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The secret to Paris-Roubaix? ‘Dare to attack and don’t be afraid to try’

Mental grit, a never-say-die approach, and the all-important Arenberg are essential to Roubaix success, but there is no one winning formula.

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COMPIÈGNE, France (VN) — In 116 years, riders have conquered Paris-Roubaix in many different ways. On the eve of the 2019 edition, the stars say that to win, you have to dare to attack and not be afraid to try.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the race last year with an attack 55 kilometers from the line. He joined the last remaining escapee and beat him in the sprint. Before that, cyclists have tried over the many cobbled sectors to break free or off the heels of their teammate’s work.

“Dare to attack,” said Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who finished 13th in his debut in 2018.

“It sounds maybe stupid, but I’m quite new in these races, I often find myself following and following, and the races where I dare to attack or try to do something very far from the finish line, were very often the best results.”

“I don’t think that there’s a big secret, what no one knows,” John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) explained. “It’s like in any other race, it’s important to be careful with your energy, stay in a good position so that you don’t crash or that you are not held up or something. Then in the right moment do not be afraid to invest in something. That’s the rule, that’s how you have to race that race.”

German John Degenkolb won the race in 2015. He came back to Roubaix with the Tour de France in 2018, and won that cobbled stage too, underlining his strength over the flat farm roads north of Paris.

“To win, having good legs is the most important,” said 2017 winner Greg van Avermaet (CCC Team). “Having not too much bad luck helps, but in the end it’s a quite honest race and the result in the end is often where you should be.”

“No secret,” said 2018 winner Sagan. “I think lots of riders before me won the race and there’s no recipe on how you’re going to win the races.

“Experience is very important for sure, but how cycling’s changing year by year – it’s very difficult to say what’s going to happen or the favorite. Every year you can learn some more.”

“It’s one of those races that’s never over until you are on the track,” Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale), 12th in 2018, said. “You have to keep fighting all day because so many things can happen. The moment you let it go mentally, it’s over.”

German André Greipel (Arkea-Samsic) began Paris-Roubaix seven times and reached seventh place in his last ride in 2017.

His secret? “Never give up, that’s all.”

Several riders underlined the importance of riding on the front ahead of the cobbled sectors. Many names were repeated often – Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle, and Carrefour de l’Arbre – places where one should be on high alert.

“175 guys start and they all want to be on the first row,” Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) said.

“The key point? It’s always Arenberg,” Greipel continued. “You have to be there, that’s the first spot, you can lose the race there or get a puncture.”

“I think the [Arenberg Forest] is the big point where you need to be up,” said Van Avermaet. “It’s a big mark point, you have Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle, and Carrefour de l’Arbre, those are the three points where you can win or lose the race. It’s really important to be in good positions there.”

“I haven’t won it, but I’ll know the trick after I win,” said Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates). He finished 10th in 2015, but already has a Tour of Flanders in his palmarès and a Gent-Wevelgem victory from two weeks ago.

“It’s the sectors around Carrefour, where there are many sectors close, one after another. This area is always hard and a group always go there. You’ll be tired for sure, and everything hurts, and then to push over those cobbles is just a pain in the ass.”