Saturday, 11 April 2015

Sunday in Hell is coming and while whole cycling world will be curious if Kristoff can continue his winning streak, juniors will face their own battle with cobbles in 13th edition of Paris Roubaix for juniors.


Paris Roubaix for juniors has a pretty short history with first edition dating back in 2003 but it's a big event with impressive list of past winners (just to name a few: Geraint Thomas, Guillame van Keirsbulck, Jasper Stuyven or Florian Senechal with Sagan, Debusschere and Demare all finishing second in different editions). Since 2008 junior version of cobbled classic is a part of Uci Nations Cup meaning we will have national teams instead of club teams at the start in Saint Amand les Eaux. This is also a guarantee that we have the strongest possible lineup as all invited teams will bring the strongest possible, in form, team to be competitive and have a chance to fight for a win.

Cycling junior
2010 podium: Dan McLay, Jasper Stuyven, Lawson Craddock (photo: velophotopro.com)

The route is pretty much the same as last year. Juniors will cover 111 kilometers from Saint Amand les Eaux to Roubaix facing sixteen cobbled sectors. The same ones as last sixteen in elite race. So actually the only difference between elite and junior race is the distance as the crucial cobbled sections are pretty much the same.

SectionNameLengthCategory
16Hornaing - Wandignies-Hamage3700m****
15Warlaing - Brillon2400m***
14Tilloy - Sars-et-Rosières2400m****
13Beuvry-la-Forêt - Orchies1400m***
12Orchies1700m***
11Auchy-lez-Orchies - Bersée2600m****
10Mons-en-Pévèle3000m*****
9Mérignies 700m**
8Pont Thibaut 1400m***
7Le Moulin de Vertain500m**
6Cysoing - Bourghelles1300m***
6Bourghelles – Wannehain1100m***
5Camphin-en-Pévèle1800m****
4Le Carrefour de l'Arbre2100m*****
3Gruson1100m**
2Hem1400m**
1Espace Crupelandt300m*

We can be pretty sure that crashes and punctures will split the race in first few sectors already. Last year, race was controlled by Brits and Danes trying to put their leaders is best possible position. Expect similar scenario this year especially from Danes. Filippo Ganna tried a solo attack at Cysoing - Bourghelles and stayed in front for a while before Magnus Bak Klaris launched his decisive attack. Le Carrefour de l'Arbre should be a key sector for final selection or a solo attack.

Cycling junior
Magnus Bak Klaris winning 2014 edition (photo: JM Hecquet)

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This is a big event, trust me. It's extremely hard, it's long, it's a part of Nations Cup and every big team brings a possible winner. Also it's worth to note that cobbles in Paris Roubaix are nothing close to the ones that riders faced already this season in races like Kuurne Bruxelles Kuurne or Guido Reybrouck Classic. There are much harder, more irregular and demands raw power to stay in front and fight for a win.

My roundup of favorites has to start from Danish team. They won last three editions and bring a strong team that can win once again. The team is based on five riders from Team Kel-Berg Roskilde, possibly the strongest junior team around, with addition of Bryan Iversen. Hard to predict who will be their leader for upcoming edition but I would say it should be between one of these three: Mathias Norsgaard, Mikkel Honore and Niklas Larsen. Norsgaard recently won Ster van Zuid-Limburg, important stage race in Belgium, so he is clearly in shape. Honore rode already last year and finished 53rd so he has an experience of riding this classic that many riders will lack. Earlier this year he was third in Omloop Van Noord West Overijssel and was a part of massive attack from Team Kelberg in Rund um Merken where they took first five positions. He's clearly in shape and Roubaix was one of his biggest targets of the season. Niklas Larsen was a team player so far this season but he's strong rider and, same as Honore, has experience of riding this race last year. I'm also very curious what Anthon Charmig can do. He's a first year junior, recently third in Ster. With a little bit of freedom from the team he may surprise many, watch out for him on Sunday.

Dutch team brings two possible winners: Pascal Eenkhoorn and Bram Welten. Both of them was already winning big races this season as Pascal won both Bernaudeau Junior and GP André Noyelle while Bram Welten was the strongest in Guido Reybrouck Classic. As Pascal stated his his interview, he belives that Bram Welten can win on Sunday being one of the fastest guys in juniors. Expect both of them being right there and fight for a win. Other guy to watch is Yannick Detant who had a great start of the season.

France always do well in this race, last year they had four riders in top 11. My personal pick for a surprise win is Clement Betouigt Suire. Despite being a first year junior I believe this race is a perfect for his characteristics. He's a big guy with a good sprint and recently won a stage in Ster van Zuid-Limburg showing he's clearly in form. He may lack experience but if the team put a faith in him and help him stay of out trouble he will be a strong contender. If not, Tanguy Turgis, Theo Menant and Guillaumse Millessau are all capable of fighting for top positions.

Belgian team is another one with more then a one guy with a chance to win the race. Last year, they were pretty close having Enzo Wouters on third place. Personally I bet on Cedric Buellens as possible winner. He's in decent shape from the beginning of the season grabbing few top ten places here and there. In Ster he was strong in prologue and had a leaders jersey for one day but missed the decisive move on the final stage. Also, he's the only one rider from Belgian team who rode Roubaix last year finishing in solid 25th place. Other guys who should be up there are Jonas Castrique and Stan Dewulf. One guy that worth a notice is Jasper Philipsen. Like Suire and Charmig he was one of the best guys in cadets last year. He had showed some good form in recent Belgian races and while 2016 might be a year when he will be the big contender for the race I wouldn't rule him out to play an important role already this year.

Other contenders: Ethan Reynolds, Matthew Bostock, Tobias Foss, Gino Mader, Kevin Geniets.

Personally I think it will be between the Denmark and France. Both has strong team and might control the race. Mikkel Honore is my bet.

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