The end of the 2022 cobbled Classics season is nigh, with Paris-Roubaix bringing the intense period of racing in Belgium and France to close later this afternoon.
A peloton of 175 men have taken to the start of the 257km race in Compiègne, though only a small group of them will be in contention to sprint for victory in Roubaix’s Velodrome André Pétrieux after six hours of racing.
Along the way they’ll tackle 30 cobbled sectors, including the fearsome stretches at Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle, and Carrefour de l’Arbre.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) is perhaps the main favorite for the win, following his triumph at the Tour of Flanders two weeks ago. He’ll be facing off against riders like the returning Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Kasper Asgreen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), and many more during the ‘Hell of the North’.
cyclingnews is on the ground at Paris-Roubaix this weekend with reporting, analysis, and tech coming from Daniel Ostanek and Peter Stuart. They were at the start in Compiègne to get the reaction from the main favourites.
“I think it’s a really hard race. It’s really suffering on the cobbles but it’s really special. I think it’s something unique. It’s not comparable to any other race.
“For bike handling skills I prefer the rain, but I prefer this way to race in sunny conditions.
“I think I did a good race last year, but my legs were just empty at the end. This year I hope to have something left to sprint in the end.
“I haven’t done many races after the injury, so pretty hungry but you need a bit of luck as well. I’m really excited. It’s going to be pretty epic.”
“It was hard to watch the most beautiful classics of the year on the couch. I’m just grateful to make it here.
“It’s hard to say about my level. Of course, I’m not at the level I was before. It came at the worst moment but like I said I’m just happy to be here and hopefully find the legs that are good enough to be in the end and do something.
“It’s a big question mark for me. We’ll see.”
“I believe so. It’s hard to lose the shape in a week. It’s all about recovery. Obviously after Brabantse Pijl it was hard to recover but now an extra day of recovery makes me fresher and I’m motivated and ready to go.
“It’s always difficult to combine Roubaix and the Ardennes. The Ardennes suit me better but obviously with the changes in the calendar and my previous illnesses I decided to race here this year.
“Obviously any race you do you have to believe you can win. We came here with a strong team with Ganna, Van Baarle, Rowe and other teammates. Possibly we can play our cards in the final and find the numbers. We just need some luck, and we’ll see how it goes.”
“It’s probably the most enjoyable day of the year.
“The Hell of the North? Not for me – It’s a special race. It’s almost like an adventure. Everybody has their own. It’s a once a year opportunity to really go for it without any pressure, without any stress and see how it goes You do your best. You know you’re going to be completely empty and maybe on your own at the velodrome if you get there. That’s what makes it so special.
“We need to play smart. We are not the outright favourites. We don’t have the outright favourite. I do think that we have an honest chance of winning the race, of making at least a podium. But it needs to go well , we need to avoid the crashes and punctures. It’s going to be an interesting race.”
“It’s a super nice race and a race I’d love to be up there on the podium. I’m excited and focussed.
“We saw yesterday in the women’s race that a lot of the time they were riding on the side of the cobbles which wasn’t possible last year, so that will add another element to it – to always be in position because the bunch won’ t be in one line.
“For sure I’m going to enjoy it. The Classics are my favorite races and I’m going to enjoy every single one of them.”
“Some years I prefer Flanders, some years I prefer Roubaix. It’s mostly dependent on the result, so it’s hard to judge before but easy afterwards.
“We’ll try to be in as good a position as possible at all times. Don’t get behind crashes, don’t crash yourself, don’t have too many punctures. It’s a bit of a lottery and then the physical part you eat at the end.
“It’s so unpredictable. Greg is the leader, of course, because he has won it before but there are many different scenarios. We can try to have someone in the breakaway and we can anticipate after Arenberg to have someone there. Greg’s role is to stay with the favorites and try to do it that way.
“And it is [I prefer this weather] Last year was really shit. Once in a career is fine.
“It’s Paris-Roubaix, it’s the Queen of the classics as they say. I’m at the start to give it all.
“I always like this race from the first time I did it. So far, I wasn’t able to score a really good result, but I have a feeling that today it’s going to happen.
“We have a very strong team. I feel confident in this race. It’s good when you’re confident and you know your strength. So, it’s always good to sometimes relax a little bit in the moment where it’s not too important let’s say so you can have the power later on in the race.”
“We want to win the race. How? Just be faster than the rest of the guys.
“If you turn around and look to the sky, it’s pretty clear how different it would be. You know, it’s not an ice hockey field this year. It’s going to make a big difference that the cobbles are dry.
“It’s a completely different race and they also race different than us but huge respect for the way the Women won the race that yesterday. I don’t think that’s the way we have to win the race because it’s so different the way we are racing But of course it’s inspiring within the team to see how they do.”