age: 26 (born March 10 1990)
Home town: Cardiff, Wales
Eighth in Paris-Roubaix last year, and fifth in the Tour of Flanders last weekend mark Luke Rowe out as one of the riders to watch this year. The Welshman now has the power, speed and tactical awareness to put himself in the lead group – it’s just his finish that is unproven, with his last victory coming in the 2012 Tour of Britain.
Rowe will be working with Ian Stannard (see below) as a British double act at Sky, and they will likely assess as the race unfolds who is going well. If both are in form, then there’s no reason not to see them feature in the top 10, and possibly higher up.
Ian Stannard (Team Sky)
Age: 28 (born May 25 1987)
Home town: Chelmsford, Essex
Ian Stannard missed out on defending his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad title this year to concentrate on the big targets: namely Paris-Roubaix. His position out of the top league of pre-race favourites (Sagan, Cancellara, Vanmarcke) plays into his hands as it’s likely he won’t be as heavily marked.
In a dual-pronged Team Sky attack with Luke Rowe (see above), the pair have a very good chance of a high placing. Any rider letting Stannard go into a lead group in the latter part of the race does so at their own peril.
Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18)
Age: 26 (born February 12 1990)
Home town: Burley, West Yorkshire
So far, Scott Thwaites has enjoyed his best season yet – can it get even better this Sunday? Riding for second division outfit Bora-Argon 18, Thwaites placed second in Le Samyn behind 2014 Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep), and enjoyed top 10 placings in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Dwars door Vlaanderen.
More impressively, perhaps, was Thwaites’s 20th place in last weekend’s Tour of Flanders, finishing ahead of the likes of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky).