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Paris-Roubaix 2022: Who are the favourites?

Will Strickson
12 Apr 2022

The decisive points during the ‘Queen of the Classics’ and who you should back for victory in the women’s and men’s races

Legends made. Dreams crushed. History written. Seasons lost. Cobbles. Crashes. Punctures. Pain. Mud. Mayhem. Glory.

Paris-Roubaix is back again and we could not be more excited. Arguably the best race in the world and certainly the best one-day race, the Hell of the North always conjures up the best stories and images every year (provided it isn’t cancelled by a pandemic) and last season featured two of them for the first time.

Lizzie Deignan’s historic victory in the first Paris-Roubaix Femmes had a ballsy long range hit, several near misses and a near-humanisation of a chasing Marianne Vos.

Sonny Colbrelli’s win, meanwhile, was almost the opposite, with the Italian hanging on as favourites were lost in the mud, sitting on the wheels of big favourite Mathieu van der Poel and baby-faced assassin Florian Vermeersch before outsprinting them caked in mud and pulling out surely the greatest celebration modern cycling has seen.

Neither champion will be at this weekend’s races, sadly. Deignan is expecting her second child, while Colbrelli is recovering from a cardiac arrest he suffered at the Volta a Catalunya last month.

That means that two new riders will be getting their names in the history books (barring a miracle in the men’s race, at least). 

What’s more, with the weather forecast set to be glorious 16-degree sunshine in eastern France, the race itself is certain to look completely different to 2021. So who are the favourites?

Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2022 favourites

Lotte Kopecky

Photo: Strade Bianche

Lotte Kopecky is cycling’s hottest property right now. The Belgian champion’s victories in Strade Bianche and the Tour of Flanders exceeded even the hype of the Belgian media and catapulted her to the top echelon of the sport.

Despite winning those two hilly races, Kopecky isn’t a climber. Having come from the track, she is an absolute powerhouse, so Paris-Roubaix – especially a dry one – should suit her.

She’s also no stranger to cyclocross should the cobbles throw up any muddy surprises and her SD Worx team is filled to bursting with talent to help her out including Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, who is one to watch herself for overall victory, but should be deployed to work for Kopecky should they both be in the mix together.

She is the favourite for Saturday’s race.

Marianne Vos

Photo: Paris-Roubaix Femmes

Marianne Vos has to win Paris-Roubaix before she retires. Second to Lizzie Deignan last year, she looked imperious gliding over the cobbles during the late chase but the Brit held her off in the end.

Somehow still only 34 years old, the cyclocross world champion won’t care about the toughness of the cobbles and will certainly be there in the final shake-up barring disaster.

Not that there is a debate but winning this race will cement Vos’s place as women’s cycling’s greatest ever rider.

Trek-Segafredo hydra

Photo: Trek-Segafredo

Remove one head of the hydra and multiple spring up in its place. Reigning champion Lizzie Deignan won’t be defending her cobble at the weekend but Trek-Segafredo have an array of other riders that could win this race.

Elisa Longo Borghini, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Ellen van Dijk, Lucinda Brand and Elisa Balsamo are just those listed on the super-squad’s provisional startlist and they could all bring the title back home in Deignan’s absence.

And with so many cards to play, tactical attacks will be a huge part of their gameplan.

Grace Brown

Photo: FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope

Can FDJ take back-to-back wins in races without star rider Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig? After Marta Cavalli’s impressive Amstel Gold Race victory, the French outfit – with the best kit in pro cycling – would certainly like to think so.

Cavalli herself will rightly have more of a target on her back after Sunday’s display but their rider best suited to eastern France’s cobbles is Australian Grace Brown.

An immensely talented classics rider, Brown has put in several big performances over the cobbles of the Tour of Flanders in recent years and wasn’t at the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes due to injury. Debut delight could be afoot.

Outside shots

Photo: Plantur-Pura

Not everyone can make the shortlist and not everyone on the shortlist will have a good day. There’s also no telling how the race will pan out with crashes, mechanicals, punctures and positioning – it’s part of what makes it such a great race.

It would be foolish to write off names including UAE Team ADQ’s Marta Bastianelli and Movistar’s Emma Norsgaard who both finished in the top ten in October’s mud-fest.

