Saturday, 9 April 2016

The hardest one day race of the season for juniors finally arrived. Just a few hours before we gonna watch the battle between Cancellara and Sagan, young riders will tackle the same cobbled sectors in their own battle for glory.


History

Paris Roubaix 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, Florian Senechal, Mads Wurtz Schmidt or Mads Pedersen 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.

Jasper Stuyven wining the 2010 edition in rainbow jersey
Last year Dutch team had an impressive series of win in classics and confirmed their potential in Roubaix where Bram Welten won ahead of his team mate Pascal Eenkhoorn. Sten Dewulf from Belgium finished third while one of the hot favorites for this year edition, Jasper Philipsen was fourth.

Bram Welten and Pascal Eenkhoorn celebrates their 1-2 in 2015 edition
Route

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. The juniors will tackle total of 28,9km of cobbles.


The big difference between elite race and juniors is that we can expect big battle and big splits right from the first cobbled sector. The strongest teams and riders will do everything they can to stay in front and control the race. With no punctures and crashes (they will happen anyway) the strongest rider of the day will win the race. 

Favorites 

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.

There are three teams which I consider much stronger then the rest of the field. First of them is Denmark. They have no single rider who finished high last year or had impressive results in this year uci races. But without a doubt, they bring the strongest possible team with each rider able to win the race. Anthon Charmig recently finished third in Ster van Zuid Limburg showing good shape, Jakob Egholm already won two races in Danish Junior Cup events while young Julius Johansen won Giro Nortorf earlier this year in Germany and finished third in prologue of Ster van Zuid Limburg. Both Fredrik Madsen and Rasmus Lund pedersen recently trained on track but I think we can expect good performance from both of them on Sunday. The team completes with Andreas Kron, sixth in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne earlier this year.

Jasper Philipsen in leaders jersey during Ster van Zuid Limburg
The second strong team is Belgium despite having three first year juniors in the team. They have a clear leader: Jasper Philipsen, winner of Guido Reybrouck Classic and Ster van Zuid Limburg who was fourth last year. Great sprinter also strong on cobbles with great shape and strong team behind. Jasper Philipsen is the favorite for Sunday. Also watch out for young Wesley Vercamst who was sixth in Gent Wevelgem two weeks ago.

Alexys Brunel winning Gent Wevelgem U19 
Finally French team is also going for a win this Sunday. Six strong riders including Gent Wevelgem winner Alexys Brunel, vice world champion, second in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne Clement Betouigt Suire and winner of Bernaudeau Junior, ninth last year Tanguy Turgis.

There are also two strong teams that are missing their best rider. US team is always a team to watch but Brandon McNulty is currently busy fighting against elite riders in USA and didn't plan to start in Roubaix. The team can rely on Sean McElroy, who recently finished second in Volta Limburg Classic and won GP Frank Vanesser in Dilsen where US team dominated the field and took first five places.

Second one is Great Britian. Ethan Hayter was one of the biggest favorites here but unfortunately he broke his collarbone few days ago and won't be able to compete. It's a big loss to GB team and the whole race as we could expect a great battle between him and Philipsen once again this year. With Hayter missing, I think Gb team can rely on Thomas Pidckock, great cyclo crosser who did pretty well in Gent Wevelgem finishing 16th.

Other strong candidates: Marc Hirschi, Stefan Bisseger, Bas Ottevanger, Sedrik Ullebo, Felix Gall, Michel Ries, Ziga Jerman, Jaka Primozic.

Also it's a race where we can see several first year juniors fighting against big names for the first time. Especially watch out for Til Steiger and Michele Gazzoli, both can really surprise here.

Predition

A lot can happen in such a race as Roubaix but if Jasper Philipsen is lucky enough to avoid crashes and punctures in crucial part of the race he is the favorite.

Startlist