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Roubaix 113: The Beginning and End

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Apr 9, 2015 – Tour of Flanders winner Alexander Kristoff may be the form horse of the spring, but Bradley Wiggins is eyeing a spectacular farewell party in the Roubaix velodrome on Sunday. Will Kristoff become the eleventh rider to do the Flanders-Roubaix double, or can Wiggins join an even smaller group with both Paris-Roubaix and Tour de France wins on their CV?

A.S.O./Yuzuru Sunada

It’s 34 years since a rider added Paris-Roubaix to a palmarès already featuring the Tour de France, on a typically filthy Sunday in “Hell” in 1981. Bernard Hinault was 26 at the time and already a two-time Tour champion. Bradley Wiggins was two weeks short of his first birthday & still in nappies. The race that Hinault famously loathed – but dominated with typical brio that day – would later become the stuff of the young Wiggins’ dreams.

After his Tour triumph in 2012, victory in the Roubaix velodrome also became the final obsession of an extraordinary career, one that Wiggins hopes to crown by joining Hinault and only five others in the exclusive club of Tour and Paris-Roubaix champions on Sunday.

It is a universal truth of professional cycling in the 21st century that, when Wiggins sets his sights on a particular objective, he pursues that goal with laser-like focus and rarely fails. Hence, it should come as no surprise that Classics sages Luca Paolini and Tom Boonen have both identified “Sir Wiggo” as their favorite for Sunday’s race. Sceptics still cite inexperience on this terrain as a reason to disbelieve, but even that argument falls apart under detailed scrutiny.

Wiggins will in fact be lining up in Compiègne for the seventh time at the weekend. A smidgen more self-confidence, a tad more tactical nous and he might already have won twelve months ago. Instead, another rider who will be hotly tipped on Sunday, particularly after his second place in the Tour of Flanders last week, Niki Terpstra, romped away to win in the velodrome.

Terpstra and his Etixx-Quickstep team will be without the injured Boonen, but can at least count on two other cobblestone maestros in Stijn Vandenbergh and Zdeněk Štybar. The Belgian outfit has endured a frustrating Classics campaign, but have found redemption at Roubaix many times before. Greg Van Avermaet of BMC Racing and Peter Sagan of Tinkoff-Saxo find themselves in the similar position of needing to cap a string of good performances with a season-defining victory.

It is not only 52.7 kilometers of bone-jangling pavé that stand in their way, but also a broad and hungry band of adversaries including Milan-Sanremo champion John Degenkolb, Sep Vanmarcke, Geraint Thomas, Lars Boom, Arnaud Démare and – maybe the most redoubtable of all – the winner of last Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, Alexander Kristoff.

25 teams, the main attractions…

Australia
Orica-GreenEdge: Durdridge, Hayman (Aus), Keukeleire (Bel)

Belgium
Etixx-Quickstep: Vandenbergh (Bel), Stybar (Cze), Terpstra (Ned), Trentin (Ita)
Lotto Soudal: Greipel (Ger), Debusschere, Roelandts, Benoot (Bel)
Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise: Wallays (Bel)
Wanty – Groupe Gobert: Leukemans (Bel), Marcato (Ita)

France
AG2R La Mondiale: Van Summeren (Bel), Gaudin, Turgot (Fra)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Petit, Sénéchal (Fra)
FDJ: Offredo, Démare (Fra)
Bretagne-Séché Environnement: Hutarovich (Blr)
Team Europcar: Cousin, Gène, Martinez (Fra)

Germany
Bora-Argon 18: Barta (Cze), Matzka (Ger)
Giant-Alpecin: Degenkolb (Ger), Sinkeldam (Ned)

Great-Britain
Team Sky: Wiggins, Thomas, Stannard (Gbr)

Italy
Lampre – Merida: Pozzato, Cimolai (Ita), Richeze (Arg)

Kazakhstan
Astana Pro Team: Boom (Ned), Bozic (Slo)

Netherlands
Team Lotto NL-Jumbo: Tjallingii (Ned), Vanmarcke (Bel)

Russia
Katusha Team: Kristoff (Nor), Paolini (Ita)
Tinkoff-Saxo: Sagan (Slo), Breschel (Den), Tosatto (Ita)

South Africa
MTN – Qhubeka: Boasson Hagen (Nor), Ciolek (Ger), Farrar (Usa)

Spain
Movistar Team: Rojas (Spa)

Switzerland
IAM Cycling: Chavanel (Fra), Haussler (Aus), Kluge (Ger), Elmiger (Sui)

USA
BMC Racing Team: Van Avermaet (Bel), Burghardt (Ger)
Team Cannondale-Garmin: Langeveld, Van Baarle (Ned), Bauer (Nzl)
Trek Factory Racing : Rast (Sui), Devolder (Bel)
UnitedHealthcare: Förster (Ger)