CYCLING Preview: Any idea on a favorite for the 117th Paris-Roubaix?

Victory for Czech Zdenek Stybar at the E3 Binckbank Classic.

One of the historic races in cycling is the famed Paris-Roubaix, traditionally the end of the spring “Cobbled Classics” circuit in Belgium and France. The winners of the six UCI World Tour Cobbled Classics held so far:

02 March: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ~ Zdenek Stybar (CZE)
27 March: Drie Daagse de Panne ~ Dylan Groenewegen (NED)
29 March: E3 Binckbank Classic ~ Zdensk Stybar (CZE)
31 March: Gent-Wevelgem ~ Alexander Kristoff (NOR)
03 April: Dwars door Vlaanderen ~ Mathieu van der Poel (NED)
07 April: Ronde van Vlaanderen ~ Alberto Bettiol (ITA)

First held in 1896, the 117th running of Paris-Roubaix on Sunday will be on a hilly, 257 km course that has 29 – yes, 29! – cobbled sections of 300 to 3,700 m along the hilly, south-to-north route from Compiegne to Roubaix. The entries show three returning champs and eight returning medalists in all:

● Greg van Avermaet (BEL) ~ Winner in 2017; third in 2015
● John Degenkolb (GER) ~ Winner in 2015
● Peter Sagan (SVK) ~ Winner in 2018
● Silvan Dillier (SUI) ~ Second in 2018
● Zdenek Stybar (CZE) ~ Second in 2015 and 2017
● Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) ~ Second in 2013
● Sebastian Langeveld (NED) ~ Third in 2017
● Ian Stanndard (GBR) ~ Third in 2016

Stybar has been second twice in this race, has won two of the Cobbled Classics already and was third in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, losing out in the final meters. Is he the favorite? Van Avermaet has finished in the top 10 in four of the six one-day races he’s been in this year.

Even with all of the cobbled sections, the end of the race is pretty flat and that’s good news for the sprinters. Consider these five, already medal winners on the World Tour this season:

● Alexander Kristoff (NOR) ~ Winner of Gent-Wevelgem
● Fernando Gaviria (COL) ~ Second at Drie Daagse de De Panne
● Wout van Aert (BEL) ~ Second in the E3 Binckbank Classic
● Oliver Naesen (BEL) ~ Third at Gent–Wevelgem
● Kasper Asgreen (DEN) ~ Second at Ronde van Vlaanderen

The home team hasn’t done well in this race: the last French winner was way back in 1997 with Frederic Guesdon! Look for results here.