Wiggins Ready For Last Road Hurrah At Paris-Roubaix

Roubaix_2014
By Barnaby CHESTERMAN

Compi├Ęgne, France, April 11, 2015 (AFP) – Bradley Wiggins is ready to give
his all in the Paris-Roubaix on Sunday in what will be his last road race for
Team Sky.

The reigning Olympic and world time-trial champion, former Tour de France
winner and four-time Olympic gold medallist, has set this race as his final
objective before a return to the track and a tilt at a fifth Games crown in
Rio next year.

So far in his career, Wiggins has almost always achieved everything he’s
set out to do.

However, triumphing at the ‘Hell of the North’ at the end of 253km,
including 52.7km of perilous cobbles, is not something one can take for
granted, according to Wiggins.

“My preparation for this race has been completely different from previous
goals,” he said.

“Paris-Roubaix is not as quantifiable. You can be in the best-possible
shape but still finish last in Roubaix.

“If you have a crash or a puncture at the wrong time, it’s over. It’s not
like the lottery, because you have to make your own luck and get yourself in a
position where you don’t crash, but that good fortune does play a major part.

“If it was a simple time-trial, I think I could win it, but it’s not.”

Having won four Olympic titles (three on the track and one time-trial),
seven world titles (six on the track, one TT) and the 2012 Tour de France, as
well as major stage races such as Criterium du Dauphine (2011 and 2012),
Paris-Nice (2012), Tour de Romandie (2012) and even the Tour of Britain
(2013), claiming victory here would be the icing on the cake of an amazing
career.

And Wiggins says he is fully prepared, despite his crash at the Tour of
Flanders last week.

“At the start of the week I was pretty beaten up, but I’ve recovered quite
quickly and have had good people looking after me,” he said.

“The crash put me on the back foot for the rest of the race last Sunday,
but I tried to survive it with this Sunday in mind.”

He added: “Mentally, it’s a complete contrast from last year. I know I can
be competitive at Paris-Roubaix now, whereas this time last year I was only
trying to convince myself that I could do it.”

– Fierce competition –

Wiggins says Sky’s big advantage over their competitors is strength in
numbers with E3 Harelbeke winner Geraint Thomas and two-time Omloop Het
Nieuswblad laureate Ian Stannard joining him as joint leaders of the team.

Even without injured duo Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen, the competition
will be fierce, notably from Flanders winner Alexander Kristoff and last
year’s champion in Roubaix Niki Terpstra.

Norwegian Kristoff is the man of the moment having also won the 210km
Scheldeprijs in midweek and triumphing at Three Days of De Panne last week —
winning three out of the four stages, the other being claimed by Wiggins.

But Terpstra has also shown good form, coming second at Flanders and
Gent-Wevelgem the week before.

He sees Kristoff and Wiggins as the two men to beat.

“One thing is for sure, if I want to win, I have to get to the Veldrome
without those two,” said the Dutchman.

He will also have strong support from his team in the form of Czech Zdenek
Stybar, although in the absence of Boonen, the Etixx-Quick Step riders have
often been accused of riding against. rather than with, each other.

Belgium will provide several contenders as usual with Sep Vanmarcke looking
to make up for his disappointing display at Flanders and Greg Van Avermaet
aiming to step up from his regular bridesmaid’s role.

In Johan Vansummeren they also have the only previous winner in the field
other than Terpstra.

German sprinter John Degenkolb, like Kristoff, will be someone the rest are
hoping to drop before reaching the Velodrome while on talent alone, if not
recent performances, the enigma Peter Sagan cannot be discounted.

It’s all set for a gripping six hours in the saddle on Sunday.