Following on from his momentous win at the 100th Ronde van Vlaanderen, UCI World Champion Peter Sagan will lead Tinkoff at this weekend’s Paris-Roubaix. The 114th edition of the ‘Hell of the North’ will roll out on Sunday morning from Compiègne, covering 257.5km and 27 cobblestone sections before finishing in the iconic Roubaix velodrome.
Peter, fresh from a double victory following Gent – Wevelgem and Flanders, has only once finished in the top 10 of this historic classic, with his sixth place in 2014. However, with his current form, and the progress he has made in the classics this season, Peter goes into the race as one of the favourites.
« The Paris-Roubaix is a very hard race whose outcome is again an unpredictable one,” explained Peter about Sunday’s race. “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. »
Joining Peter on the start line in Compiègne at the third monument of the season will be the same seven riders that helped towards victory at Ronde van Vlaanderen: Adam Blythe, Pavel Brutt, Oscar Gatto, Michael Gogl, Michael Kolar, Juraj Sagan and Nikolay Trusov.
Sport Director at the race, Tristan Hoffman has been alongside Peter at his victories in both Gent – Wevelgem and Ronde van Vlaanderen, and he gave his thoughts on the race ahead of the weekend. « We come into this race with Peter Sagan as our absolute leader, with the goal of delivering him to the final under the support of the other guys. Peter’s history in the race has not been that successful, with a sixth place in 2014, and an untimely mechanical last year, but he has shown this spring that he can win these races. »
« We have a strong support team that showed last weekend that they are effective in helping Peter in the way that he needs, and guys like Oscar Gatto have good experience in this race which is important. Again they will have their roles of keeping him out of trouble and in position ahead of the cobblestone sectors. We can consider putting someone up the road again to help later on but this is hard and often the energy is better spent looking after Peter. »
Much like Sunday’s race, the route encounters a succession of punishing difficulties, but all of the pavé sectors at Paris-Roubaix come on the flat lands. The first sector comes after 98.5km, at which point an early breakaway can be expected to have established itself at the head of affairs. From this point on, the sectors come one after another with little respite, and each with varying degrees of difficulty, totalling 52.8km of the arm-rattling stones that cover the roads.
The most challenging sectors are those ranked as five star, including 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 does include one uphill sector, the Capelle-Ruesnes (1.7km at km 127).
Hoffman continued, explaining what impact the cobblestone sectors should have on the race. “The first sectors shouldn’t cause too much stress but you still have to be near the front. Then the first real splits usually come on the Arenberg sector, and from here the race is really on. Then the final decisive sector is usually the Carrefour de l’Arbre as the legs are tired by this point and gaps can be made. We have our plan ready for the support out on the course with wheels so everything is ready behind the scenes.”
With the opening cobblestone sector coming after nearly 100km, the first part of the race on paper offers the peloton the chance to find its legs, but with the predicted bad weather anything could happen. Positioning as a team is vital to stay out of trouble and to keep Peter out of the wind in the wheels, and as the race approaches the first sector this will become even more apparent.
At the entrance to every sector is a numbered sign, counting down from 27, the first sector, to 1, the last. The shortest sector of cobblestones is actually the final one, on the run in to the Roubaix velodrome after 252km, stretching just 300m. In contrast, the longest covers 3.7km, seen at both sector 25, at km 108, and 16, after 170.5km of racing.
To handle the increased strain that both rider and machine are subject to at Paris-Roubaix, the Tinkoff riders will be racing on tailored Specialized Roubaix S-Works’ bikes. Hoffman explains: “The guys tested their Paris-Roubaix bikes at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday and the feelings were good. The bikes have some added suspension as well as wider tyres with less pressure – they will test out the set-up on the route on Friday when we do our final course recon. Then on Sunday we will be ready for battle.”
27. Troisvilles (km 98.5 – 2200 m) 3*
26. Viesly (km 105 – 1800 m) 3*
25. Quievy (km 108 – 3700 m) 4*
24. Saint-Python (km 112.5 – 1500 m) 2*
23. Vertain (km 120.5 – 2300 m) 3*
22. Capelle-Ruesnes (km 127 – 1700 m) 3*
21. Quérénaing – Maing (km 133.5 – 2500 m) 3*
20. Monchaux-sur-Ecaillon (km 136.5 – 1600 m) 3*
19. Haveluy (km 149.5 – 2500 m) 4*
18. Trouée d’Arenberg (km 158 – 2400 m) 5*
17. Wallers – Hélesmes. dit « Pont Gibus » (km 164 – 1600 m) 3*
16. Hornaing (km 170.5 – 3700 m) 4*
15. Warlaing – Brillon (km 178 – 2400 m) 3*
14. Tilloy – Sars-et-Rosières (km 181.5 – 2400 m) 4*
13. Beuvry-la-Forêt – Orchies (km 188 – 1400m) 3*
12. Orchies (km 193 – 1700 m) 3*
11. Auchy-lez-Orchies – Bersée (km 199 – 2700 m) 4*
10. Mons-en-Pévèle (km 204.5 – 3000 m) 5*
9. Mérignies – Avelin (km 210.5 – 700 m) 2*
8. Pont-Thibaut (km 214 – 1400 m) 3*
7. Templeuve – Moulin de Vertain (km 220 – 500 m) 2*
6a. Cysoing – Bourghelles (km 226.5 – 1300 m) 3*
6b. Bourghelles – Wannehain (km 229 – 1100 m) 3*
5. Camphin-en-Pévèle (km 233.5 – 1800 m) 4*
4. Le Carrefour de l’Arbre (km 236.5 – 2100 m) 5*
3. Gruson (km 238.5 – 1100 m) 2*
2. Hem (km 245.5 – 1400 m) 2*
1. Roubaix (km 252 – 300 m) 1*