I don’t need to tell you about Paris-Roubaix’s history, brutality or several nicknames. And this is neither the time nor the place to explore the ‘Flanders vs. Roubaix’ argument (Roubaix wins). Instead, here’s my picks for a very open 2019 edition, featuring a favourite offering very little value and a possible changing of the guard.
Set To Flop: Peter Sagan (4/1)
The best cyclist of the last five years has had a very slow start to 2019. We’ve become accustomed to Sagan’s quiet spells, but they usually last no longer than a few races and always end abruptly with an emphatic victory and a mass silencing of his foolish doubters. He was scintillating in Roubaix last year but has been bested by plenty of rivals on the approach to April 14th. He’s often isolated and forced into impossible situations but this year’s been different; he genuinely looks a little short of form.
In The Bet Slip: Greg Van Avermaet (12/1)
Greg Van Avermaet is the anti-Sagan. He’s a man who Sagan fears and respects; a rider who has faced similar challenges over the last five years. They would have started many Monuments at a similar price… so why is ‘GVA’ a lofty 12/1 for Roubaix? Podiums at Omloop and E3 are more than solid, and better than anything Sagan can offer. His team aren’t the strongest but the Olympic champion has never been handed his wins on a plate. Even taking into account his moderate Velodrome kick, 12/1 is a huge price for a rider who should always start as a favourite.
Just Missed Out: Jasper Stuyven (28/1)
If cyclists were horses (they’re not), Stuyven would have plenty of form at course and distance. Fifth last year and fourth in 2017 make attractive reading, plus a number of good finishes at Paris-Roubaix Espoirs. He’s never failed to finish since debuting in the senior race in 2014. His cobbles campaign has been difficult following a crash in the Algarve, but he’s rounding into shape at just the right time and his 28/1 odds are kind. Trek has multiple options but punting Stuyven could prove the right choice.
The ‘Matt Hayman’ Selection: Mike Teunissen (100/1)
Whilst Flanders is a brutal test of strength and form, Roubaix has a touch of magic and mystery… and the constant puncture threat. For these reasons, longer prices have a chance of success (Hayman, Dillier). Teunissen is far better than his 100/1 price and could co-lead an always competitive Jumbo squad. Wout van Aert is the more likely aggressor, but Teunissen will be allowed to jump across gaps and there’s nothing wrong with his sprint. I’m on board.