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2016 Paris-Roubaix; Hyperbole Heaven!

April 7, 2016

This Sunday is every Marketing Manager’s wet dream; Paris-Roubaix. A Sunday in Hell. Hell of the North. Cobbly McCobbleface.

Cor Vos Archives

Sean Kelly en Adrie v.d. Poel, foto Cor Vos©1998 Kasseien-Parijs-Roubaix

 

For fans of cycling, there are very few races each year that create as many lasting images as Roubaix, especially out of the one day Classics. Hell, one Roubaix can generate as much drama and storytelling lore as an entire three-week grand tour. First raced in 1896, with only seven editions skipped during the two World Wars (1915-18, 1940-42), Roubaix is one of the oldest of all the races still on the calendar. The winners have had their names etched into cycling history, even the winners who were essentially never seen on the podium of another race ever again. Roubaix, like winning the Tour de France, all but guarantees a rider’s place in history. Some riders are as famous for their chase of victory, as the riders who defeated them; riders like George Hincapie, Leif Hoste, Edwin van Hooydonck, Juan Antonio Flecha, and countless others who were somehow in the mix, but never the victor.

Roubaix is like that; as many have noted over the years, the winner of Paris-Roubaix is not always the strongest, or the luckiest, or even the smartest. It takes a smattering of talent, strength, intelligence, and a lot of luck to win. Legends of the sport like Thor Hushovd, who won so many races in his career, including the World Championships, never had the right combination. It’s the biggest missing trophy in his palmares.

The forecast for this year’s race calls for rain and mud. Recent editions of the race have been dry and dusty- which is certainly a challenge in itself- but Roubaix should be a wet and muddy affair for the first time since 2002. And you can bet that many of the riders are not looking forward to it. A large portion of the riders who will be in the race have never raced Roubaix in wet conditions. Dry and dusty is hard enough, but add in the slick cow shit mud on the uneven stones, and the race takes on a dimension that certainly lives up to the legendary hyperbole of the race.

With the recent Flanders victory of Peter Sagan, the looming retirement of Fabian Cancellara, and the likely swan song of Tom Boonen and his pursuit of a record 5th win, this Sunday has all the necessary ingredients to provide an edition of gargantuan proportions … and a post-race marketing hell for the rest of us.

So who’s gonna win? Hell if I know. But I do know it’ll be a crackerjack of a race. So let’s take a look at the teams and their chances of survival.

Giant-Alpecin

  • Last year’s winner, John Degenkolb, is still out after the horrible January training incident that saw him nearly lose a finger. The German team will instead show up with a team of dedicated workers without a strong leader. With the amount of talent they have, it should be interesting to watch.

Etixx – Quick-Step

  • As is the want of sports fans and sports writers, we yearn to see the battles of legendary figures and rivals. Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara are two such figures. Boonen would step to the top of Roubaix’s legend pillar if he won on Sunday, becoming the first rider ever to win five editions. He is no doubt already a legend of the Classics, win or lose on Sunday. But the likely battle between Cancellara and Boonen is one of the most anticipated moments of this season. Problem is, Tom has not been Tommeke since his crash-riddled season last year. He’s shown good form, but has lacked that little extra. Fabz has been great already, showing super strength in chasing Peter Sagan last Sunday in Flanders, even if he came up short. The other problem for Tom is that he rides for the best Classics team on the planet … even if they can’t seem to win the big races lately. They’re a victim of their strength, with all the other teams marking them, and forcing them to do all the work. EQS will again be under the microscope of the Belgian fans and media. With riders like Stybar, Terpstra (winer in 2014), Vandenbergh, and cobble neophyte Tony Martin, the team will have more options for victory than any other team in the race.

BMC

  • With Greg van Avermaet out with a broken collarbone from the team’s en masse crash in Flanders, BMC enters the race as a bit of wild card. Taylor Phinney, still on the comeback from his terrible crash two seasons ago, has won the espoir version of Roubaix and has stated his love for the stones. He’ll be one of the darkest horses in the race, even among his teammates. Like Giant, they are essentially a team of ultra-support riders without a great leader. Can Phinney make something storybook-worthy happen?

Astana

  • Lars Boom and Lieuwe Westra are the team’s two best cobble riders. Boom, the former CX World Champion and winner of a cobbled Tour de France stage, is the likely leader of the team and rode well at Flanders. Westra is an outside shot, with tons of talent. They will be supported by a group of hardened support riders … and Tour de France hopeful Fabio Aru. Is Aru risking his chances for victory in July by attempting Roubaix in the mud? We can expect to see his truly agonizingly ugly pain faces on display in the muddy conditions, if he remains on the provisional race roster.

IAM Cycling

  • Heinrich Hausler and Roger Kluge are the team’s best riders for Sunday, with Haussler showing signs of his former potential. He’s been solid since Milan-San Remo, and is no stranger to the cobbles. Can they cobble something together?

