120th Paris-Roubaix: the Hell of the North shakes the favorites
Third monument of the cycling season, the mythical Paris-Roubaix and its terrible cobblestones will make the favorites tremble for the 120thth time on Sunday while another great duel is emerging between Mathieu van der Poel and his eternal rival Wout van Aert.
On the program of the Flandrienne race, the runners will face a course of 256.6 kilometers and 54.5 kilometers paved. For purists, the sectors classified as five stars remain the Trouée d'Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and the Carrefour de l'Arbre.
Second on the Tour of Flanders last Sunday, “ VDP” seems the number one contender in an unpredictable race where logic is rarely respected.
Stefan Küng, Mads Pedersen, Filippo Ganna, Christophe Laporte and Kasper Asgreen will also be candidates for victory even if Patrick Lefévère's Quick Step is no longer at the top of the hierarchy.
Back in the saddle after a fall, defending champion Dylan van Baarle should not fight for the podium while the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar has chosen not to run.
On the Canadian side, Guillaume Boivin remains an uncertain case after an accident at the Tour of Flanders.
In a position to fight for victory, Boivin had fallen less than 20 kilometers from the finish.
“I hit my head and it still hurts a bit. I may have had a little concussion, ”he confided with obvious disappointment.
“Le Bovino” had some good times recently in Catalonia, which allowed him to think again of his historic 9th place in Paris-Roubaix two years ago.
“We'll see with the medical team,” said the Quebecer, who hoped for better. Also Absent, Hugo Houle will rather bet on Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
For his part, Nickolas Zukowsky, from Sainte-Lucie-des-Laurentides, will live an unforgettable first experience on Roubaix with his Swiss formation Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team.
A feverish recruit
Feverish, the 24-year-old cyclist may receive some advice from his companion Simone Boilard, who will participate in the women's event the day before.
“I have never raced with so many cobbled sections. TV doesn't do justice to what it really is. It's a huge challenge. We are going to do a different recognition. For us, it is mainly up to Arenberg. If you are not in front, you are no longer in the race and there is no point in seeing the final, ”explains Zukowsky.
A few days ago, the latter was unable to complete the 273 kilometers of the Tour of Flanders but his happiness at being on two monuments remains intact.
“Since 2017, I have been watching Roubaix and I see how extreme it is. I dreamed of it and it is special to be there. It's a rare race where everyone wants to fight to the end. Backwards too, it's racing and the guys really want to get to the velodrome to finish. There is so much history. »
Another Canadian will also be at the start for the first time. Ontarian Derek Gee, at Israel-Premier Tech, will try to make his place in a nervous peloton.
For nearly six hours, the crowd, the mud and the falls will lay a new brick to this legendary race.