If Scheldeprijs is a race for the sprinters and the Tour of Flanders is for hearty climbers, the race from Paris to Roubaix is for big, tough slabs of meat. Guys heavy enough to roll over 29 sectors of bone-crunching, brain-jelly-sloshing cobbles and stay upright for 250 kilometers across northern France. Hale enough to choke down a day’s worth of dust. And clever enough to outfox any pretenders still in their wake by the time they reach the velodrome in Roubaix, where they’ll have to do a lap-and-a-half of cagey track cycling before they can hoist the cobbled trophy in victory.
This is one of the most legendary races in the sport. And this year’s it’s wide open. While there will be three former victors on the start line, gone are the days when one rider dominated the race for years at a time. And this year’s peloton is bursting with contenders, pretenders, newbies and also-rans, who would love nothing more than to head to the showers in triumph.
Here’s the long and short of the fantasy competition.
- Peter Sagan Last year’s champion, Sagan was built for this kind of race (even if he’s looked a little undercooked so far this spring).
- Greg Van Avermaet The 2017 winner has also struggled to get atop a podium this season, but this is his kind of race.
- John Degenkolb Won in 2015, and won a Paris-Roubaix-esque stage of last year’s Tour de France. And he’s in good shape.
- Zdenek Stybar Pooped out of last weekend’s Tour of Flanders, but he’s been hot this season.
- Alexander Kristoff Another stocky, muscular guy made for this kind of race – and he’s showing good form. Just that he’s never been able to put together a good result in Roubaix before.
Good Bets for Points
- Sep Van Marcke Lost in a squeaker to Roubaix legend Fabian Cancellara in 2013. He’ll want another shot.
- Oliver Naesen The best he’s managed in Parix-Roubaix is 12th, but he’s been up there for every race this spring.
- Wout Van Aert Another guy who’s been in the standings of every race this season. And a cyclocross champion, to boot, so he knows how to handle his bike on difficult terrain.
- Silvan Dillier Second to Peter Sagan last year
- Jasper Stuyven
- Matteo Trentin
- Sebastian Langeveld
- Gianni Moscon A big stocky sprinter
- Ian Stannard
- Taylor Phinney What’s this? An American? Phinney twice won the junior version of this race, came in 8th last year.
- Arnaud Démare A French sprinter who was born just 40 miles from the start line
- Edvald Boasson Hagen Showed in this week’s Scheldeprijs that age isn’t slowing him down