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PARIS-ROUBAIX’24 Preview: Who Will Be Le Roi de L’enfer du Nord?

The Hell of the North

2024 Paris-Roubaix Preview: After the excitement of de Ronde van Vlaanderen last week, we look forward with anticipation to this Sunday and the ‘Hell of the North’ – Paris-Roubaix. Both races have a lot in common, cobbles and legends being two of them, plus surprise. We look at the history, route and the favourites for L’enfer du Nord.

Mathieu van der Poel will remember that corner for 2024

Roubaix History
Sean Kelly, the winner in 1984 and 1986 said “Paris-Roubaix is a terrible race to ride, but the most beautiful one to win.” It is the race that attracts the attention of anyone with an interest in cycling, and some who don’t. Like the behemoth that is Tour de France, it has its obvious points that the general public can follow, where as the Giro d’Italia and De Ronde van Vlaanderen are maybe more for the hardened fans… the ‘Tifosi’.

roubaix 1919
Paris-Roubaix is unique

Much has been written about Paris-Roubaix. But the bottom line is that if you can survive these iconic cobbles and finish first on the sacred track, you are famous for ever. To quote French journalist Guy Lagorce: “Paris-Roubaix starts as a party, but ends as a bad dream.” For some riders, Paris-Roubaix is suffering, suffering pain, falling, getting up, falling and getting up again. The race is a self-inflicted cruelty that riders yearn to return to every year. Henri Pélissier said in 1919. “It is not a cycling race, but a pilgrimage.” Four-time Roubaix winner, Tom Boonen summed it up for him: “When I take a shower in Roubaix, I actually start preparing for next year.”

Roubaix - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Tom BOONEN (Belgium / Team Quick Step - Floors) - John DEGENKOLB (Germany / Team Trek Segafredo) pictured during the 115th Paris-Roubaix (1.UWT) - foto Brian Hodes/Cor Vos © 2017 ***USA OUT***
Four-time winner – Tom Boonen

The French Classic was started in 1896 by Theo Vienne and Maurice Perez, two textile manufacturers from Roubaix. Vienne and Perez saw the success of Bordeaux-Paris and wanted to organise something similar. The race had to end on the cycling track they had built the year before, in Roubaix. They took their plan to the French newspaper Le Vélo, as they thought they needed the sports newspaper to organise the event. Editor of Le Vélo, Victor Breyer, decided to ride the proposed route. The weather conditions that day were so bad that Breyer thought that it would be too dangerous, but Breyer came round to the idea and Paris-Roubaix became a reality. The first edition in 1896 was won by the German rider, Josef Fischer.

The first winner of Paris-Roubaix – Josef Fischer

Paris-Roubaix quickly became a popular race, with many heroic stories over the years. It maybe a French race, but it was made for the hard men of Belgium. Since Cyrille Van Hauwaert’s victory in 1908, there has been fifty-six more Belgian victories. Three-time winners Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx and Johan Museeuw, but also Roger De Vlaeminck and Tom Boonen who have both won Paris-Roubaix four times, sharing the record for the most victories.

de vlaeminck roubaix
The Gypsy – Roger De Vlaeminck – The other four-time Roubaix winner

Gaston Rebry, Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx, Johan Museeuw and Fabian Cancellara are all on three victories. In recent years, other great champions such as John Degenkolb, Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Sagan and Philippe Gilbert have also triumphed on the Roubaix velodrome, but there have been some ‘surprise’ winners, but never a nobody: Magnus Bäckstedt, Stuart O’Grady, Johan Vansummeren, Mathew Hayman and who can forget Frédéric Guesdon. The last ten years read like a who’s who of Classic cyclists: Van Baarle, Colbrelli, Gilbert, Sagan, Van Avermaet, Hayman, Degenkolb, Terpstra and Cancellara.

