Paris - Roubaix 2014: Favourites

Tom Boonen Paris-Roubaix FavouriteParis-Roubaix is one of the toughest races on the calender, and it takes the toughest individual to win in 'Hell'. So much can go against riders attempting to win and for every success story like that of Tom Boonen, there is also a sob story, like that of Thor Hushovd who has targeted the race every year without tasting victory. Cyclingstage.com takes a look at the riders likely to be in the mix for victory in 2014. (Slideshow route/profile)

Fabian Cancellara
Cancellara is the reigning champion and has 2 wins and 1 2nd place from his last three attempts at ‘Hell’.

2010 saw an unstoppable version of ‘Superman’, as he attacked 50 kilometres from the finish and left his rivals quite literally eating dust. 2011 saw a tactical masterclass from Garmin, putting Johan Vansummeren in a break with Thor Hushovd marking Cancellara. It only just worked however with a steamrolling Cancellara coming within 20 seconds of the victorious Vansummeren. Last year saw a gritty Sep Vanmarcke enter the Velodrome alongside Cancellara, with the Swiss taking victory in the sprint.

2nd in Milan-Sanremo, it was clear the form was coming. Winning the Tour of Flanders confirmed that when it comes to the major goals, Cancellara is still the man to beat. A win in Roubaix would secure his place in the record books, equaling the record of 4 wins held by Roger De Vlaeminck and Tom Boonen. He would also be the first to take a Flanders-Roubaix double for the 3rd time.

Tom Boonen
Speaking of Boonen, he’s looking back to his best in 2014, winning 2 stages in Qatar as well as Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, and is the stand out threat to Cancellara. It’s been a great rivalry between these 2 but injuries to both in recent years has meant they haven’t gone head to head in top form since 2010, when Cancellara took the Flanders-Roubaix double, with Boonen 2nd in Flanders and 5th in Roubaix.

Boonen won his own double in 2012, and even pulled off a Cancellara style 50 kilometre attack in Roubaix that year. A repeat of that this year would see him take a record 5th Cobblestone and prove that he is the real king of ‘Hell’.

Sep Vanmarcke
An up and coming star on the cobbles, Vanmarcke’s progression was stalled somewhat by injury after taking an impressive Omloop win in 2012. The 2013 Spring was tough but he worked hard to get himself in shape for Roubaix, and it was clear from that race that we now have a major favourite on our hands.

Vanmarcke took everything Cancellara could throw at him in 2013 and made it all the way to the velodrome where cycling fans were quick to point out that this was the man who out-sprinted Boonen in the 2012 Omloop. It wasn’t to be however, with Cancellara smarter in a sprint between 2 totally exhausted men.

Vanmarcke looked very strong during Openingsweekend and then proved his strength in the Tour of Flanders when he was the only man able to go with Cancellara on the Kwaremont. With a problem free build-up, good form, not to mention a strong Belkin classics squad, just how far can the young Belgian go in Roubaix?

Pretenders

Lars Boom
Boom was 6th in 2012 and 14th last year while riding as Belkin leader but his teammate Vanmarcke has earned that honour now. Boom is built for this type of terrain and with some luck can be there in the finale, possibly as part of a breakaway while his leader marks the big guns behind.

Zdenek Stybar
Teammate of Boonen, Stybar rode impressively in his leader’s absence last year and finished 6th after a crash with a spectator took him out of the front group. It was a stunning debut from the Czech rider who is used to this type of terrain from his cyclo-cross background. Has looked good to date in 2014 and is a dark horse to take the honours in Roubaix.

Greg Van Avermaet
The bridesmaid. Victory in Paris-Tours aside, Van Avermaet has been in the finale of too many classics to count but is missing the results to show for his efforts. 4th in Roubaix last year, the BMC rider will look to improve on that in 2014. Was one of the strongest men in the Tour of Flanders, certainly the bravest, and his long distance attack almost paid off with a famous win. No harm coming 2nd to Cancellara, but Van Avermaet really needs to win a Monument to be regarded as a great classics rider.

Niki Terpstra
3rd place last year and looking stronger than ever in 2014 with an overall victory in Qatar the stand out result, Terpstra arranged a follow up winning Dwars door Vlaanderen. Another that will be riding for Boonen, it’s not implausible that the Dutchman ends up in a position to win the race himself.

Damien Gaudin
A breakthrough 5th last year, Gaudin is the most likely Frenchman to win his home Monument. Won the U23 edition of the race in 2007, could this be the year he comes of age in the senior ranks?

Taylor Phinney
Similar to Gaudin, Phinney mastered the cobbles early and took 2 U23 editions. Has failed to really sparkle at this level, finishing 15th in his 2012 debut and attacking too early in 2013. This could be the year he gets it right….

Peter Sagan
Only rode Roubaix on 2 previous occasions without making any impact. Certainly a favourite for the future but can we expect the young Slovak to be in the mix with so little experience in the race? His career to date suggests it would be naive to rule him out.

Alexander Kristoff
9th last year, the young Norwegian is improving each season and if Milan-Sanremo taught Cyclingstage anything, it is to make sure this man’s name is on the list for future classics! Brilliant again in Flanders, his solo battle to catch the front 4 taught us that Kristoff is far more than just a sprinter.

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