Back in November of last year, I previewed the early odds for the 2017 Paris-Roubaix. Now that the season is underway, we have a better idea of who will race the “Hell of the North” and who’s in form.
The infamous Classic is one of cycling’s oldest races and perhaps the best-known, outside of the Tour de France. The grueling cobbled sections ensure that crashes, mechanical failures, and general chaos rule the day.
Two-time Paris-Roubaix winner Sean Kelly claimed that the cobbles were so grueling that it made him urinate blood after the event. Most riders apply an extra layer of bar tape to save their hands, and some teams have gone as far as using bikes with road-suspension to deal with the unforgiving cobblestones.
So when the race organizers came together this year to decide on changes for the hellish classic, they came up with one answer: more cobbles!
When asked about the Paris-Roubaix, dutch cyclist Theo de Rooy said, “It’s bollocks, this race! You’re working like an animal; you don’t have time to piss; you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this; you’re slipping. It’s a piece of sh*t.”
But when asked if he would ride the event again, he replied: “Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!”
That pretty much sums up Paris-Roubaix, and 2017 will be another year of grueling, painful bliss. As always, the event is impossibly difficult to predict, but here’s my best shot!
Odds to win 2017 Paris-Roubaix
Peter Sagan: 3/1
He was the favorite then, and he’s the favorite now!
The current World Champion started 2017 in a very Sagan-like way. He finished second in three stages at the Tour Down Under. He then went on to race Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, where he placed — you guessed it — second.
A crash by Fabian Cancellara split the bunch last year and ruined Sagan’s chances. Now that Cancellara has retired, there’s nothing that can stop him. Right? Ha. Wrong. The course, itself, is a bigger challenger than any other rider.
John Degenkolb: 11/2
The 2015 winner will be looking to make an impact with his new team, Trek–Segafredo. He won a stage at the Dubai Tour this year and finished third overall, which is a solid start to the season. His 2016 season was destroyed after he and his teammates were hit by a car in training, but it looks like the German sprinter is back in fine form.
Sep Vanmarcke: 7/1
Vanmarcke has come close to winning Paris-Roubaix a couple of times, but has always fallen just short. He came second in 2013, and fourth in 2014 and 2016. The Belgian has been out-sprinted at the event time and time again; maybe he’ll finally claim the race in 2017.
Tom Boonen: 9/1
Boonen may be the greatest Classics rider of all time. The four-time Paris-Roubaix winner could make history with a fifth win. Currently, he’s tied with fellow Belgian Roger De Vlaeminck for most Paris-Roubaix victories. The 36-year-old is well past his prime and he’ll have to contend with a new generation of exceptional riders, yet he remains a frontrunner coming into the race.
Greg Van Avermaet: 14/1
Van Avermaet started the year by winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the first major cobbled classic of the year. The Belgian out-sprinted favorite Peter Sagan and Sep Vanmarcke to take the race. If he can replicate that performance at Paris-Roubaix, he stands a very good chance of winning.
Photo credit: Ruby Roubaix, CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.