Paris-Roubaix Preview & Group Ride

Either my embrocation is tingling in places I didn’t apply it, or I’m really, really excited for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. Watching last week’s Tour of Flanders reminded me (as if I needed reminding) just what’s so special about one-day races in April, and this week we get to see perhaps the most brutal race of the season.

Where Flanders is long and winding and roll-y and technical, lending itself to all sorts of tactical scheming (see: Nuyens, Nick), Roubaix is a race of pure attrition. There is one tactic, stay upright and on the front.

A quick review of the favorites looks much like last week’s Flanders preview. Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O’Grady from LeOpard-Trek. Nick “Nothing to See Here” Nuyens from SaxoBank-Sungard. Thor Hushovd, Tyler Farrar, Heinrich Haussler and Roger Hammond from Garmin-Cervelo. Tom Boonen and Sylvain Chavanel from QuickStep. Big George Hincapie from BMC. Juan Antonio Flecha, Geraint Thomas and Matt Hayman from Team Sky. Bjorn Leukemans from Vacansoleil. Matt Goss and Bernhard Eisel from HTC-Columbia. Peter Sagan from Liquigas.

In the category of likely winners, we can only include Cancellara, Hushovd, Boonen and Flecha. However, if Flanders taught us anything last week, it’s that “likely” isn’t nearly as powerful a modifier when applied to the winners of bike races as it is to the possibility of having to work at a job you hate for the rest of your working days.

Some of the riders in my list need certain, specific scenarios to play out for them to have any chance, but in this race, anything is possible. For example, Stuart O’Grady, who has won this race before, will be riding for Cancellara. If Cancellara’s legs are bad or some mechanical takes him out of contention, O’Grady has the power and experience to be Leopard-Trek’s man on the line.

Similarly, Hushovd should be Garmin-Cervelo’s ace, but he was crap last week, where Farrar seemed strong. Of course, Farrar went down in a heap in the bunch sprint at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday, so he’s carrying some damage. This team needs a win badly, and, depending on the situation on Heinrich Haussler has been no where recently, but with question marks over team leadership, Garmin could opt for any of these guys, or even Roger Hammond who is massively experienced and perfectly suited to the horrible terrain this race takes in.

While Flecha remains Team Sky’s top guy, anyone who watched Geraint Thomas pounding away on the front for his captain last week knows the young Welshman is strong enough to make his own race. Matt Hayman also has the characteristics of a Roubaix winner, big, strong, indifferent to pain.

Tom Boonen and Quick Step took a lot of flack for only finishing 2nd and 4th in Flanders. While Sylvain Chavanel has the build to do well in the Belgian race, he’s probably not a big enough brute to challenge in the North of France. But then, who saw him finishing ahead of Boonen AND Cancellara in the Ronde?

I’ll not waste a lot more pixels on the rest of the contenders. There seem to be a lot of folks who want (and still believe) Hincapie can win this race. I’m not one of them, but that doesn’t mean much. Bjorn Leukemans won’t win it either, except that he’s a sneaky bastard who is always there or thereabouts.

This is your preview. We picked Paris-Roubaix winners last week on the Group Ride, but you have more information now. You’ve seen all the horses run. Pick again. Can Cancellara come back? Will Boonen have the gas without Chavanel up the road? Have we missed someone you think has a legitimate (or sentimental) shot at hoisting that giant cobble trophy in the velodrome at Roubaix?

I will be joining the fine fellows at Pavé for their Feed Zone Live Chat, starting around 7am EDT Sunday. We’ll have the Sporza internet feed dialed up, the coffee brewed and the wise cracks flowing like champagne off the podium steps, so please do join us. It’s sure to be a (metric) ton of fun.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Yorkie

    I would love Hushovd to win, but just don’t think he has the legs at the moment. I don’t think we’re going to see another ‘Ballan’ year of the WC jersey as Thor seems to have too much heart, but I do think it’s going to be later season wins that he gets.

    With regards P-R, I’m surprised to see no mention of Lars Boom. The Rabo lot are in fine form at the moment, and with the big powerful ex-cyclo-cross WC leading their team I’d say they have a real chance.

    Does anyone know of any bookies taking odds on the number of Spanish riders not to finish the race? Look out for a string of ‘bloody carrots’ (Copyright Matt Lloyd) on the cobbles of Arenberg…

  2. Plod

    I don’t care who wins, as long as its not a wheelsucking maggot.

    Actually, I do care; slay ’em Spartacus! If not, please make it someone else with the balls to Jacky Durand it

  3. Adam

    I wouldn’t discount Chava for a second – he’s finished 8th here in 2009. He may even have done better that year, except he and Haussler effectively marked each other out of the race each with a teammate up the road.
    Wildcard pick, I’d love to see VanSummeren race for himself if everyone on Garmin is flat. He finished fifth in 2009 as a domestique.
    Don’t forget about Pozzato either.
    Ultimately I think this is Boonen’s race to lose – all attention will be on Cancellara, and out of a small group no one can match Boonen’s finishing speed in the velodrome.

  4. grolby

    Chavanel, if allowed to ride his own race, could definitely challenge for the win in Roubaix. He’s clearly on killer form right now, and in fact he looks stronger than Boonen. Unfortunately, I don’t see QS letting him off the leash, but this Roubaix; if he finds himself isolated from Boonen up front, he could make his own race. We’ll see where Boonen is, I guess.

    And Cancellara is still a major threat, and still the big favorite. But we’ve seen that he can be controlled. It looks like a very deep and strong field this year. This should be a good race.

  5. Souleur

    Spartacus will ride with enough humility and enough fear from last week, that it will motivate him each and every K that ticks over.

    The dark horse I think is Geraint Thomas, he’s a PRO level stud-mobile, unmarked, rode like an incindiary billy goat on speed up the bergs last week, and if given enough slack by his mates, could pull it.

    Pozatto is also another to respect, he has some pressure to do something, hasn’t and could.

  6. Champs

    I just know I’ll be checking the temperature in Hell if Hincapie, Flecha, or any of the Garmin boys take it.

  7. SuperFred

    My picks: Ballan, Boom, Boonen… what’s really gonna happen: Fabian, Thor, Geraint. Only thing that could make this race better than the build-up is if the rains came.

  8. Simon

    As Thor hasn’t got the legs maybe Garmin might cut Rog Hammond loose, although I’d fancy him more if the weather was going to be minging.

  9. Lachlan

    Spartacus, sure to be there or there abouts… or 2 minutes ahead : + )

    Like many would love to see Thor get it together, and Geraint Thomas looks like a good wildcard/next generation pick to throw in to the mix.

    That would make an awesome podium… probably with Boonen looking angry and just not quite at his best still somewhere just behind!

    Is going to be a more towards a dust bowl than a mudfest this year if the weather in Paris has been the same further north. Has been lovely, sunny and light winds for days.

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