• 2018 Paris-Roubaix champion Peter Sagan at the unveiling of his victory plaque in the famous Paris-Roubaix showers ahead of the 2019 edition (Getty)
We take a quick look at some of the top faves for Sunday's Hell of the North, live, free and in HD on SBS Viceland and streaming at Cycling Central via SBS On Demand.
By
Cycling Central

Source:
Cyclingnews, UAE Team Emirates, Deceuninck–Quick-Step, CCC Team
12 Apr - 3:34 PM  UPDATED 12 Apr - 10:49 PM

Peter Sagan - still the bookies' favourite 

WATCH Peter Sagan win the 2018 Paris-Roubaix

Sickness and a lack of strength at Milan-San Remo (where he still managed fourth) and some other races during the classics season sees some pundits writing off the defending champion. 

Perhaps even the man himself. 

"I'm not 100 per cent like before, like three years ago, but every year is different and I have to just take it," Sagan told Cyclingnews after last weekend's Tour of Flanders where he finished 11th - with the main bunch of favourites.  

Some suggest he's holding back form for Liège-Bastogne-Liège at the end of the month, which Bora-hansgrohe directeur sportif Patxi Vila dismissed. 

“Milan-San Remo, Flanders and Roubaix were three big big goals, so I’d be lying if I said we’d moved everything back. That’s not true,” Vila told Cyclingnews after Flanders. “We wanted him to be 100 per cent from last week, from Milan-San Remo to the end of the Classics.”

“We are here to win and if we don’t it’s disappointing. We’ve been working for almost six months for this. It’s disappointing, but it’s sport and we need to move forward.”

Sagan remains typically upbeat. 

"The next classics are coming and I'm very confident I can get better, because I lost a lot when I got sick. I think it's coming, but we will see.

"I just want relax after (Flanders) and then we're going to think about Roubaix in two or three days."

Besides, the glue is literally only just drying on his 2018 Paris-Roubaix shower plaque. 

So. Never. Write. Off. Sagan. The bookies haven't - he remains the favourite.

Bora-hansgrohe for 2019 Paris-Roubaix: Maciej Bodnar, Marcus Burghardt, Daniel Oss, Juraj Sagan, Peter Sagan, Andreas Schillinger, Rudiger Selig.

Greg van Avermaet

2017's victor wants a second cobble. The Belgian's best performance at Flanders came in 2014 and 2017 where he finished second, so a 10th there with the other favourites last weekend is no indicator of the strong form he utilised for podium finishes at this year's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (2nd) and the E3 BinckBank Classic (3rd). 

He sees Paris-Roubaix going a little differently to its Belgian Monumental cousin. 

"I don’t think we will see such a big group in the final so, I hope to race aggressively and be fighting for the win.

"My form is something I can control and I’m really happy with how I have raced so far this season and my sensations, so I’m looking forward to Sunday.

"I love Paris-Roubaix. There is no race like (it). Obviously, I make no secret of my desire to win the Tour of Flanders but Paris-Roubaix is a really special race for me. It was even before I won in 2017 and of course, since then it holds a special place in my career as my first and, so far, only Monument win. I would love to win it again."

CCC for 2019 Paris-Roubaix: Kamil Gradek, Michael Schär, Greg Van Avermaet, Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Łukasz Wiśniowski.

Oliver Naesen

Despite never finishing higher than a strong 12th at last year’s edition, Naesen gets a mention here purely because the 2019 Milan-San Remo runner-up finished seventh at Flanders last weekend while recovering from a bout of bronchitis. Hard to discount.

Ag2R for 2019 Paris-Roubaix: Stijn Vandenbergh, Alexis Gougeard, Julien Duval, Oliver Naesen, Silvain Dillier, Nico Denz, Dorian Godon

Alexander Kristoff 

The 2015 Tour of Flanders champion and its third finisher last week, plus his Gent-Wevelgem win pushes Kristoff into the thinking of those pondering a favourites list, despite his best Paris-Roubaix finish coming in 2013 with a ninth (and a string of DNFs). 

It is also why his UAE general manager Joxean Matxin is optimistic. 

"Our wish is to close the northern classics campaign with a significant result. Our goal is clear, a victory in the Hell of the North and just the desire to do well.

"Kristoff will captain our team. He has been very effective so far and wants to set the record straight in Paris-Roubaix after a fall last year prevented him from being a sure protagonist.

"We will have riders at his side to offer a great contribution and a Fernando Gaviria who, despite debuting in the race, has the necessary talent for to go strongly."

UAE for 2019 Paris-Roubaix: Tom Bohli, Sven Erik Bystrøm, Fernando Gaviria, Alexander Kristoff, Vegard Stake Laengen, Marco Marcato, Jasper Philipsen

Zdeněk Štybar 

The born-and-bred in Belgian team - even those on the team not from Belgium - lost Flanders last weekend. That's enough for some (mostly Belgians) to brand the Wolfpack's classics season a failure. 

But not only did gallant Gallic Julian Alaphilippe win a Monument for Deceuninck-Quick Step (and Strade Bianche) at Milan-San Remo and Kasper Asgreen finish second at Flanders but Štybar took to the top step at the E3 BinckBank Classic and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this season.

That's some blistering form. 

The 33-year-old is strong at the Hell of the North, finishing second in 2017 and 2015 and in the top 10, five times. 

“We did a good race in Flanders and at the end of the day taking second with Kasper was a nice result," Stybar said.

"Unfortunately, I couldn’t feature in the final due to my illness, which began troubling me since Thursday, but I hope things will be completely different on Sunday.

"It’s a pity I had this setback, because I worked hard to be in shape for these races and I was confident I could win De Ronde. It wasn’t the case, but maybe, and hopefully, things will be different in Paris-Roubaix, a race that suits our team and where we have an impressive record." 

His team will also field 2017 Tour of Flanders winner Philippe Gilbert and last weekend's runner-up Asgreen. 

Deceuninck-Quick Step for 2019 Paris-Roubaix: Kasper Asgreen, Tim Declercq, Philippe Gilbert, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert, Florian Sénéchal and Zdenek Stybar

John Degenkolb

The 2015 Paris-Roubaix champion has the form as runner-up at Gent-Wevelgem, and Trek-Segafredo has the team but they're just lacking a certain something at the moment, according to team general manager Luca Guercilena.

“It is a big disappointment for us because, obviously, this is not the level we want to be. Now, we need to turn the page and look at next week for Paris-Roubaix...we have to," he told Cyclingnews. 

"This is the same group of riders that we had last season, and last season we were always in the top 10 and even second in Flanders. We have a group of very professional riders. This season is not going how we wanted, and we will try to make it better next Sunday and then we will have a very long season in front of us.”

After the German's resurrection style win on last year's Paris-Roubaix Tour de France stage, victory on Sunday would equally be the stuff of legend. 

Degenkolb's fairytale
It was fitting John Degenkolb won over the cobbles in Stage 9 of the Tour de France, as no one in the peloton has endured a rockier road over the last few years.

Trek-Segafredo for 2019 Paris-Roubaix: John Degenkolb, Jasper Stuyven, Mads Pedersen, Koen de Kort, Ryan Mullen, Edward Theuns, Alex Kirsch 

Pretty in pink

Last weekend's Tour of Flanders surprise winner Alberto Bettiol said to expect more pink at the front of races. So don't be surprised if you see Taylor Phinney and Sep Vanmarcke feature at the Paris-Roubaix pointy end. 

Classics specialist Vanmarcke has finished seven times at Paris-Roubaix, four of those times in the top 10 including finishing second in 2013 to Fabian Cancellara. The veteran performed strongly for Bettiol last weekend.

 

Taylor Phinney has only managed an eighth in 2018 as his Paris-Roubaix best, but he's got the engine and as Bettiol's win demonstrated, the team has the tactical nous and now, most of all, the belief. 

EF Education-First for 2019 Paris-Roubaix roster TBC. 

Cross-purposes for van Aert?

Mathieu van der Poel's team didn't nab a Paris-Roubaix wildcard so Wout van Aert flies the starry cyclo-cross, crossover flag alone on Sunday. The world champion on the grass and mud finished fourth last weekend, fantastically coming back from a crash while Van Aert finished 14th.

WATCH: Van der Poel’s ridiculous Tour of Flanders comeback

“It was a really tough race," the 24-year-old said after Flanders. "This was the best we could do. I didn’t have much left in the end."

Jumbo-Visma director is remaining upbeat as he looks forward to Paris-Roubaix, which van Aert finished 13th on debut last year. 

"We have a young team and we cannot expect miracles," he said. "As a team, we were not as strong today as in recent weeks. That is a pity, but next week we will try again on the way to Roubaix."

Jumbo-Visma for 2019 Paris-Roubaix: Wout van Aert, Danny van Poppel, Timo Roosen, Mike Teunissen, Maarten wynants, Pascan Eenkhoorn, Taco van der Hoorn

What can Trentin do? 

Matteo Trentin certainly has some form this season but without Luke Durbridge and Alex Edmondson (plus Mathew Hayman now in different Mitchelton-Scott kit) and with a young, valiant squad perhaps he will lack some support. 

But the Italian wants to finish his respectable classics season on a larger high. 

"At Flanders I didn’t have a good day," he said. "I hope it was only that day and let’s see if this Sunday will be a little bit better for me.

“The transition from the classics so far to Roubaix is like going to rock concerts and then the next day going to a heavy metal concert. It’s more of the same but more rough, more hard and even though there’s no climbs, it’s fully flat, it just makes you exhausted.

“Punctures and crashes are obviously the thing to avoid. If you manage that and have good legs, then it should be all good.”

Director Laurenzo Lapage says the terrain of Paris-Roubaix will better suit Sunday's squad. 

“Roubaix is flatter but with all of the cobblestone sectors, it’s a completely different race than Flanders. Flanders is more for the explosive types with all the climbs, so I think Roubaix fits better to our guys.

“After Flanders, Matteo was disappointed for himself so I think it’s a good motivation coming into Roubaix. We have Matteo but also Bauer, who has showed in the past races he is in really good form so we also have to give him a chance.

Mitchelton-Scott for 2019 Paris-Roubaix: Edoardo Affini, Jack Bauer, Michael Hepburn, Luka Mezgec, Callum Scotson, Robert Stannard, Matteo Trentin

And what about Heino? 

He's finished sixth, twice (2016, 2009). 

If Mathew Hayman's career-twilight victory copped us in the feels in 2016, what would a HH win do to us? 

Bahrain-Merida for 2019 Paris-Roubaix: Heinrich Haussler, Matej Mohorič, Marcel Sieberg, Ivan García Cortina, Phil Bauhaus, Kristijan Koren, Jan Tratnik

Watch Paris-Roubaix on Sunday 14 April 2019, LIVE, FREE and in HD streaming online via the SBS On Demand app from 6.15pm AEST and on SBS VICELAND from 9.30pm. 

Can't wait until then? Catch the highlights from the 2018 edition:

And hear who the Zwift Cycling Central podcast crew favour: