Paris-Roubaix. Picking Z winner.

Styber. The next Quickstep winner?

it’s an alphabet clue.

While the entire Quickstep Floors squad ganged up in the Tour of Flanders to beat Peter Sagan silly, there are still plenty of different race scenarios for this weekend’s French cobblestone throw-down.

Paris-Roubaix is the perfect revenge race for Sagan, Greg van Avermaet and top rivals like Sep Vanmarcke to get back at Quickstep. They were out-numbered and embarrassed and they’ve had a week to digest the humiliation and rethink tactics.

However, they’ll have to beat a fearsome foursome of Philippe Gilbert, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar and the victorious Niki Terpstra. It’s a cobblestone version of Murderers Row.

Gilbert desperately wants to add Paris-Roubaix to make a nice classics box-set with his triumph in Flanders last year. He admits his form isn’t quite as spectacular but then he did just manage third place, two steps down from his teammate Terpstra. We can’t really rule him out, can we?

Meanwhile, Terpstra is on fuego with big wins in Flanders, E3 Harelbeke and Le Samyn. His confidence is sky-high after a disappointing season back in 2017. He rode everyone including Sagan off his wheel and has to believe he has an excellent chance to win Paris-Roubaix for the second time. He’ll be heavily marked and Quickstep tactics may favor throwing someone else up the road first?

Would that be the tough brawler Yves Lampaert, who contributed to Quickstep’s big haul of wins with a first place in Dwars door Vlaanderen? You’d have to keep an eye and several legs on him to make sure he doesn’t open up a sizable gap before the alarm bells go off. He seems like plan D but then every plan seems to be working for Quickstep.

Our hope is for a wild, chaotic and uncontrollable Paris-Roubaix. Given Quickstep’s strength in numbers, Lampaert described the effect as leading other riders to the “slaughter.” Perhaps Sagan and Van Avermaet will avoid that abattoir metaphor and outwit the powerful Belgian team.

However, if we had to pick a rider, we’re going with Z winner, Zdenek Stybar. He’s been second at Paris-Roubaix twice (2015, 2017), sixth (2013) and fifth (2014). That’s incredible consistency for the brutal and unpredictable Hell of the North. We figure he’s due and within the Quickstep hierarchy, it’s also about his turn. He may have to ask Mr. Gilbert very nicely.

Then again, perhaps the Cycling Gods will chose Paris-Roubaix to shake things up. Then our money goes back to the three-time World Champion Peter Sagan. He may act all zen and philosophical but we suspect he’s also pissed off and feeling vicious.

 

 

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