Sunday 14th April, 2019, is the start of the 117th edition of Paris-Roubaix. Who will tame the 257 km of the legendary paved race? Departure at 11 am from Compiègne.
Back to the origins of cycling , cobblestones, dust: Paris-Roubaix gives its legend in the 117th edition which starts Sunday Compiegne without great favorite.
No offense to Peter Sagan, defending champion , Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet and Germany’s John Degenkolb, the two other former winners at the start of the 257-kilometer run, no name is needed as usual. Not even Sagan, the Slovak whose performance, this season, marries mood with regard to inconstancy.
“Cobblestones are cobblestones. To roll on it is not necessarily what is more pleasant, “he cut short after the traditional recognition. A second win in a row, the last to have been the Belgian Tom Boonen ten years ago? “That would be good,” said Sagan.
“But I do not want to think about it now. Many things can happen in Paris-Roubaix. We’ll see what happens …”
Stybar in tip
Rich in vagaries, even if punctures become rare due to the generalisation of casings with large section, the “queen of classics” has an incomparable fascination. Because of its archaism, a paradoxical modernity at a time that sees the unpaved roads sought by so many organisers. Because of the risks of falls, of the brutality of the 54,5 kilometres of cobblestones, of the frenzy which seizes all at the entrance of the Trou d’Arenberg, with the first 500 meters now cleaned of the grass which made the passage even more slippery.
5⃣4⃣.5️⃣km of cobbles.
🔥 6,076,000 cobblestones over 257km
📏 1cm – Smallest winning margin (1990)
⏱ 28′ – Largest winning margin (1898)
🥇 Team Sunweb’s best result.#KeepChallenging
📸 A.S.O. – P.Ballet pic.twitter.com/9VFn0IXeQw
— Team Sunweb (@TeamSunweb) April 14, 2019
The “queen” scares runners of great towers that stand at a distance. It also scares its specialists, who come back every year and want to believe that their loyalty will one day be rewarded. Thus, the Belgian Sep Vanmarcke and the Dutchman Sebastian Langeveld, inspired by the example of their teammate Alberto Bettiol (absent Compiègne) at the Tour of Flanders. Or the Czech Zdenek Stybar, the leading man from the Deceuninck team reinstated from his recent health problems.
“This is a race that suits our team,” says Stybar, twice second on the ring of the velodrome of Roubais (2015, 2017). But, the fact is obvious: since 2014, the group of Patrick Lefevere, once irresistible, has always found his master on the bad cobblestones of Hell. Stybar and his teammates (Gilbert, Lampaert, Asgreen), accustomed to playing in excess, are warned.
Degenkolb in love with the “queen”
The absence of a favorite – while waiting for the Dutch prodigy Mathieu van der Poel who postponed his debut – may encourage risk-taking. Like Sagan, Degenkolb or even Van Avermaet, the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff and the Belgian Oliver Naesen can afford to wait for a sprint in small groups. Others (Van Aert, Politt, van Baarle, Rowe, Benoot, even Stuyven) must choose another tactic.
Although the expected headwind can thwart their intentions and favor a stuck race, the attackers are expected, better than hoped, in a race often breathless, always exhausting. Certainly authentic. Whether in Troisvilles, the door of Hell 160 kilometres from the finish, in Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre, two of the three sectors (with Arenberg) listed at the highest degree of difficulty by organizers.
Taken lyrically, Degenkolb, true lover of the “queen of the classics” (he contributed from his pocket to the rescue of the junior race), said Thursday: “Whoever starts Paris-Roubaix is already a hero, the one who the winner gets the glory. “