Paris-Roubaix 2016 preview

With last year`s winner John Degenkolb out of the race, tomorrow all eyes will be on the in-form Peter Sagan who will try to stop Fabian Cancellara from winning a record-equaling fourth Paris-Roubaix. With the race being broadcasted in its entirety for the first time, we are in for a great day of cycling in no more than 24 hours.

The 114th edition of the ‘Hell of the North’ will roll out on Sunday morning from Compiègne and will cover 257.5 KM and 27 cobblestone sections before finishing in the iconic Roubaix velodrome.

Unlike in the Tour of Flanders, all of the pavé sectors at Paris-Roubaix come on the flat lands. The first sector comes 98.5 KM into the race and by the time the peloton reaches it an early breakaway is expected to have already established. From this point on the cobblestone sectors hit the riders relentlessly and each with varying degrees of difficulty. In the end, the riders will have to endure 52.8 KM of the arm-rattling stones that cover the roads.Paris Roubaix Profile

With the opening cobblestone sector coming after nearly 100 KM, the first part of the race will probably offer the peloton the chance to find its legs. However, the bad weather predicted will make the race even harder and will make the peoloton even more tense. Positioning as a team is vital in these conditions in order to stay out of trouble and to keep the leaders out of the wind in the wheels, and as the race approaches the first sector this will become even more obvious.

The most challenging sectors are the ones ranked with five stars of difficulty: Trouée d’Arenberg (2.4km at km 162), Mons-en-Pévèle (3km at km 209) and Le Carrefour de l’Arbre (2.1km at 240.5km). This year`s route will also include a new, uphill sector ranked at three stars: Capelle-Ruesnes (1.7km at km 127).

The big favorites ahead of the race are in many peoples` eyes Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan. Cancellara won the race three times over his illustrious career while Sagan has the momentum after consecutive wins in Gent-Wevelgem and De Ronde.

Peter Sagan had his take on the race: “The Paris-Roubaix is a very hard race whose outcome is again an unpredictable one. I will try to ride at the front and save my energy for the finale, and without doubt I will count on the help of all my teammates. In the last few weeks, I have showed that I am well prepared but every race is different. It will be very difficult to surprise my opponents the way I did at the Tour of Flanders. We will see how the race pans out and I believe that I will make the right decisions out on the road.” said Peter about the race on Sunday.

What might also help is the fact that Sagan is joined by the exact seven riders who helped him win the 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders last week.

Cancellara on the other hand will have to deal with a bit more than the race itself. For the big Swiss rider this Paris-Roubaix will also be his last one. The emotions did take their toll in Flanders last week and might play a role tomorrow as well:

“There are things in your mind that you’d like to do, but in the situation it came very spontaneously,” he said of that moment in Flanders. “So what’s going to happen in the velodrome, nobody knows.

“I know it’s going to be damn hard, but I have to blind this out. That’s probably harder than the race, to blind out everything that I achieved here.” said Fabian.

Cancellara vs Sagan
Cancellara vs Sagan

Right behind the two pre-race favorites we have Sep Vanmarcke and four times winner Tom Boonen.

Boonen is happy with his form going into the race: “It’s the one day I’ve been waiting for since I started training again this winter,” he confirmed. “I knew that every day was necessary to be in the best possible shape. I’m really happy with the condition I have and pretty confident that I’ll be at the best level possible for this moment for me. Let’s see if it’s good enough.”

Vanmarcke is also ready for the 257.5 KM monument: “With the last weeks in mind, I feel confident and I’m looking forward to this race,” he said. “I want to play a key role another time to deliver another great result.”

Apart from these four men, there are plenty more who are looking for a big performance in one of the most prestigious races one can ever win. It will be hard and probably very muddy on the road to Roubaix, but this will only make the winner even worthier of appraisal. Enjoy!