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Ineos Grenadiers promises to attack Paris-Roubaix: ‘Sometimes a breakaway can go a long way’

Tom Pidcock will save his Roubaix debut for another year, but Magnus Sheffield, Filippo Ganna and Dylan van Baarle will have free rides on the cobbles.

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How do you beat the likes of Mathieu van der Poel or Wout van Aert at Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix?

Be up the road in an early move.

Paris-Roubaix is one of those rare races on the international calendar where riders powering away in the early moves have a real chance of hanging on for a major result and can even occasionally win.

Not to give away its full Roubaix tactics, but sport director Dario Cioni said to watch for Ineos Grenadiers trying to slot riders into early moves to try to get a head start in the drag race across the pavé.

“In a race like Paris-Roubaix it’s good to have numbers and anticipate the race,” Cioni told VeloNews. “Sometimes an early breakaway can go a long way at Roubaix. We’ve seen it before, and a lot of teams will be looking to do that Sunday.”

That’s exactly what happened last year for former Ineos Grenadiers rider Gianni Moscon, who rode away from an early move and held a promising lead at the front of the race only to suffer an ill-timed puncture. Despite later crashing, the Italian, who is now on Astana-Qazaqhstan, finished a career-best fourth in the Roubaix velodrome.

Ineos Grenadiers will bring a strong squad Sunday packed with outsiders and ambitious riders looking to surprise the Roubaix favorites.

Filippo Ganna, Michał Kwiatkowski, and Dylan van Baarle headline the squad that also includes Magnus Sheffield, Ben Turner, Cameron Wurf, and Luke Rowe.

Tom Pidcock, fifth at Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday behind teammate and winner Sheffield, will leave his elite Roubaix debut for another season. He is slated to race Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège to close out his classics calendar before a likely start at the Giro d’Italia in early May.

Ineos coming off back-to-back victories at Amstel Gold Race and Brabantse Pijl

Magnus Sheffield signs an autograph ahead of Thursday’s training ride. (Photo: LUC CLAESSEN/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Cioni said the UK super-team will try to slot riders into any early big breakaways in order to have warm bodies up the road to help when the team leaders like Ganna and van Baarle later pull through. Riders will have the freedom to move and follow the momentum of the race on Sunday, he said.

“Sometimes the early move can make it all the way to the finish,” Cioni said. “It’s not a bad option to have riders in a big group that goes away at the beginning of the race. Riders like [Sylvain] Dillier [second in 2018] and Mat Hayman [winner in 2016] won out of the breakaway. Gianni was in the break early last year. It’s not so bad to play that tactic.”

Cioni said Ineos Grenadiers hopes to keep its classics momentum carrying forward into this weekend’s Paris-Roubaix.

The team delivered victory at Amstel Gold Race with Kwiatkowski and at Brabantse Pijl with Sheffield. Pidcock was third at Dwars door Vlaanderen, and van Baarle was second at Flanders.

He admits Ineos won’t be the favorites Sunday, but Cioni said the team promises to race aggressively just like it has all spring.

“We’ve been working on our one-day racing for a few years now,” he said. “The interesting thing is right now if you look at the age of the guys, most of them are very young. They are part of this new generation of riders we have recruited, and that gives you a lot of confidence for the future.

“It’s been a couple of years now that our team has already changed a lot,” Cioni said. “We have to give them a bit of time and we are confident they will reach that new level.”

The team’s recent successes across the spring classics will only heighten expectations for Sunday.

Since its formation in 2010, Ineos has never won Roubaix, though it has cracked the podium twice. In the team’s first year, Juan Antonio Flecha hit third behind winner Fabian Cancellara and Thor Hushovd. Ian Stannard also finished third in 2016 behind Hayman and Tom Boonen. Last year, Moscon came close with fourth at 44 seconds off the podium.

“It should be a fast race,” Cioni said. “It’s going to be dry for sure, and earlier in the week, it was looking like there was going to be quite strong headwinds in the afternoon. The latest forecasts say there could be tailwinds. You never really know about the wind until 24 hours before the race.”