Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, or someone else? Six favourites for the men's Paris-Roubaix

No Pogačar means there is a spot available in the big three, so who will step up?

The contenders for the men's Paris-Roubaix
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The dust is settling on a spectacular edition of the men's Tour of Flanders, but it is already time to look ahead to the 120th edition of Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.

The race will be without the conquerer of the Flemish bergs, Tadej Pogačar, but the lineup is no less as promising. The remaining two of the big three, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, will both be in Compiègne on Sunday, as will other favourites like Mads Pedersen, Stefan Küng, and last year's winner Dylan van Baarle.

The 'Hell of the North' is the conclusion of a cobbled Classics season which has been dominated by Jumbo-Visma, but Sunday's Flanders proved that the Dutch team is beatable. However, the men in yellow will be motivated to get back on top, to prove that they are really the pre-eminent Classics squad in the WorldTour. Likewise, Soudal Quick-Step will want to prove that they still exist in the Classics.

The three five star sectors of the Trouée d'Arenberg, Carrefour de l'Arbre, and Mons-en-Pévèle will be part of the 257km route on the way to the famous Roubaix velodrome on Sunday.

Make sure you have checked out our guide to the Paris-Roubaix route and that you know how to watch Paris-Roubaix too.

Before you do that, though, take a look at the six men we consider the favourites to lift the cobblestone trophy on Sunday.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck)

Mathieu van der Poel at Paris-Roubaix 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel would have won the Tour of Flanders on Sunday if it were not for the small matter of Tadej Pogačar. Therefore, it is right to think of the Dutchman as the outstanding favourite for Paris-Roubaix, as the Slovenian will not be racing.

The Alpecin rider finished ninth last year, and third the year before, so has form at the cobbled race; he is also clearly in good shape this year, so will be the one watched by all his rivals throughout.

At 28, he has proved that he is a rider for the biggest occasions, as was shown at Milan-San Remo in March, when he powered away on the Poggio. That power might come in useful when he's trying to break free of the people behind him on the cobbles.

One disadvantage that Van der Poel has to deal with is the lack of strength in depth of his team. Silvan Dillier finished second behind Peter Sagan in 2018, but was very much the second fiddle in that group; Gianni Vermeersch is the gravel world champion, but is not a likely card to play; Jasper Philipsen, nominally a sprinter, has looked good this season and could go well, so will be interesting to watch.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)

Wout van Aert at Paris-Roubaix 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Odd to be thinking of Wout van Aert as a second favourite, but after his slightly disappointing showing at Flanders last weekend, he is behind his great rival, Van der Poel, in the pecking order.

The Jumbo-Visma rider has looked unbeatable at times this spring, but also a little bit fallible too. Riding away from the field at Gent-Wevelgem along with teammate Christophe Laporte was a high point, and bodes well for the similarly flat sectors of Roubaix. However, even at the E3 Saxo Classic, which he won, he did look off the pace of Van der Poel and Pogačar a little.

Last year, he finished second, and the year before seventh, so he has the ability to be at the pointy end of the race, he just needs to make it count. If he is in a select group in the velodrome, the Belgian might well be the absolute favourite.

Van Aert's Jumbo team is ridiculously strong, with last year's winner Dylan van Baarle, Laporte and Nathan van Hooydonck all expected to feature too.

Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo)

Mads Pedersen at Paris-Roubaix 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The first rider on this list to not be part of the 'big three' of Pogačar, Van der Poel and Van Aert, Mads Pedersen has had an excellent cobbled Classics season, finishing  fifth at both Gent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen, before getting onto the podium at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.

Pedersen's third place at Flanders was his second best result in a monument, and his powerful nature makes him ideal to do well at Roubaix. He has not finished the last two editions, but will go into the Hell of the North with the confidence of a successful season to date, and a strong Trek-Segafredo squad with options like Quinn Simmons, Jasper Stuyven, and the very tall Daan Hoole.

The former world champion is well and truly one to watch over the cobbles, and has a sprint as well as the endurance to keep going.

Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ)

Stefan Küng at Paris-Roubaix 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Having finished third at Paris-Roubaix last year, Stefan Küng is undoubtedly one of the top favourites for the cobblestone trophy in 2023. He has finished in the top five at Gent-Wevelgem, E3, and the Tour of Flanders, as well as that podium finish, so is a serious Classics contender.

The Swiss rider also made the selection at Flanders on Sunday, proving he is in good shape, and has a solid team to back him up, as Groupama-FDJ has looked to be more than a GC team in recent years.

Küng will likely need to drop his rivals on the cobbles to be in with a chance to win, with the 29-year-old not renowned for his sprint. If he won, it would likely be a victory in the mould of Dylan van Baarle in 2022, rather than Sonny Colbrelli a year before.

Dylan van Baarle (Jumbo-Visma)

Dylan van Baarle at Paris-Roubaix 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The reigning Paris-Roubaix champion might have been absent from the last few cobbled Classics after crash at the E3 Saxo Classic and illness in the run up to Flanders, but is clearly a rider with the ability to win the hardest races.

Having little preparation is clearly not a problem for the Dutchman, either, with his win at Omloop het Nieuwsblad in February coming in his first race of the year; that win, just like his victory at Roubaix last year, came from Van Baarle simply riding off the front, a tactic he would surely employ should he target the win on Sunday.

Van Baarle is now at Jumbo-Visma, having moved from Ineos Grenadiers in the off-season, so is yet another card for the team in yellow to play. Should he head up the road, teams behind might be reluctant to chase, in the knowledge that they would be towing Wout van Aert or Christophe Laporte back to the front.

Kasper Asgreen (Soudal Quick-Step)

Kasper Asgreen at Paris-Roubaix 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Now, I understand that Soudal Quick-Step has not had the best Classics season, failing to score a win on the cobbles at all - even in last year's poor showing, Fabio Jakobsen won at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.

However, this might mean an all out assault at Paris-Roubaix, given the team's historic ties to this race, a race it has won six times in its history. 

There are reasons for optimism, too, with Kasper Asgreen finishing seventh at Flanders on Sunday, and Davide Ballerini coming in the same spot at Dwars door Vlaanderen last week. 

Of the team, Asgreen seems the most likely to score a result at Roubaix, but Yves Lampaert and Florian Sénéchal cannot be ruled out either. Cobbles are in the DNA of Quick-Step, and they won't want to miss out for a whole season.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.