Ineos Grenadiers head to Paris-Roubaix without one 'pure leader', but lots of options

Filippo Ganna is a favourite for the race, but says he doesn't know why

Filippo Ganna
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ineos Grenadiers head into Sunday's Paris-Roubaix with a strategy of not having one pure leader, but instead an intriguing mix of experience and youth, power and guile.

What is notable, however, was that the two riders put up for the team's press conference on Friday were Michał Kwiatkowski and Filippo Ganna, so one might derive from that they might be nudged slightly ahead of the other five in the squad.

Ganna, the world time-trial champion claimed he doesn't know why people think he's a favourite for Paris-Roubaix, laughing off the suggestion that Tom Boonen had picked him as his one to watch. Yet the bookmakers have him joint fourth for Sunday, and his time-trialling prowess might just be the thing to conquer the pavé of northern France, in the mould of Fabian Cancellara. 

Kwiatowski, meanwhile, the winner of last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, stressed that they would be racing "really without a pure leader because we believe in the strength of the team".

It is certainly a strong team. Alongside the pair are Luke Rowe, who finished 8th in 2015, Dylan van Baarle, who recently was runner up at the Tour of Flanders, and Magnus Sheffield, who won Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday. Add in Ben Turner, one of the revelations of the spring, and Cameron Wurf, and it looks like a result could come from anywhere.

When this was put to Ganna, the Italian replied: "It's a good mix, we have a lot of experience with Kwiato, Luke and Cam, and a lot of young riders like me, Ben and Sheffield. 

"We will see in the race if it's a good mix for the future, but for sure with a big road captain with Luke, we have a lot of experience for this race. We will see, the team have given everyone massive support."

He said that he would have to imagine the race as "one TT of 260km". 

All but two of Ganna's 16 road victories have come against the clock, the exceptions being a breakaway win in the 2020 Giro and a stage of the Etoile de Bessèges last year.

He has also won multiple team and individual pursuit medals on the track, and is part of the current world and Olympic champion team pursuit squad.

The Italian has never finished Roubaix, coming in outside the time limit in 2018 and then not finishing the race in 2019, but has been training hard for this opportunity.

Ganna has been working at the Montichiari track in Italy, with Italian national track coach Marco Villa, replicating the high-intensity efforts he will need over the cobbled sectors. It was at the track and not on the road due to the upcoming Track World Cup.

"We have tried to do good training sessions on the track, to simulate the pavé," he said. "We will see in two days, if we can enter in the velodrome in a good position. For sure we have a super team, you see also in the races up to now. "

Astonishingly, Sunday's race will be just the second time that Kwiatkowski has raced Roubaix, due to his usual preference for the Ardennes Classics. His first experience was the 2021 edition, so Sunday's dry race will be completely different.

The Pole said that he felt like a "neo-pro" racing on the cobbles.

"I always have a good feeling on the cobbles..." he said. "I'm super motivated, but at the same time it's hard for me to speak about the race, because I feel like a neo-pro really, coming into Roubaix."

Asked if he regretted not targeting The Hell of the North more in his career, Kwiatkowski said that it was "tricky" to fit in all the "great races".

"The body has limitations, you can't combine so many great races," he explained. "The combination of the Ardennes and the cobbled Classics is always a tricky one.... It's always a hard choice, you're picking up the race programme based on experience. You can change a little bit but not completely. 

"This year, changing the dates of Amstel and Roubaix gave me that opportunity of trying something new of combining those Ardennes races and Roubaix... I'm just happy Roubaix is placed now in the calendar."

The team rode the final 107km of the course, which was crucial for the Pole, he explained, as he needed to rediscover the sectors, and the roads in between.

"We did the last 107km of the race, which for me was discovering how it is to race on the good cobbles in the dry conditions," he said. "Remind myself how the roads are looking in between the sectors. There are plenty of sections to remember, so far I haven't been racing Roubaix every year, so for me it's crucial to be again on those roads just to bring up the memories from last year a little bit."

As for the strong team he will be a part of, Kwiatkowski said that they are keen to use the momentum to their advantage - they have won the last two one-day races. If you add on Van Baarle's second place at Flanders, and Pidcock's third place at Dwars door Vlaanderen, it has been a seriously impressive couple of months.

"Looking at our strengths as a team, you have to be confident and believe in your abilities," he said. "Because the combination we have in the team, going really without a pure leader because we believe in the strength of the team, that tactics can play a key role. We have nothing to be afraid of. There are plenty of big favourites, but looking at our past races, we just want to go with momentum and use that to our advantage."

On Sunday, we will see if the Ineos ball can keep rolling.

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