Favorites and dark horses for Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Roubaix Femmes
Who can claim the treasured cobblestone trophies this weekend? Here's our guide to the favorites and outsiders.
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If Milan San-Remo is the easiest race to finish but the hardest to win, Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Roubaix Femmes must be the races that are the hardest to finish and the hardest to win.
So who will lift the cobblestone trophies this weekend in the twin monuments that call for strength, resilience, skill, and a little sprinkle of luck?
Here are our top favorites and dark horses for the cobbled melee that is the Paris-Roubaix weekend:
Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx)
Best: 2nd (2022)
Lotte Kopecky roars toward the Denain startline Saturday with a gale-force tailwind at her back. The barnstorming Belgian collected three huge wins in five races this season and is bouyed by emphatic victory at the Tour of Flanders just last weekend.
SD-Worx has a cobblestone-shaped hole in its palmarès after twice missing out to Trek-Segafredo in Paris-Roubaix Femmes. With Kopecky crushing her classics calendar and her team steamrolling everything else this spring, the 27-year-old looks well poised to score a historic Flanders-Roubaix sweep Saturday.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck)
Best: 3rd (2021)
Mathieu van der Poel, Paris-Roubaix top favorite? Could be.
The Dutch ace looks in the form of his life after delivering dazzling rides all through spring. From his blazing victory in Milan-San Remo to his resilient resistance to Tadej Pogačar at the Tour of Flanders, MvdP is clattering through possibly the best classics campaign of his career.
The Dutchman suggested riders like Wout van Aert and Stefan Küng have an advantage in a race that favors big sustained power over the cobbled flats, and he doesn’t have the deep bench of Jumbo-Visma at his side.
But Van der Poel doesn’t have the pressure on his shoulders like archrival Van Aert, and has the benefit of know his spring is already rated a success. The 28-year-old has got it all to gain and relatively little to lose Sunday.
Elisa Longo Borgini (Trek-Segafredo)
Best: 1st (2022)
With third on debut and first last year, Elisa Longo Borghini is the most consistent Roubaix racer in the women’s peloton, and she’s not going to let a COVID setback last month disrupt that rhythm.
Trek-Segafredo’s do-it-all powerhouse looks like she barely missed a beat after she lost most of March to coronavirus. 11th at Dwars door Vlaanderen before a bullish ride to the podium at De Ronde sees Longo Borghini back in top shape and determined to shunt SD Worx from the top of the peloton.
Longo Borgini dominated the Femmes with her long solo last year, and though she’s not got the recent results to match Lotte Kopecky, she looks the rider most likely to break the SD Worx vicegrip this weekend.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)
Best: 2nd (2022)
Wout van Aert vowed he would fill the Flanders-Roubaix-shaped gap in his packed palmarès this season, and after defeat at De Ronde, “The Hell of the North” is WvA’s day to deliver.
The 28-year-old “swiss knife” talent led Jumbo-Visma through a trail of destruction this spring and seemed a dead-cert for victory at Tour of Flanders last weekend, but a crash and a rare loss of form means his eternal quest for cobbled monument glory continues.
Van Aert already pushed aside disappointment at De Ronde and pledged he’ll come roaring back hard at Paris-Roubaix. With racers like Dylan van Baarle, Christophe Laporte, and Nathan van Hooydonck at his side, Van Aert could finally lift his long-lusted cobblestone trophy Sunday.
Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo)
Best: 3rd (2022)
Paris-Roubaix Femmes is the race where Trek-Segafreo’s cross-discipline superdomestique Lucinda Brand gets let off the leash.
After winning the ‘cross rainbow jersey on the loose sand of Oostende beach, Brand makes the cobblestones look like child’s play. The Dutch dynamo told her teammate Lizzie Deignan how to ride the pavé before the Brit went solo into the velodrome in 2021, and she kicked for third behind her other teammate Elisa Longo Borghini last year.
Brand played wingwoman number one at Dwars door Vlaanderen and Tour of Flanders last week. Roubaix gives Brand her time to shine, where she’s likely to co-captain Trek-Segafredo with defending champion Longo Borghini.
Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo)
Best: 51st (2019)
Mads Pedersen could see his best chance yet at monument success this weekend.
The Danish Express would have been the rider of the day at last week’s Tour of Flanders if “the new Merckx” hadn’t been on the startline, and has been one of the most consistent racers of the spring. Top-six finishes in San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen and a defiant third in De Ronde sees the former world champion hammering so hard on that next big win that his hand hurts.
Pedersen won the Roubaix juniors ahead of Jumbo-Visma rival Nathan van Hooydonck in 2013. One decade later, he looks well poised to upgrade that trophy to a senior-size cobble.
Filippo Ganna makes for the ultimate dark horse in the men’s race. The Italian stallion has got the engine to crush the cobbles Cancellara-style, but has he got the finesse and bike handling?
Ganna is committed to showing he’s about more than time trials, and his standout podium at San Remo showed he’s not just about racing against the clock. If “Top Ganna” tops the podium Sunday, it would be a huge surprise, but it’s not altogether incomprehensible.
Two slightly more obvious outside contenders for the men’s race are Stefan Küng and Matej Mohorič.
Alongside Mads Pedersen, Küng and Mohorič were the two riders most consistently taking it to the “big three” this spring, and they both finished in the top-5 at Roubaix last year. If they avoid mishap, Küng and Mohorič will be back somewhere at the pointy end on the pavé Sunday.
And what of defending champion Dylan van Baarle?
He’s not raced in two weeks after a heavy crash at E3 Saxo Classic, so it’s hard to say where his form is. But with a marquee victory in the Roubaix velodrome last year and season-opening win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this February, Van Baarle sure knows how to crush cobbles. He’s the ultimate foil to teammate WvA Sunday.
Just like it feels rude to call defending champion Van Baarle an outside contender, it feels similar to call the “GOAT” that is Marianne Vos a dark horse for the Femmes.
Vos had a difficult start to the season in her return from surgery and lost her chance at De Ronde after being caught in a backlog on the Koppenberg. But hey, this is Marianne Vos – if her ride to second in the inaugural Femmes proved anything, it’s that you can never count her out.
Elsewhere, look to the shadowy third prong of Trek-Segafredo’s trident, Shirin van Anrooij. The young cross-discipline ace blazed to solo victory at Alfredo Binda already this year, and could profit in her Roubaix debut while SD Worx watches her teammates Elisa Longo Borghini and Lucinda Brand.
Pfeiffer Georgi is another rising talent that can’t be counted out Saturday.
DSM’s classics captain kicked to 9th in Roubaix last year and goes well in the hardest races. Georgi already scored a career-topping victory in De Panne and two more top-10s in 2023 and will have full DSM support in “The Hell of the North.” A win on the Roubaix velodrome would unceremoniously boot De Panne from the top slot of the 22-year-old’s resume.