"Roubaix is the Monument where anything can happen"

Our underdogs are raring to race across the cobbles at the Hell of the North

April 6, 2023

The cobbled classics will come to a close at Paris-Roubaix.

On Sunday, our racers will compete with the bold, creative spirit that they have used to animate the classics ever since Opening Weekend.

Tom Scully, Owain Doull, Jens Keukeleire, Jonas Rutsch, James Shaw, Marijn van den Berg, and Julius van den Berg will race Roubaix for us. They might be underdogs, but they are raring to race across the worst cobbles in northern France.

The work that these riders have done for our team this spring has been crucial. Sports director Andreas Klier heralds the character that they have shown during our classics campaign. Neilson Powless’s fifth-place finish at the Tour of Flanders and podium at Dwaars door Vlaanderen would not have been possible without the work that his teammates did for him. You can lose a classic in a minute with 100 kilometers left to race and again a minute later and again a minute later. Go into a cobbled berg too far back and it’s done. To get to the finale and compete for a result, a leader needs teammates who will give everything to get him through dozens of decisive moments earlier in the race.

“If you want to have a top five, you need people who help. If you want to be on the podium, you need people to help. We have riders who always do this,” Andreas says. “Maybe 85% of the time, their work is not visible; maybe 95% of the time it is not visible, and only 5% of the time you see it, but the work that our riders give is always the same. For the last three weeks, our racers showed character and fought to the line, which set the tone and allowed us to be third here and fifth here. I’m confident that Roubaix will fall into the same pattern. If everyone shows character, then many things are possible.”

Sports director Sebastian Langeveld agrees. Neilson Powless won’t be at the start on Sunday, as he is preparing for the Ardennes classics. Alberto Bettiol will also miss Roubaix due to sickness. That means that the racers who normally ride for them will have more freedom at Roubaix. They are going to work together and make the most of every chance they get.

“For a lot of these guys, for 60% or 70% of the year, they work for someone else,” Sebastian says. “From Opening Weekend onwards, we were in the picture. With Dwars door Vlaanderen and Flanders, when Neilson and Mikkel came in, we were really in the picture, and let’s hope that we can finish it off now in Roubaix on a positive note. Bike racing is about taking opportunities and I think for a lot of these guys Sunday is a really nice opportunity to do something.”

Our riders cannot wait.

Jonas Rutsch finished 11th in his first Paris-Roubaix. Rolling onto the velodrome, after racing over 260 kilometers in the rain over the Roubaix cobbles is an experience he will never forget.

“I was still in the race for fifth place and then I was so nervous,” Jonas says. “It is hard to describe that with words. You go in there and you don’t feel anything anymore and you just go. It definitely is a goosebumps moment. Roubaix is my favorite race. When I start training in winter, and it is snowing and cold and wet in Germany, I just think about this race. It is what I have been training for all winter long. I just want to do the best possible race.”

Owain Doull has done huge turns for our team all spring. He thinks that he and his teammates could surprise a lot of people at Roubaix. They might not be favourites, but if they get in the right move, he knows that they have the strength and grit to go the distance.

“The early break in Roubaix is probably one of the best breaks that you can be in,” Owain says. “You do yourself a massive favor there. If you look at it historically, winners have come from the early break, or gone top ten or on the podium, so it is a credible tactic. Roubaix is the Monument where anything can happen. In some of the classics, if you go in the break, like E3 or the early, early break in Flanders, the chances of you hanging on to actually get a result are small, but with the nature of Roubaix, it is a more viable option. It is just weighing up how much you are going to spend on it, because you could spend a lot of your pennies at the start and get nothing back from it. Roubaix is a race where you have to be really flexible and just adapt as best you can to the race situation and the scenario that presents itself.”

Tom Scully is determined to be at the front going into the first crucial sectors. The tough New Zealander is a natural on the cobbles. As an U23, he finished third in the espoir Roubaix. He has since developed into one of the best domestiques in the business. From January to October, Tom turns himself inside out for his teammates. He has played a huge role for us at the classics. He can’t wait for the flag to drop.

“It is not very often that you find yourself in this situation, where you will you have that freedom to take on a big race like this, so I have put a lot of energy into it, and over the years of learning how to ride Roubaix and the training that you need to do for it, when the opportunity comes around, it is a good one to have. We will try to get through Arenberg with as many guys as possible and then take the situation on from there and try to get ahead of the race. When we get to that velodrome, we’ll close the book on the 2023 classics. And then you’ve got another 12 months to get another shot. That’s what it’s all about at these one-day races. You’ve got to hit it on the day. That’s what makes them so special.”

Seize the day, team. Anything can happen.

No matter what, we’re going to be cheering for you all the way to the velodrome in Roubaix.

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