Van der Poel-Van Aert pulse in a Hell without Pogacar

With the permission of a absent Tadej Pogacar, that he will have time in the future to think about this challenge, two of the three tenors of cycling will play their symphony this Sunday (10:30, Eurosport 1; 13:45, TDP) in the feared ‘Hell of the North’, the Paris-Roubaix. the 120th edition of the French race, the third monument of the season, is presented with distribution of favoritism between Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, although each one with its particular circumstances. The Dutchman is life insurance in big events, where he is used to giving the best version of himself. It grows. The Belgian usually runs against, crouching, without taking the initiative. He cringes.

That has been the tonic of what we have been doing in classics, with an imperial Van der Poel in Milan-San Remo and tour of flanders, where only an alien Pogacar could with him, while Van Aert raised his arms in the E3 Saxo Classic true to his style: knowing how to suffer on the climbs to finish off the sprint. In Paris-Roubaix, the Jumbo player will not have to face cobbled walls, everything will be flat, but it will 256 km with 29 cobblestone sectors (54.5 km in total) in which neither he nor his archrival have ever succeeded. They do know what it’s like to get on the podium: Mathieu did it in 2021 (3rd) and Wout, in 2022 (2nd). In terms of fitness, in addition to the mental plane, also that of Alpecin seems to start with an advantage according to the latest statements by Van Aert in Sporza, where he predicted little confidence for the race: “I’m not limited, but I don’t feel very good. It’s a shame. I hope to be ready to race, but I have knee and rib problems. i fell harder (in Flanders) than I thought at first.”

It remains to be seen if Van Aert is capable of overcoming these problems along a track that this year presents small variations compared to past editions. Specifically, we will see them in the anteroom of the Trouée d’Arenberg, with the return of a Haspres sector (km 139.6) who had been absent since the spring of 2004. From there the hardness will start until reaching the culmination with the classic ‘five-star’ sections: the Trouée d’Arenberg (km 161.3), Mons-en-Pévèle (km 208) and the Carrefour de l’Arbre (239, 5 km). The runners let themselves be seen in recent days, as part of the recognition that all of them do in the previous days, with special attention to a Mons-en-Pévèle muddy that forced the operators to arduous cleaning tasks and reconditioning. The probability of rain for Sunday is low (around 30%), but if it appears it will be an element, as on other occasions, that will revolutionize the race.

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There is life beyond the ‘beasts’

And the good thing, despite the show that they always guarantee, is that things don’t end with Van der Poel and Van Aert. Among those who have bought many tickets to join the party is Mads Pedersen, a real alternative to the tyranny presented by the stellar duo. The Dane, world champion in 2019 than in the The next Giro d’Italia aspires to complete its collection of victories in the three great tours, He still does not know what it is to conquer a monument, but his top speed, courage and recent performance in the Tour of Flanders (3rd) place him very high in the stakes.

The list of candidates is completed by defending champion, a Dylan van Baarle that he can assume the leadership of the Jumbo if his leader does not have the day, and a Filippo Ganna who comes from shining in Milan-San Remo (2nd) and who knows what it is to win this race in the under-23 category. The fall that forced him to retire in Ghent-Wevelgem two weeks ago should be forgotten, just as we cannot rule out men like Stefan Küng, Kasper Asgreen, Matej Mohoric, Arnaud de Lie, Matteo Trentin or Mikkel Bjerg. In Spanish key, Iván García Cortina and Oier Lazkano, who signed brilliant performances in E3 (5th) and Across Flanders (2nd), respectively, have earned the right to dream. Let the stones tremble…

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