Three wins for Fabian Cancellara

Dylan van Baarle achieved the biggest victory of his career in 2022, soloing to Roubaix. The dangerous late break of the day included Matej Mohorič, Tom Devriendt and Laurent Pichon, they had a maximum lead of 3 minutes. Behind them a very strong Wout van Aert was in a chase group, with Mathieu van der Poel on his wheel. There was a counter-attack by Dylan van Baarle, he jumped away from the favourites group and joined Mohorič, Yves Lampaert and Devriendt on the Cysoing-Bourghelles cobbles. They had a lead of 45 seconds on the Van Aert group and the INEOS Grenadiers rider saw his chance. He rode the others off his wheel on the cobbles of Champhin-en-Pévèle and was solo on Carrefour de l’Arbre, the last of the hardest cobbled sections of Paris-Roubaix. He finished on his own in the Roubaix velodrome. Van Aert out-sprinted Stefan Küng for second place at nearly 2 minutes behind the Dutchman.

2022 Paris-Roubaix Result:
1. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) INEOS Grenadiers in 5:37:00
2. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma at 1:47
3. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ
4. Tom Devriendt (Bel) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty
5. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain Victorious.

2022 Paris-Roubaix

Mathieu van der Poel won the 2023 Paris-Roubaix in the best possible way, solo. The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider crossed the finish line in the Roubaix velodrome, after he rode away from Wout van Aert on the cobbled section of Carrefour de l’Arbre. Van Aert had to let the Dutchman go because of a puncture. Jasper Philipsen out-sprinted Van Aert for second place for an Alpecin 1-2.

With more than 100 kilometres to go, Van Aert split the peloton to pieces. Only John Degenkolb, Christophe Laporte, Van der Poel, Stefan Küng and Mihkels could follow him. The Bax group started the cobbles of Wallers 18 seconds ahead of the Van Aert group, while the peloton followed at just under 40 seconds. On the cobble stones of the Trouée there was panic in the peloton. Dylan van Baarle, Matej Mohorič and Kasper Asgreen all crashed and the favourites group split. Shortly after, the group with Van Aert and Van der Poel joined the last of the early escapees, but Laporte had a puncture. Mads Pedersen managed to make the jump across on his own. A group with Filippo Ganna, Max Walscheid, Laurenz Rex, Gianni Vermeersch and Jasper Philipsen also managed to join the front of the race, giving Alpecin-Deceuninck a three men in the leading group of thirteen. Laporte ended up in no man’s land, at more than 1 minute, and was caught by the peloton 77 kilometres from the finish. There was little co-operation in the big group behind.

Will Van der Poel repeat in 2024?

Van der Poel made his first attack in the last metres of the Bersée section. He forced the rest to react, Bax and Vermeersch couldn’t follow, just before the 5-star section of Mons-en-Pévèle. Van der Poel once again went on Mons-en-Pévèle. Van Aert and Philipsen were on his wheel, while Küng, Ganna, Degenkolb and Pedersen managed to follow with difficulty. Shortly after, Van der Poel tried on a slight uphill, an attack that only Van Aert could follow. That seemed to be the winning move, but the group came back to them. Van der Poel squeezed past Philipsen which caused Degenkolb to fall. Van Aert took advantage and attacked. Van der Poel closed the gap and then rode away from Van Aert at the end of the section. Van Aert had punctured 15 kilometres from the finish and Van der Poel started the Gruson section solo. Pedersen, Philipsen, Ganna, Küng and Van Aert were more than 20 seconds behind the Dutchman. Philipsen was able to block for Van der Poel and the pace dropped in the pursuit at 10 kilometres from the finish. On the penultimate stretch of Willems à Hem, Van Aert attacked, only Philipsen and Pedersen could follow. Van der Poel started the last 5 kilometres to the Roubaix velodrome with a 30 second lead. Behind; Van Aert dropped Pedersen, but a very strong Philipsen could still hang on. This was all going on well behind an unleashed Van der Poel, who took the solo victory in Paris-Roubaix. Van Aert and Philipsen sprinted for second place, but that was one lap behind Van der Poel. In the sprint Philipsen was too fast for Van Aert, making it a one-two for Alpecin-Deceuninck. Pedersen was fourth, Küng fifth and Ganna sixth.