Orica-Green Edge

  • Svein Tuft. That’s my man, again. I know … it’s about as likely as Aru finishing in one piece, but the guy just kicks ass … LITERALLY. Orica has no real cobble kings, so it’s kind of a crap shoot for them Sunday. Being nearly board flat, Roubaix suits a guy like Tuft, who can time trial with the very best riders in the world, and is unafraid of grizzly bears juggling flaming chainsaws. Tuft … that’s my pick.

Team SKY

  • Hyper-focused on winning the Tour de France, SKY has managed to somehow not win a major Classic, even while employing some of the strongest riders in the “hard guy” club. With Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard as the primary leaders, they have the weapons to win. Rowe and Stannard will be supported by strong help, and both riders have shown a great talent in shitty conditions. They both could make the final selection at the end of the race. If they do, they will be a factor in the final victory.

Lott-Soudal

  • It was awesome to watch Greipel go on his Grand Day Out during Flanders again. Watching him #smashallthepedals up the bergs is a thing of painful, quad-bulging beauty. With Roubaix having nary a hill in it, it would seem perfect for his #hulksmash talents. Alas, it likely won’t be his day. But his young teammate Tiesj Benoot has shown extreme talent for the cobbled races. With Debusschere and Roelandts in support, Benoot could put an emphatic stamp on his early career- much like Boonen did in 2002.

Katusha

  • Built around Alexander Kristoff, Katusha is showing up with their batch of seasoned and grim-faced cobble crushers. Kristoff started off the season with string of wins in the deserts of Dubai and Oman, but has not had the European season he had last year. That said, he can not be ruled out … ever. He’s a big lad with tons of power, and he can ride away in a long break. If he’s got the legs, and the luck, he’ll factor in the outcome- even if only by making the other riders watch him.

LottoNL-Jumbo

  • Sep. Poor bastard … third in Flanders is no joke, and he fought hard to get it. He’s been way more active and aggressive than previous years, where he’s watched and followed. He’s actually taken pulls and factored in big moves. He was clearly outgunned by Cancellara at Flanders, so he couldn’t add much to the chase of Sagan, but he was there in the earlier decisive moves. He’ll have the usual crew of support, as well as the most hideously mismatched bike/ kit combo in the peloton. I love Bianchi … but the yellow team kits and the celeste bikes are painful to watch … but not as ugly as Aru’s pain face.

Bora-Argon 18

  • Sam Bennet and Jan Barta are the stars here. Bennet is largely a sprinter, but he’s shown some fight this year. Barta is a true tough guy, cut from heavy, flea ridden wool. The rest of the team is emerging talent, but likely outclassed, so Sam and Jan will have to rely on other teams to do the heavy lifting.

Tinkoff

  • He finally won a “monument”, so can we get off the kid’s hairy legged back? Poor Peter … all that money, a World Championship title, a beautiful wife, and written off as a failure for being the singularly most consistent rider for the past two years, just because he didn’t win “a big one.” Really? You people drive me crazy. I still love you Peter. He’ll have the full support of a team looking to secure a new title sponsor for next year … not that they need any help gaining attention. Can Peter win? Yup. Will he? Hmm …

Cofidis

  • I have a feeling that Cofidis would do better if they just stayed at the team hotel and played whatever the French version of Monopoly is … Mononpolé? Seriously, without Bouhanni, who doesn’t do well on cobbles anyway, the team is without much of reason to get their bikes dirty on Sunday. Stay home and eat stinky cheese, mon amis.

Wanty-Gobert

  • Undoubtedly, still the French cycling fan’s emotional favorites for Sunday. Following the tragic death of Antoine Demoitié at Gent-Wevelgem, Wanty has become international favorites- all with good reason. Riding on a tide of high emotions, and tons of courage, you can expect to see the team fight harder than they should be able to. Without question, if one of their riders were to make the podium in the velodrome, they would be heralded as heroes.

Trek-Segafredo

  • Cancellara was mouthwateringly close to victory at Flanders. He was simply beaten by a stronger and smarter Sagan. It was a beautiful battle. In his final season, Fabz has not been holding back. His moment of tactical miscalculation cost him the race as Sagan rode away, but the sheer amount of heart he poured into the pedals in pursuit, was breathtaking. A final Roubaix win would put him in the lead with Boonen and Roger De Vlaminck at four. He’ll have the impressive Stijn Devolder, along with the retiring-post-race Popovych- among others- for support. Like Boonen, he’s already a legend, but he’ll be looking to make that legend even stronger on Sunday.

AG2R

  • Alexis Gougeard is touted as the next great French Classics rider. He’s yet to have the mix of talent and luck at the right time, but he’s not bad at riding bicycles in bad conditions. The problem is, he doesn’t have 2011 Roubaix winner Vansummeren for support. Without Johan, he’s essentially on his own. He’ll have help, but not the kind of help that frightens the other teams … so it’s like riding on his own. He’s young, so this is likely a learning experience. AG2R has always been more of a stage race team. Sunday will prove that out.

