Every year, Paris-Roubaix piques the interest of cyclocross fans all across the nation like no other road race can. Perhaps it is the image of muddy faces from the iconic editions, or the hundreds of references the commentators make during the race on how a cyclocross background helped a particular rider.
The connections between our sport and the Queen of the Spring Classics are clear. Roger De Vlaeminck was both a cyclocross world champion and a racer who knew how to dominate the cobbles at Paris-Roubaix. More recently, two years ago, Zdeněk Štybar, three-time world champion, was ready to bring the Paris-Roubaix race down to the wire with Cancellara when a fan stepped out on the course and collided with him.
This year marks the 113th edition of the Paris-Roubaix. Over 250km of riding in total, the race is complete with over a fifth of the course made up of treacherous cobbles. We offer a quick look at the big cyclocross names who will be throwing their hat in for the full one-day race:
Lars Boom: Last weekend at the Tour of Flanders, Boom was the best finishing racer with a strong cyclocross pedigree to his name as he crossed the line for sixth. Ever since his last year’s win in stage five of the Tour de France, Boom has been considered a favorite for this year’s edition of Paris-Roubaix. Although he doens’t need any extra incentive, Boom is riding for Team Astana rather than Belkin this year, which means he will be doing the heavy lifting for Vincenzo Nibali once the stage races get underway and will need to use the Spring Classics as his chance to make an individual mark.
Zdeněk Štybar: The Czech rider was unable to defend his 2014 World Cyclocross Championship against Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert this year due to a crash that made lifting his cyclocross bike difficult. This meant that Štybar has trained for the Classics and the road season, and he should at least be a factor on anyone’s top ten favorite list.
Peter Sagan: Sagan is considered one of the best bike handlers in the peloton, and believe it or not, he didn’t become that way by training off-road on his road bike. While he is famous for winning the 2008 Junior World Championships of Mountain Biking, his second place at the 2008 Junior World Championships of Cyclocross is often overlooked. Last year at Paris-Roubaix, Sagan made a big effort to bridge to the leader, but didn’t have enough gas left to chase down the final solo attack. Can he conserve a little more for the finish this year? We may find out.
American Cyclocrossers: Looking to cheer for the red, white and blue with a cyclocross background? Then look no further than the guys in United Health Care. Both Danny Summerhill and Chris Jones will be donning the while and blue on the cobbles this year. Summerhill was the only American cyclocross racer who was able to beat Jeremy Powers during the full Pro CX series, although he eased back on the throttle in December in full preparation for the road season ahead. Chris Jones returned to cyclocross last season, both filling his calender with UCI events as well as races on the Cross Crusade schedule.
Bradly Wiggins? OK, so perhaps the Olympic Gold Medalist and Former Tour de France winner is not exactly any kind of cyclocrosser, although he certainly trained for cyclocross in a hilarious video. Perhaps all those handling sessions paid off as he is considered a big favorite for tomorrow’s race day.