2023 Paris-Roubaix Result:
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Deceuninck in 5:28:41
2. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Deceuninck at 0:46
3. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
4. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo at 0:50
5. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ.

Chaos And Cobbles In Hell! – Paris-Roubaix 2023 Highlights

The Parcours
The Paris-Roubaix 2024 route has some small changes from last year, but there are still 29 cobbled sections, but the order the riders hit them is different. The sections of Biastre and Ruesnes return this year, but Saint-Python and Haspres are out because they are being repaired. Due to the length of the Biastre section, the total of kilometres ridden on the cobbles is now 57.5km an increases from 54.5km. This is the most cobbles the riders have faced in modern times. Obviously the whole race was on bad roads at one time.

Josef Fischer – Winner of the first Paris-Roubaix in 1896 on ‘gravel’

The changes in the route come in the first 150 kilometres of the route, the finale to the velodrome in Roubaix is the same. The start is also the same, the riders will line up in Compiègne for the 259.9 kilometres in hell. The first cobbles come after 96 kilometres. Troisvilles to Inchy is a 3 star section, but the next tough strip if from Quiévy to Saint-Python, which is ranked 4 stars, it could the start of the day’s action.

Paris-Roubaix 2024
2024 Paris-Roubaix map

The next difficult section is the Trouée d’Arenberg: 2.3 kilometres of full on 5 star cobbles, it comes 95 kilometres from the finish and is probably the best well know section of Pars-Roubaix. There are two more 5 star sections: Mons-en-Pévèle is 50 kilometres for the finish and then 17 kilometres out is thw Carrefour de l’Arbre. These are probably the toughest sections of cobbles and where the race can be one or lost for ever. From Wallers onwards, the race is full on.

Paris-Roubaix 2024
2024 Paris-Roubaix profile

After Carrefour de l’Arbre, the hardest parts of the ‘Hell of the North’ is behind the riders, but with Gruson, Hem and Roubaix still to come, there can be surprises in the final. All that is left is one and a half laps of that famous Vélodrome. Will it be a solo rider or a group? You just never know with L’enfer du Nord, that’s why we love it… and the riders hate/love it.

Paris Roubaix 2024

The Favourites:
The top favourite for Sunday has to be Mathieu van der Poel The World champion won Paris-Roubaix last year, he also won the Tour of Flanders for the third time last Sunday, solo at record speed. He has the form and everything else he needs to win again. As we know, Van der Poel’s main competitor in the Spring Classics, Wout van Aert, will not be in Compiègne as he has multiple injuries from his high-speed crash in Dwars Door Vlaanderen. It looks like there is nothing stopping the Dutchman, but we are talking about Paris-Roubaix here. Last year, Van der Poel won solo, after Van Aert had a puncture on the Carrefour de l’Arbre. His teammate, Jasper Philipsen, out-sprinted Van Aert for second place. The strength of the Alpecin-Deceuninck team is not in question after their show in Milan-Sanremo, where Philipsen won after some strong work from Van der Poel and then the dominant and tactically clever work of the whole team to set Van der Poel up for the win in Flanders. We could see the World champion help Philipsen if a group is going to be together on the Velodrome. Or will it be two Paris-Roubaix wins in a row?

Flanders 2024
Another win for the rainbow jersey wearing No.1?

Mads Pedersen is now probably Mathieu van der Poel’s biggest rival. The Dane was suffering from the same crash that took out Van Aert and his teammate , but he also wasted a lot of energy in Flanders, where he finished in 28th place. He was fourth last year in Roubaix and did look strong in Flanders, so a week could make all the difference. The week before Flanders, Pedersen beat Van der Poel in Gent-Wevelgem, his Lidl-Trek team used Jonathan Milan, to work over Van der Poel, but the Italian could do something himself on the cobbles of northern France.

