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Pro consensus: ‘A tailwind makes Roubaix harder’

VeloNews chatted to a few top pros during team presentations to get their take on what we can expect in the 'Hell of the North' on Sunday. VeloNews chatted to a few top pros during team presentations to get their take on what we can expect in the 'Hell of the North' on Sunday.

COMPIEGNE, France (VN) — The forecast for Paris-Roubaix is pain. It always is.

For Sunday’s 115th edition, the 199 starters on 25 teams will face dry conditions, dusty cobblestones, and moderately brisk cross/tailwinds. What does that mean? A fast and potentially explosive race.

VeloNews chatted to a few of the top pros during the team presentation Saturday to get their take on what we can expect to happen in the Hell of the North:

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC): “It makes the race a little bit shorter, so instead of sprinting after six hours and thirty [minutes], it will be a little less than six hours. That makes a big difference. It’s going to be fast, and it means that maybe the breakaway stays away further in the final. There are always circumstances that change the race, but Roubaix is a race that the strongest guys always come to the front, and then we will see what happens.”

Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data): “This warm weather is going to make it interesting. It’s going to be dusty, and that changes the dynamics. The heat will change the way people race. It makes it harder. When there is a strong tailwind, there is less recovery in the wheels. The general rule is the group stays together longer with a headwind, and breaks up more with a tailwind or crosswind. My prediction would be smaller groups into the finish, but the groups are never that big in Roubaix anyway.”

Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors): “If there is a tailwind, that makes for a harder and faster race. That’s better for me. It is easier to ride away because it’s pure power. It’s for who has the legs.”

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin): “When it’s a tailwind, it will actually be harder, because it’s harder to stay on the wheel. Maybe for me, it’s not so good, but at least the race will be shorter. I’ve never felt better before Roubaix, but we will see.”

Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal): “The start will be very nervous and fast. Once you’re in the front, the tailwind is better for the breakaway. And chasing back is not so easy. And the dust is also a problem. Everyone knows the fight is coming when we get to the cobbles. For sure, it will be a big battle because everyone will want to be at the front.”

Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe): “A strong tailwind means that if you miss a group, it is much harder to get back to that group. You will always need to make quick decisions and react very fast, and not miss a dangerous group. It is harder to chase back because there is a tailwind. After the hard cobble sections, it is easier to keep going if you are in the front because you have a nice rhythm. You don’t have that when it’s a full headwind.”

Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo): “I think it will be much faster over the cobbles. It will be a race where you can go early, and maybe the first group is bigger at the front. It can make for an interesting race. The cobbles are always hard, but when it’s dry, you can ride all over the road, whereas when it’s wet, you can only ride in the middle.”