FDJ

  • Well, Arnaud Demare, winner of Milan-San Remo, has been scratched from the race due to injury. Marc Madiot won Roubaix in 1991 and directed Frédéric Guesdon to an unlikely victory in 1997. And that’s about all there is to say about that …

Fortuneo – Vital Concept

  • A wild card invite, these poor kids are gonna have a very long day on Sunday. They’re more likely to be seen asking Boonen or Cancellara for autographs. Comprised of relative no-names or used-to-bes, they don’t have much of a chance of survival … sorta like Fabio Aru.

Direct Energie

  • Well, they have the seemingly tireless Sylvian Chavanel. And some other guys. They are supposed to be racing on BH’s new disc-equipped G7 bikes, which are quite nice. With all the mud predicted for Sunday, we may finally see a race where fewer riders say “no” to the chance to test disc brakes out. So yeah … Direct Energie … “we’ve got discs.”

Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise

  • Another wild card, and all Belgian, these boys punch above their weight and always seem to find a way to be a part of the race. Somehow, they will embarrass some of the bigger teams, despite their modest budget and lack of big names. They aren’t likely to win, but they are likely to play a role on the day.

Dimension Data

  • Cavendish is gonna ride the cobbles for the second time in his career, the first time in the mud. He’s low to the ground already, so it should make the crashes less painful. Edvald Boasson Hagen, like Thor Hushovd before him, is a Norwegian crusher- like Kristoff. He’s having a very good season so far, and is one of those riders who *should* win Roubaix. But can he? He’ll have the support of the always impressive in shitty conditions Bernhard Eisel, as well as Ginger Ninja Tyler Farrar. With three riders from the team’s home in South Africa also racing Sunday, they will be fun to watch.

Lampre – Merida

  • “We have disc brakes too!” Yeah … and only one rider from the team finished in Flanders. Expect nothing from Lampre. And I mean, nothing. Topsport will definitely do better than Lampre! That said, the team is bringing TWO riders from the home of bike sponsor Merida; Chun Kai Feng and Xu Gang of Taiwan. I have a close relationship and love for Taiwan, so these two riders will be two of my personal emotional favorites. GO TAIWAN!

Movistar

  • NOT a Classics team, but with Fran Ventoso and Juan Jose Lobato, they do at least have two Spanish riders who are not afraid of cobbles, rain, and mud. Otherwise … hey, they did have a great day in Flanders with Imanol Erviti who finished 7th after being in the early break of the day. My guess is, his legs are maybe still a little tired from Flanders. Sunday, they might be happier eating paella at the team hotel. Just a suggestion …

Cannondale

  • I like Cannondale. I’ve had several of them. I know people there. Good bikes. Roubaix is likely to be a nightmare for them. They have the impressive Dylan Van Baarle, who had a great Flanders and finished sixth, but the Classics squad has been hit with injuries and illness. Their numbers are a little thin. Proof of that fact is that the team is subbing in Phil Gaimon onto the cobble team for Sunday. I like Phil- I worked with him as sponsor when he rode for Kenda- 5 Hour Energy, and I was with Masi. But, a cobble rider he is not. Hat tip to Caley Fretz at VeloNews for getting a good chat with Phil about Sunday- “I’m 6-1 and 148 pounds. Yeah I’m a skinny bastard.” If nothing else, you can bet your sweet ass that there will be some funny shit being said about Sunday … if Phil survives. I hope he does.

Delko Marseille Provence KTM

  • Yet another wild card invite, but unlike Wanty or Topsport, Delko is in WAY over their heads. Their bike sponsor is the venerable motorcycle brand KTM. Perhaps, if the team were riding the motos and not the bicycles, they would have a chance of finishing. But hey, they will be sporting the awesome KTM orange and black colors on Sunday. So they’ve got that going for them … which is more than Fabio Aru can say.

 

Sunday is gonna be a good day. A hellish day for the riders. The cobbles will be wet and muddy. The winner will be somebody graced with luck, as much as talent. It could be an obvious winner like Sagan, Cancellara , Boonen, or Terpstra. Or it could be somebody who sits on the right wheels and then rides away from the stars as they watch each other- as Johan Vansummeren did when he was riding in support of Cancellara, while Boonen et al let him ride away to the finish. Two riders have won Paris-Roubaix three years in a row; Octave Lapize (1909-11) and Francesco Moser (1978-80). Will somebody emerge from the field this Sunday to begin their trilogy? Stybar perhaps? Or Sagan? (Definitely not Aru.)

Make no mistake, whoever stands on the podium inside the velodrome on Sunday and hoists that heavy as hell cobblestone trophy over their heads with tired arms, you can bet they will have earned it. Nobody wins Roubaix without being a worthy winner.

Tim

 

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 7, 2016 3:00 PM

    Reblogged this on Robinson's Strength and Endurance Coaching and commented:
    Great article on Paris Roubaix this Sunday, please follow this blog and watch Paris Roubaix this weekend. Paris Roubaix is one of my favorites to watch because you never know what you are going to get weather, flat tires, and breakaways.

    Like

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