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PEZ Preview ROUBAIX’23: Who Will Be the King of the Cobbles?

The Cobbled Classic Preview

Race Preview: The peloton goes to the Hell of the North this Sunday. The Roubaix velodrome will be a welcome sight for those riders who manage to brave the the treacherous cobbles between Paris (Compiègne) and the Northern French city on the outskirts of Lille and a stones-throw from the Belgian border. A nobody ever wins in Roubaix. Here we have the history, the course and who will win in 2023.


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Teaser Paris-Roubaix 2023

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The King Kelly – Two-time winner of Roubaix

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’.

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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.

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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.

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Three wins for Fabian Cancellara

2022 in Hell
Dylan van Baarle achieved the biggest victory of his career last year, soloing to the 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 with 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.

# You can read the full ‘PEZ Roubaix’22 Race Report’ HERE. #

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

The Course
The 2023 Paris-Roubaix route has some small changes. There are thirty cobbled sections again, but in a slightly different order. There is a new cobbled section at Haspres à Thiant with 117 kilometres to go and the sections in Saint-Martin-sur-Ecaillon à Haussy and Saulzoir à Verchain-Maugré have road works. These changes occur after about 120 kilometres of racing, with 135 kilometres left to go. The rest of the route to the track in Roubaix is unchanged.

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The start in Compiègne

The start of the 256.6 kilometres race is in Compiègne, which is now a tradition. The peloton hits the first cobbles after 96 kilometres. This is the three-star strip from Troisvilles to Inchy. Cobbled section 28, from Quiévy to Saint-Python could be the first crucial section as it is four star and 3.7 kilometres long.

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Wallers/Arenberg

The next important cobbles are the Forest of Wallers, the Trouée d’Arenberg in French. This 2.3 kilometre stretch is iconic and has been given five stars and is 95 kilometres from the finish. There is still nineteen cobbled sections to go, two of which have five stars. These are Mons-en-Pévèle, 50km from the finish and the Carrefour de l’Arbre, at 17 kilometres from the velodrome. These sections could be decisive, but this is Roubaix and anything can happen.

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Paris-Roubaix map

Once the Carrefour de l’Arbre has been crossed, the hardest is over, there are still the sections of Gruson, Hem and Roubaix before the finish on the Vélodrome de Roubaix for one and a half laps before the finish line.

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Roubaix’23 profile

The 2023 Paris-Roubaix Cobbled Sections:
29: Troisvilles to Inchy (km 96.3 — 2.2 km) ***
28: Viesly to Quiévy (km 102.8 — 1.8 km) ***
27: Quiévy to Saint-Python (km 105.4 — 3.7 km) ****
26: Saint-Python (km 110.1 — 1.5 km) **
25: Vertain to Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon (km 117.2 — 2.3 km) ***
24: Verchain-Maugré to Quérénaing (km 127.2 — 1.6 km) ***
23: Quérénaing to Maing (km 129.9 — 2.5 km) ***
22: Maing to Monchaux-sur-Écaillon (km 133 — 1.6 km) ***
21: Haspres to Thiant (km 139.6 — 1.7 km) ***
20: Haveluy to Wallers (km 153.1 — 2.5 km) ****
19: Trouée d’Arenberg (km 161.3 — 2.3 km) *****
18: Wallers to Hélesmes (km 167.4 — 1.6 km) ***
17: Hornaing to Wandignies (km 174.1 — 3.7 km) ****
16: Warlaing to Brillon (km 181.6 — 2.4 km) ***
15: Tilloy to Sars-et-Rosières (km 185.1 — 2.4 km) ****
14: Beuvry to Orchies (km 191.4 — 1.4 km) ***
13: Orchies (km 196.5 — 1.7 km) ***
12: Auchy to Bersée (km 202.6 — 2.7 km) ****
11: Mons-en-Pévèle (km 208 — 3 km) *****
10: Mérignies to Avelin (km 214 — 0.7 km) **
9: Pont-Thibault to Ennevelin (km 217.4 — 1.4 km) ***
8: Templeuve — L’Épinette (km 222.8 — 0.2 km) *
8: Templeuve — Moulin-de-Vertain (km 223.3 — 0.5 km) **
7: Cysoing to Bourghelles (km 229.8 — 1.3 km) ***
6: Bourghelles to Wannehain (km 232.3 — 1.1 km) ***
5: Camphin-en-Pévèle (km 236.7 — 1.8 km) ****
4: Carrefour de l’Arbre (km 239.5 — 2.1 km) *****
3: Gruson (km 242.3 — 1.1 km) **
2: Willems to Hem (km 248.4 — 1.4 km) ***
1: Roubaix (km 255.2 — 0.3 km) *

Johan Museeuw
Museeuw and his leg in Roubaix

The Favourites for the Win
In Flanders we had the ‘Big Three’, but in Paris-Roubaix there will only be two, as Tadej Pogačar will now focus on the hilly classics and leave the Hell to Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel on Sunday. But with the ‘Big Two’ the tactics change and in Roubaix anything can happen.

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The ‘Big Two’ in Roubaix’21

In saying that, most people will be looking at Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert. There are a lot of reasons to put Wout van Aert as the big favourite. Paris-Roubaix is made for the Belgian. Roubaix is less explosive, and more a combination of power, bike handling and a solid ‘never give up’ toughness that Van Aert has plenty of in his arsenal. Van Aert planned to peak for the week of Flanders and Roubaix. The Jumbo-Visma rider has already had a great spring, with victory in the E3 Saxo Classic and podium places in Gent-Wevelgem and Milano-Sanremo, and he can put the icing on the cake on Sunday. Van Aert can finish the job in different scenarios: He could attack on a cobbled section and finish solo, or win a final sprint from a group.