And it’s worth looking out for Canyon-Sram’s star-studded lineup including Kasia Niewiadoma and Plantur-Pura’s team of cyclocross riders such as Belgian CX national champion Sanne Cant and recent Scheldeprijs top tenner Julie de Wilde.

Paris-Roubaix men’s 2022 favourites

Mathieu van der Poel

Photo: Chris Auld

The favourite. Mathieu van der Poel is the best classics rider of his generation and will add Paris-Roubaix to his ever-growing collection of Monument wins. Why not this year?

He had an off-season for the first time in his life and has looked scary ever since. Building off his third-place finish in 2021, he now knows how to win and won’t be dragging Sonny Colbrelli to the finish this time out.

Could he do the Flanders-Roubaix double?

Wout van Aert

Photo: Chris Auld

We’re remaining hopeful Wout van Aert has recovered from Covid in time to race – and compete – this weekend. Van Aert has looked absolutely supreme on a few days this season, but has sadly not been there for whatever reason in the bigger races.

Part of being a rider like Van Aert is that no one wants to take him to the finish so he’s struggled in recent big classics as he’s been expected to chase attacks alone. Roubaix may allow him to just stick to the front rather than follow digs.

Of course, the presence of his eternal rival above will not help his cause.

Filippo Ganna

Photo: Chris Auld

A dark horse or a natural Roubaix contender? Filippo Ganna has the biggest engine in the peloton and is constantly defying what is expected of a time-trial specialist.

With freedom to ride for himself and a team of highly capable classics specialists, he could be Ineos Grenadiers’ best chance of finally coming close to a Paris-Roubaix win.

It doesn’t matter how good the rest of these favourites are in a sprint, if Ganna puts out 1,000W over Carrefour de l’Arbre there won’t be anyone left with him.

Mads Pedersen

Photo: Chris Auld

Mads Pedersen is having a year. He’s been sprinting and climbing as good as he ever has and has found himself at the business end of all the biggest classics.

The former World Champion is on a revenge tour after Covid took away his season in the rainbow bands and injuries held him back last season. He’s going all out to prove he deserves his place in history and is well known for his standout performances in the toughest conditions like that day in Harrogate.

What better place to stake his claim than Roubaix?

Küng Küng Küng Stefan Küng Küng Stefan Stefan Küng

Photo: Groupama-FDJ

Somehow the big Swiss rider has become a cult hero in 2022. Stefan Küng has his own fanclub and incredibly catchy chant and he deserves the lot.

Easily written off as a TT man in the past, king Küng has been everpresent in the cobbled classics and will no doubt be on the offensive on Sunday.

He also has the added bonus of actually having a strong classics team now with Valentin Madouas storming to a podium in Flanders, so he could, should and probably will play that to his advantage.

Outside shots

Photo: Chris Auld

Sadly, despite the teasing, Tadej Pogačar won't be riding Paris-Roubaix this year. So, who else could challenge for their place in the famous showers.

Fred Wright put in an emormous shift in the Tour of Flanders to break through as a real threat over the cobbles and the little elevation and tougher pavé will absolutely work in his favour in the Hell of the North.

One man that probably deserves to be higher on the list is Florian Vermeersch, who rode to a fantastic second place in October in front of Mathieu van der Poel, he’ll hope to use teammate Victor Campenaerts’ reputation as a handy springboard to save Lotto Soudal from relegation with a huge win.

Also shining last year was Israel-Premier Tech’s Canadian national champion Guillaume Boivin, who shocked the world with his performance until a late mechanical dropped him out of the running for the top places. He nonetheless came home an impressive ninth.

Should Van Aert not be Jumbo-Visma’s main man, there are plenty of suitors to take on the leadership, with Christophe Laporte, Mike Teunissen and Nathan Van Hooydonck capable of coming away with a result.

Team DSM could be one to spring a big shock, with the struggling squad debuting new technology that allows riders to alter tyre pressure on the go without stopping. Win number two for John Degenkolb?

Then there’s little old QuickStep Alpha Vinyl. Remember when they were good at one-day races? The heady days of inner tubes. The bliss of constant punctures on the cobbles.

Yves Lampaert was the best rider in last year’s race but the team’s lack of tubeless tyres let him down. He’ll be hoping for revenge, as will Kasper Asgreen after other mechanical issues stopped him getting in the front group at the Tour of Flanders. Have the mighty Belgians dropped the ball? Not for me to say.

Finally, Ivan García Cortina will win something big one day.