The race will roll off in Compiegne Sunday morning and by the time they reach Noyon breakaways attempts will have started if not already established. The race heads north through the departments of l’Oise and l’Aisne until they hit the cobbles. Sectors such as Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons en Pévèle, and Carrefour de l’Arbre have seen races won and lost in the past and are steeped in cycling history. The riders will encounter 55 tough kilometers of cobblestone before they reach the climatic velodrome finish in Roubaix.
The day will dawn dry and chilly, a typical Picardy morning and temperatures should rise to 12 degrees as the flag goes down. By the time they reach Roubaix it will be a sunny afternoon with temperatures as high as 20 degrees. Winds will be minimal and this will make for perfect racing conditions
The Previous Top 10’s
In wet conditions Sonny Colbrelli capped a fabulous year by snatching victory at the death, Florian Vermeesch almost won from pillar to post having broken away with Pascal Eekhorn early on and Gianni Moscon had more than his fair share of misfortune.
A strong performance by the Belgians was capped by the timeless Phillipe Gilbert pipping Nils Politt after 6 long hours in the saddle.
***** Mathieu Van Der Poel – In excellent form with two recent victories, and a 3rd at Milano-Sanremo on his return from injury and 4th at Amstel Gold Race, he finished 3rd last year on his first appearance at the race and tops my list.
**** Stefan Kung – In great form with a 3rd, 5th, 6th and 8th in Spring Classics. He is a potential contender to finish on the podium. Best result in this race was 11th in 2019.
*** Christophe Laporte – the Jumbo-Visma man remains in good form with a couple of second placed finishes recently and a 6th last year which was his best result at the race and will lead his team after Wout Van Aert caught COVID.
**Magnus Sheffield – Strongest rider in Brabantse Piji on Wednesday which led to an excellent win. The young man also looks very strong on cobbles.
*Yves Lampaert – Has not had a great classics season but placed 3rd in 2019 & 5th last year showing that he can not be discounted as this seems to be a race where he always raises his game.
***** Mathieu Van Der Poel – skipped Brabantse Pijl to spare some energy especially for Paris-Roubaix, so he has to be considered as the strong favourite for this.
**** Wout Van Aert – returns to competition after COVID, perhaps not as a big contender but special teammate for Christophe Laporte, however if he feels good during the race, he will not give-up and he cannot be ruled out.
*** Christophe Laporte – has been riding exceptionally well and Jumbo-Visma have a strong hand to play.
** Dylan Van Baarle – his second place in Ronde Van Vlaanderen shows he is ready for the battle. Ineos are also strong in all the classics thus far and he may not be far away.
* Yves Lampaert – simply because he loves this race and will do all he can to win or at least a podium.
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***** Florian Senechal – On the Silver Anniversary of the last French victory could the Quick-Step man be the one to do it. Consistent in last year’s Spring Classics, the man from up the road in Cambrai is a lively outsider.
**** Dylan Van Baarle – Ineos are sweeping all before them and while Moscon’s misfortunes were the highlight of last year Dylan had his fair share of bad luck. Has he been saving himself for this?
*** Alexander Kristoff – Watching him power home in the Scheldeprijs made me wonder could he pull this off. Intermarche are on fine form and Kristoff was best finisher here for UAE last year.
** Matthieu Van Der Poel – MVDP…. no more needs to be said.
* Stefan Kung – The Swiss fans will be singing the Kung song deep into this race.
***** Mads Pedersen – He has been my favourite to win Paris-Roubaix since Flanders. He changed trainer this year and is in the shape of his life. His team will be able to place him well and with less climbs, he will be able to follow any wheels easily. The Danish Dynamite can respond to attacks, go solo or win in a sprint at the velodrome.
**** Wout Van Aert – Nobody knows his current form and his target is a mystery, but this is Wout Van Aert we are talking about. He was the man to beat 2 weeks ago and he said he had two satisfactory past days of intense training. He will not be at his best but that does not mean he cannot win. Wout can do everything and Paris-Roubaix is everything.
*** Mathieu Van Der Poel – The big favourite. We have already seen him unleashing his unforgiving attacks on the cobbles and going solo. But will that be enough, especially given that this is a monument and his long list of rivals? He also has the ‘weakest’ team among the contenders.
** Kasper Asgreen – He has been second best to Pogacar at Strade Bianche given that Valverde just took his wheel and he has been actually shaping up well since then. But questions remain with respect to the form of his team.
* Valentin Madouas – 1997 was the last French victory by Federic Guesdon Valentin Madouas and Christophe Laporte have produced the best French performances in the classics we have seen this year. Either could grab France’s best result since Turgot’s 2nd to Boonen in 2012. Valentin Madouas gets the star for his explosivity.
***** Mathieu Van der Poel – By far the most consistent rider this spring classics season. After the Amstel Gold Race, he told journalists he just wasn’t good enough. I think he will retain his Ronde Van Vlaanderen form. If he has a good day he will ride everyone into their graves. The only disadvantage will be that his team is not top class and he will be isolated pretty early.
**** Stefan Kung -It seems he can retain his good form for the entire classics season. The terrain that is flatter than the other cobble classics will surely suit him. The only disadvantage is that he doesn’t have a sprint so he needs to finish alone. With his lieutenant Valentin Madouas he has a very good domestique to go far into the race to support him.
*** Mads Pedersen – Had some ups and downs this season but this is surely the race that suits him the most. He can go alone or wait for the sprint in the velodrome. With Jasper Stuyven he normally has a good helper but the latter is in a bit of a slump this season.
** Kasper Asgreen – While Quickstep has had a reasonably bad classics season, Kasper Asgreen is the rock of their team. He doesn’t have the top form like last year but he surely can surprise friend and foe.
* Ineos Grenadiers – While MVDP is the most consistent rider, the most consistent team is Ineos. They can bet on several horses because even the domestiques like Ben Turner and Magnus Sheffield are doing better than expected. Paris-Roubaix however is a different race that in most cases requires some experience so they should put their eggs in the basket of Dylan Van Baarle.
Cycling Today contributors general ratings: (out of 25)
- Mathieu Van der Poel : 19
- Stefan Kung : 9
- Wout Van Aert ; Mads Pedersen : 8
- Dylan Van Baarle: 7
- Christophe Laporte : 6
- Florian Sénéchal : 5
- Kasper Asgreen : 4
- Magnus Sheffield ; Alexander Kristoff : 3
- Yves Lampaert : 2
- Valentin Madouas : 1
- Fillipo Ganna, Ben Turner, Luke Rowe, Michel Kwiatowski, Cameron Wurth : 0.2