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Wout – Top favourite

His Jumbo-Visma team is the strongest in the race and can rely on last year’s winner Dylan van Baarle and Christophe Laporte. Van Baarle won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this season and knows how to win Roubaix, but has he fully recovered from his crash in the E3 Saxo Classic, which took him out of the Tour of Flanders.

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Two in a row for Dylan van Baarle

Christophe Laporte won (gifted) Gent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen and he dreams of winning in Paris-Roubaix. The Dutch team also has Nathan Van Hooydonck. The strong Belgian has been in top form in E3 Saxo Classic, Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders.

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Laporte wants to win

Of course there is one rider who could upset the Jumbo-Visma apple cart: Mathieu van der Poel. The Alpecin-Deceuninck leader will have Jasper Philipsen, Gianni Vermeersch and Kaden Groves, all top riders, but not as strong as Jumbo-Visma. Van der Poel will want a man-on-man battle with Van Aert, so an early attack might be on the menu. He has finished in the top ten in his two previous participations. In 2021 he had to settle for third place and last year he had nothing in the final and finished in 9th place. Van der Poel looks to be in his best form and has his Milano-Sanremo win in his back pocket.

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Roubaix would be a nice addition to Van der Poel’s palmarès

The race will be about more than Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, especially in Roubaix. Matej Mohorič was one of the strongest riders in Paris-Roubaix last year, finishing in 5th place. The Bahrain Victorious leader is in good shape and has the qualities to win Roubaix: He’s tough, has a big engine, can put in a surprise attack and can finish a race solo. Mohorič crashed in Flanders, but is said to have fully recovered.

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Mohorič – Always a possible

Trek-Segafredo has two arrows in their quiver: Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven. Pedersen is made for Paris-Roubaix with his overall strength and size and should fly over the cobblestones, but he hasn’t shown previously in Roubaix. His third place in Flanders after attacking late in the race shows his present form. As Wout Van Aert saw last week, he also has a top final sprint. His teammate Stuyven has a better Roubaix palmarès. Fourth in 2017, fifth in 2018 and seventh in 2022. The Belgian will have to throw down the gauntlet before Van Aert and Van der Poel start their battle.

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Pedersen looked good in Flanders

Stefan Küng is another rider who will be amongst the action, again. He was on the podium last year, and was the only rider able to follow Wout van Aert on the Carrefour de l’Arbre. It is not easy for Küng to win a Classic, as he doesn’t have the explosiveness of a Van der Poel or Van Aert, but as a time trialist he has the power and could finish solo.

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A podium for Küng – But a win?

Filippo Ganna has been dreaming of a top performance in Paris-Roubaix. The Italian looked good last year, but he had problems with his bike. A year later, Ganna has more experience and in the weeks leading up to Paris-Roubaix, he has shown that he can also hold his own in the classics. Ganna was second in Milano-Sanremo, but he is not the biggest favourite, but he could go for a long solo.

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A long solo from Ganna?

Soudal Quick-Step is not the Classics team it once was. The Belgian team was dominant like Jumbo-Visma has become this year. But Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert, Davide Ballerini and Florian Sénéchal still have a chance of winning, but would have to use stealth more than power. Lampaert and Asgreen will be the men to watch. The Dane was seventh in Flanders last week.

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Is Asgreen Soudal Quick-Step’s main man

TotalEnergies will lead with Anthony Turgis, but they also have Peter Sagan riding his last Paris-Roubaix. Israel-Premier Tech depends on Sep Vanmarcke, who has come close to winning Roubaix in the past, but it’s maybe too much to ask of the ‘old timer’.

Roubaix - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Peter SAGAN (Slowakia / Team Bora - hansgrohe) - Silvan DILLIER (Swiss / Team AG2R La Mondiale) pictured during the 116th UCI World Tour Paris - Roubaix cycling race with start in Compiegne and finish at the Velodrome Andre-Petrieux in Roubaix on April 08, 2018 in Roubaix, France, 8/04/18 - photo Davy Rietbergen/Cor Vos © 2018
Roubaix’18 winner Peter Sagan will ride his last Hell of the North

Lotto Dstny will put their hopes on Florian Vermeersch, who was second in 2021, or possibly the young (and inexperienced) Arnaud De Lie. German champion Nils Politt, second in 2019, is the leader of BORA-hansgrohe. AG2R Citroën have two experienced Belgians: Oliver Naesen and Greg Van Avermaet, the 2017 winner. Uno-X will have Alexander Kristoff. Zdeněk Štybar starts for Jayco AlUla’s selection. The now 37 year-old Czech has been on the podium twice: 2015 and 2017.

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Vermeersch was second in 2021

Who else should we mention in despatches? Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), Mike Teunissen (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Iván García Cortina and Oier Lazkano (Movistar), Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa-Samsic), Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates), Magnus Sheffield (INEOS Grenadiers), Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X), Dries Van Gestel (TotalEnergies), Tom Devriendt (Q36.5 Pro Cycling) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ ). All possibles, but…

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Fred Wright could be up there

So, who do we think will win Roubaix 2023?
Wout van Aert is the top pick, with Mathieu van der Poel and Mads Pedersen very close.
Outside bets: Christophe Laporte, Matej Mohorič, Stefan Küng, Filippo Ganna, Dylan van Baarle, Kasper Asgreen and Jasper Stuyven.

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All that suffering to get to these showers

# Stay PEZ for the ‘Race Report’ on Sunday and all the news in EUROTRASH on Monday. #


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