Will having no clear favourite make Paris-Roubaix more exciting?

No clear favourite will mean more aggressive racing say some of the pros

Riders say that perhaps the racing will be more exciting with no clear favourite for the 2019 Paris-Roubaix this Sunday.

A range group of 15 riders nullified each other with Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) winning solo in the Tour of Flanders, but it also forced different racing tactics by the teams involved.

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“I’d say it becomes more exciting because there’s a bigger range of riders who can win that race,” Adam Blythe (Lotto-Soudal) told Cycling Weekly.

“The big favourites used to cancel each other out a little bit, but now there are sort of 10-15 guys who can go for a good result. It’ll make it more exciting.”

“For sure there will be a lot of guys who will play for the win as it was in Flanders,” added Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates). “We have Alexander Kristoff in good form.

“It has it’s charm this way. There was once duelling between Boonen and Cancellara, now we doesn’t have those big concurrents. But that’s the way it is.”

A large group of contenders can help underdogs slip away unmarked as Alberto Bettiol did at the Tour of Flanders 2019 (Sunada)

For years, one big rider would crush the French cobbles and celebrate on Roubaix’s velodrome: stars like Johan Museeuw, Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara.

The results last Sunday in Oudenaarde at the Tour of Flanders, indicate a group of riders on form and nearly equal in strength: Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) – the 2017 and 2018 winners – Kristoff, Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale), Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First), and Zdeněk Štyba (Deceuninck-Quick-Step).

“It is nice to watch the races, and I’d love to be there,” said Mark Renshaw (Dimension Data), who is watching the racing on television.

“If you look a the big group they had there in the finish [in Flanders], it really set it up for Bettiol to win, everyone was looking at each other, so in Roubaix, we’ll probably see some bigger guys going earlier and trying to get away.

“We’ve seen over the last years that it just gets earlier and earlier with a bigger attack so I think everyone will try to avoid that big group where they all look at each other.”

In 2018, Sagan attacked at 55km from the line and rode solo to the last escapee Silvan Dillier (Ag2r La Mondiale). He beat him in the sprint to take the French Monument.

“I think you see that more and more, the level is so high, but the top guy are closer and closer and it’s hard to make the difference,” American Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo) explained.

“Instead of having five or 10 guys to make the difference, you have 50, that makes it a lot harder to decide your tactics. I think we’ll see a chaotic Paris-Roubaix because of that. I don’t think there’s a stand out rider necessarily.”

“It makes it more exciting because the racing stars earlier. There’s more to see. Every team is picking a point on the map and saying, here’s where we need to be on the front and make the race, and that point keeps getting earlier and earlier in the day. So it just makes for aggressive racing.”

“It changes everyone’s role,” Blythe continued. “Each team has a sole leader and before there might have been some who didn’t have a guy to win the race. Now you have guys who’ll start the race at 100km to go and really try to open the final up a lot earlier.”

Dane Matti Breschel (EF Education First) helped celebrate Bettiol’s win. He said with some riders slightly off, like Sagan being sick in early March, the racing has changed.

“A lot of the big stars have had injuries or are sick. Which was lucky for us, even if Bettiol would have been one of the strongest,” Breschel said. “Maybe you see a bit more aggressive race.”