Flanders 2024
Pedersen has to be the second favourite – If at 100%

Visma | Lease a Bike will be without Wout van Aert, but they have other winners in their ranks – so far they have won three Classics this season. Christophe Laporte has been ill and it is unknown whether he will be on the Paris-Roubaix start-line, and if he is, what will his form be? Matteo Jorgenson and Dylan van Baarle will be at the start on Sunday. They also rode the Tour of Flanders, where Jorgenson battled against Van der Poel and was one of only three riders who managed the Koppenberg without walking. But neither of them achieved a result. The young American should be the Dutch team’s main hope, but his inexperience could be his downfall. Dylan Van Baarle hasn’t done much this season. The 2022 Paris-Roubaix winner had been ill, although he did ride Flanders. His experience could put him in a good position in the finale, but another win would be an enormous surprise.

Omloop 2024
Matteo Jorgenson isn’t Visma | Lease a Bike’s only hope in Roubaix

Nils Politt has been on the Paris-Roubaix podium, back in 2019 he was second behind Philippe Gilbert. So far this season, he took second in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad after a hard ride to keep himself and winner, Jan Tratnik, ahead of the peloton. he was also seventh in the E3 Saxo Classic and third in Flanders after the declassment of Michael Matthews. Politt lacks a sprint finish, but he is strong enough to power away in any final, but he wont win a gallop.

Omloop 2024
Nils Politt can make the wining move, but can he finish it?

European time trial champion, Joshua Tarling obviously has the power needed for a race like Roubaix, remember Fabian Cancellara wasn’t bad at both. The young British rider showed his form in Dwars door Vlaanderen. He struggled on the climbs, but had no problems on the flat sections. He finished eighteenth in Flanders on climbs that didn’t suit him, so the flat Paris-Roubaix should. Magnus Sheffield might also start for INEOS Grenadiers, but their full roster is not yet known. Fillipo Ganna, who was sixth last year, is ridding the Tour of the Alps, so he won’t be northern France.

Dwars Door Vlaanderen 2024
Joshua Tarling has the power

Stefan Küng had a disappointing Tour of Flanders due to a crash. The strong Swiss rider finished, but only in 41st place. Apart from time trials, Paris-Roubaix is a race he can shine. He finished third in 2022 and fifth in 2023, with a bit of good luck he could be on the podium again.

Gent-Wevelgem 2024
Stefan Küng – Much like Politt, he is strong but without a finishing sprint

Matej Mohorič also crash in the Tour of Flanders and had to abandon, but he will be at the start of Paris-Roubaix. He was fifth in Roubaix in 2022, so he knows what to expect. This season he took fifth in Strade Bianche and sixth in Milano-Sanremo and has always performed well in Italy, but not in Belgium and northern French roads.

Milano-Sanremo 2024
Mohorič in Roubaix?

Then there are the outsiders: Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), Luca Mozzato (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Max Walscheid (Jayco AlUla), Oliver Naesen (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Yves Lampaert (Soudal Quick-Step), John Degenkolb (dsm-firmenich PostNL), Riley Sheehan (Israel-Premier Tech), Laurenz Rex & Mike Teunissen (Intermarhcé-Wanty), Iván García Cortina &Oier Lazkano (Movistar), António Morgado & Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates), Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X Mobility), Dries Van Gestel (TotalEnergies) and Brent Van Moer (Lotto Dstny).

Flanders 2024
Alberto Bettiol can ride the cobbles, but can he ride the Roubaix cobbles?

The Top Favourites:
No.1: Mathieu van der Poel
Possible: Jasper Philipsen, Mads Pedersen
Maybe: Matteo Jorgenson, Joshua Tarling, Stefan Küng
Outside Chance: Nils Politt, Jonathan Milan, Matej Mohorič, Dylan van Baarle.
*The rider list isn’t complete yet, so this list might change. *

Flanders 2024
There is only one top favourite for Sunday – MvdP

# Keep it PEZ for one hell of a ‘Race Report’ on Sunday and all the news in EUROTRASH Monday. #

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