Paris–Roubaix, arguably the greatest of cycling’s monuments, is upon us. The hell of the north covers 253 kilometres, with 27 sections of cobblestones over almost 53 kilometres. Join The Roar for our live coverage from 8:15pm (AEDT).
Paris–Roubaix is a mainly flat race that finishes on a velodrome, so if a few riders come to the line in a group track experience will come play.
But the most famous aspect of this most famous of races is the cobblestones.
The first section of cobbles comes after 98 kilometres, and from there they are thick and fast, with the longest respite for the riders in between cobbled sections just 13 km.
The race organisation gives each section of cobbles on course a difficulty rating out of five stars, and for the 2015 edition there are three sections rated the most difficult, five stars. In addition there are six sections rated 4 stars, and 13 sections rated as three stars.
The last three cobbled sections of the race in order are rated two, two and then the final 300 metre section, just before they come onto the velodrome, is one star. Strong riders must take advantage of the harder cobbles earlier in the race, meaning cobbled specialists will have to make long-range attacks to win.
With no Fabian Cancellara or Tom Boonen, it’s a wide open race.
Having won last weekend’s Tour of Flanders, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) is in good form and will no doubt be at the business end of Paris–Roubaix.
Last year’s winner Niki Terpstra (Etixx – Quickstep) was runner up in Flanders last weekend, and is sure to also feature at the pointy end.
Peter Sagan (Saxo) is a man with a point to prove after finishing fourth at the Tour of Flanders and never having won a monument despite his obvious talent.
Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas (Sky) are another pair of riders who want to excel, however their will be a lot of questions over their form and team’s performance following Sky’s disastrous Tour of Flanders.
The other major favourite is Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) who looked incredibly strong at the Tour of Flanders and is in the prime of his career.
But a split-second of hesitation in Paris–Roubaix can result in a crash, so there are so many other talented riders who are a chance at winning, such as Stijn Devolder (Trek), Heinrich Haussler and Sylvain Chavanel (both IAM), Luca Paolini (Katusha), and Andre Greipel (Lotto – Soudal).
The only thing even close to certain in the Paris – Roubaix is that a morning breakaway will not win the race, although you can bet your house there will be one.
The weather over the last week or so has not been good and the forecast is for this to continue right up to the race. Luckily for the riders it is not forecast to rain during the race, however the cobbles will more than likely be slippery and muddy, creating an even harder race.
It’s probably the hardest race on the professional cycling calendar to tip a winner for, but I’m going with Van Avermaet. He looked incredibly strong at Flanders, has a good team behind him, and he’s tactically a good rider.
Join us for our live coverage of the 2015 Paris from 8:15pm (AEST), and remember to leave your comments as the race unfolds!