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“If everybody else is following me, it will mean that I’m in the front and that suits me. I’m not sure I’m the favourite, I’m one of the favourites."

Photo: Sirotti

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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BRADLEY WIGGINS

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GERAINT THOMAS

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NIKI TERPSTRA

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PARIS - ROUBAIX

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PETER SAGAN

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TIESJ BENOOT

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11.04.2015 @ 20:05 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Bradley Wiggins: “Maybe it will remain a dream”
Cheered more than any rider on the podium for his last road race in the Team Sky outfit, Bradley Wiggins is tackling one of the boldest challenges in his career aware not to take anything for granted. Sporting a black bonnet at the team presentation, the 2012 Tour de France winner remained cautious.

 

“It was always a dream to win Paris-Roubaix and maybe it will remain a dream. But we’re going to do everything we can to achieve it knowing that you don’t always get what you want,” he said.

 

“What I achieved in my career is already incredible compared to what I could expect. I’d love to do the moonwalk like Michael Jackson, but I know I won’t,” he added.

 

Wiggins can in any case count on the full support of a strong Sky team, who also have Geraint Thomas as more than a plan B. The Welshman, who failed to fully deliver in the Tour of Flanders, refuses to be involved in the emotional farewell to his leader and friend for now.

 

 “It’s great to be part of Brad’s last race but to be honest we’ll start being emotional once it’s over. For the time being, we’re only thinking about the race. If there is a plan I won’t tell you, but there’s not a plan really,” he said.

 

“As a team, we’re better equipped to have an impact on this race than on Flanders. Obviously there was a bit of a disappointment after Flanders but in the same time I’d never been in such a position as a marked man in such a big race.”

 

Thomas even admitted the media hype about Wiggins’s final race was probably a personal blessing: “Undoubtedly, the focus is on Bradley more than me and it could play in my favour. But the most important thing will be to have a Team Sky jersey on the top of the podium.”
 
Alexander Kristoff: “Roubaix was never too good for me”
Singled out by most riders as the man to beat tomorrow in Paris-Roubaix, Norway’s Alexander Kristoff did not play down his chances but pointed out he was only one of the leading contenders in a race that never really suited him. 

 

“If everybody else is following me, it will mean that I’m in the front and that suits me. I’m not sure I’m the favourite, I’m one of the favourites,” the Tour of Flanders winner said during the team presentation in Compiegne.

 

“I don’t feel any particular pressure apart from being Katusha’s team leader. That’s about it. Of course it would be great to win my 12th race of the season and the form is still there but I’ll remind you that Roubaix was never too good for me, I’ve had lots of ups and downs”, insisted the man who finished 9th for his best result in the Queen of Classics two years ago.

 

The fastest sprinter of the early season, Kristoff also showed in Flanders he had other qualities by breaking away with last year’s Roubaix winner Nikki Terpstra in the finale. 

 

“Here you don’t have the climbs like in Flanders, but six hours of shaking really wears you out. I don’t really have precise tactics. The only thing I must watch out for is for a group not to slip away without me. A sprint would be fine but any other scenario will suit me.”

 

And he added other sprinters could also be left to battle it out for victory on the Velodrome: “You have John Degenkolb and even Andre Greipel if he’s in the same form he was in Flanders”.  
 
They all want to beat Kristoff but how?
Times change quickly. For the first edition in a decade without either Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara, another favourite immediately emerged in the shape of Alexander Kristoff. Even at the very top of their game neither had achieved such a beginning of the season sweep as the Norwegian who, along with the Tour of Flanders, collected emphatic wins in the De Panne Three Days and the Scheldeprijs. Hence the impression that the Katusha team leader might be unbeatable this Spring.    

 

Like many other riders, veteran Italian Flippo Pozzato is convinced the best approach is to avoid being in direct contention with Kristoff: “Kristoff is the strongest. With everything he did recently he showed you shouldn’t let him go. The idea is to hold on into a small group at the front and then attack before he does to avoid direct confrontation… But he can also be super strong in the finale.”

 

Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), 4th in 2013, is also convinced that the only solution lies in a break: “The only way to win for a rider like me against the sprinters will be to go in the right group at the right time.”

 

For 21-year-old Tiesj Benoot, a promising 5th in Flanders a week ago, Kristoff will not have as much freedom this time: “Last Sunday he managed to go in the finale and we’ll have to stop him doing it again. I don’t believe he will have as much space this time. As for me, if I manage to avoid crashes and punctures, I can have my chance if a small group is in the front at Carrefour de l’Arbre like last year,” he said.

 

Niki Terpstra was the one to make the best of the situation last year but the number one bib was powerless against Kristoff in the Flanders finale: “You just shouldn’t sprint against him”, he said.

 

Fourth in the Ronde, Peter Sagan is not giving up against the best rider of the early season: “Kristoff unebatable? You think he’s a robot or what? A week has gone since last Sunday.”

 

With Terpstra’s Etixx Quick Step, Team Sky are the most solid team to try and counter Kristoff with departing Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas as their leading men. 

 

“I don’t think it would be a good idea to race against Kristoff or any other rider. If you toughen the race to try and beat a single rider you often end up being beaten by another one,” Thomas warned.
 
Paris-Roubaix Challenge: The amateurs, 24 hours before the pros
“The Hell of the North” is not exclusively reserved for the professionals. This morning, nearly 4,500 riders (1000 more than last year) from 35 countries gathered for the lifetime experience of riding on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix for the 5th year in succession. The bravest left Roubaix at dawn by shuttle for Busigny, starting point of a 171-kms ordeal comprising the same 50.8-kms and 28 sections of cobbles as the pro race. Two circuits (70 km and 141 km) were also organised starting from Roubaix. Every rider had the chance to live the unique emotion of entering the mythical velodrome and to finally wash up in the historical showers. Tomorrow, plenty of them will be on the roadside to cheer Wiggins, Kristoff, Sagan and the rest of the field!

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