Paris-Roubaix. Throwing stones, casting votes.

 

Who will own the rock?

Who will own the rock?

We’ve all read the prognostications from the experts who are basically just like us except with press passes. That makes us almost experts, the Van Avermaet of cycling critics. Here’s how we rate the shots:

Niki Terpstra.

Winning the Hell of the North last year is a pretty strong measuring stick. He’s got the form and an equally dangerous tag team partner in Zdenek Stybar. He’s clearly on form and highly motivated with a slew of almosts this season. Terpstra strikes us as a smart, opportunistic rider who knows the cobbles well and understands how to get the best out of his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. Call him canny.

Peter Sagan

Just not feeling it. Like to feel it but there are too many obvious signals that all is not well with the Slovak and the dismissal of team manager Bjarne Riis and subsequent turmoil at Tinkoff-Saxo doesn’t help matters. The boy ain’t happy and the pressure keeps building and until he can get his happy-go-lucky mojo back, the podium ain’t happening. This is a bad story getting worse, we fear.

Alexander Kristoff

Only a fool places a wager against the Norwegian who people are suddenly calling the next Boonen — only with more hair. Since the real Boonen is incapacitated, the makes Kristoff next tornado in line. Right now he is so red hot and confident that who is really going to put the hurt on him? Filippo Pozzato? Ha, just threw that in for comedy.

Greg Van Avermaet

Does this man have a killer instinct and when does he plan on using it to win a monument? So close, so many times. He’s so consistent that you know he’ll be at the front of the race all the way to the end unless a crash or mechanical take him out. BMC will throw everything into Paris-Roubaix and if Lady Luck finally gives Van Avermaet a smooch, well, he’ll be spraying the champagne all over the velodrome.

Bradley Wiggins

The charming or crabby Wiggo goes into his last road race hoping for a final fantasy to come true. You have to admire his passion and resolve and few riders rise to an occasion like Wiggins when he’s motivated. Seventh last year on the stones was a fabulous result and that’s as fabulous as things are gonna get. The thing about fairy tale endings is that there aren’t many in real life. Much as we’d love to see him up there on the podium, it’s not likely to happen. You don’t get lucky at Paris-Roubaix two years straight.

John Degenkolb

We actually don’t know how this guy does it — a sprinter with the muscle and tenacity to tackle a monument like Paris-Roubaix with a legitimate shot at the win. He’s proved us wrong on a number of occasions so we finally gave in and jumped on the Degenkolb bandwagon. Somehow he’s always there at the front and he’s perhaps the one guy who will scare Kristoff in a sprint. (Sagan would be the other bet but which Sagan is going to show up?)

Lars Boom

If you could award a victory in Paris-Roubaix just based on last name alone, then Lars BOOM is your man. Who doesn’t root for the man — especially when he smoked the cobblestone stage in last years’ Tour de France. Still, something always seem to go amiss with Boom. Bike trouble, off day, crash, getting caught too far back when things are going too fast forward. We’re dying to say BANG, Boom wins Paris-Roubaix but good alliteration is of no value in the forest of Arenberg.

Geraint Thomas

Working strictly off the celestial vibrations and need for karmic balance in all things, Thomas should be on the podium after his power outage in Flanders. He has hit a new performance level this year and if he’s got the legs and Wiggo doesn’t, then Brad is a fine domestic to have on your side. Anyone who saw him blown off his bike and flying thru mid air, hit the ditch, remount, chase back to the front and make the podium at Gent Wevelgem knows he is a classics hard-man.

Sep Vanmarcke

Jesus, what happened to you Sep? When Boonen and Cancellara both took themselves out of Paris-Roubaix, critics practically handed the rock to Vanmarcke as obvious heir apparent. Then he tanked in Flanders and his coach admits to the flawed game plan of trying to hold him back, conserving energy instead of going into attack mode constantly. Sep with muzzle. Now, he supposedly has the green light to be his old aggressive self. That’s assuming he has the form to pull that off. Who really knows right now.

Zdenek Stybar

Last but not least, the toothless wonder, Mr. Stybar. His Instagram face shot without his bridge was a scary and hilarious thing. The man is bad-ass all over. A blood and guys and missing dental work warrior. Who doesn’t love this guy even more than Lars BOOM! He had his shot at PR glory a few years back until some idiot clown knocked him off his bike. He’s our sentimental favorite for the race.

Wild prognostication

1 Zdenek Stybar (Toothless wonder bridges up with bridge in mouth, wins race)

2 Sep Vanmarcke (Sep rebounds and the critics stop bothering him)

3 Greg Van Avermaet (Almost again, one mistake was all it took.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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