Tour de Yorkshire 2015 Preview – Contenders/Outsiders

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Tour de Yorkshire 2015 Logo

The first ever Tour de Yorkshire takes place this weekend aiming to refocus some of the attention it received during the Tour de France. The three days cover most of the major Yorkshire towns with start/finishes in the Tour destinations of Leeds and York. With a number of big names racing it should capture of the imagination of a British public wanting to see more of their favourite riders.

Tour de Yorkshire Stages

Stage 1 – Bridlington › Scarborough (174km) – Flat
Stage 2 – Selby › York (174km) – Flat
Stage 3 – Wakefield › Leeds (167km) – Medium Hills

Marcel Kittel Tour de France Yorkshire Sprint Win Leeds

Tour de Yorkshire Contenders

The nature of the race dictates that a powerful sprinter will probably win the race as all three stages have the potential to be bunch sprints.
If it does come down to sprints, it’s hard to see anyone beating Marcel Kittel – stage 2 looks like it was tailor made for him and it’ll be up to everyone else to drop him before the finish.
British rider Ben Swift has been doing well at this 2.1 level of races this year and managed 13th in Milan – San Remo. He is the sort of powerful sprinter that shouldn’t have a problem on any of the 3 stages.
Greg Van Avermaet falls into the same type of rider, he should play a part in all 3 sprint finishes with the third stage in particular offering him a chance to do something different for the overall.

In the next rung down of sprinter quality are names such as Matteo Pelucchi, Moreno Hofland, Gerald Ciolek, Ben Hermans, Julien Simon and Steele Von Hoff. Any of these are capable of winning sprints on their day but the jury is out as to whether they will be in the mix on each of the 3 stages.

2015 Tour de France Yorkshire Sheep

Von Hoff won the Rutland Classic earlier this week which shows decent form. Julien Simon has a number of top 20 finishes at WorldTour level this season which means he should have the capability to get top 10s here.
Hofland had three good results during Paris – Nice and Ciolek has a 2nd place on a Tirreno – Adriatico stage this year.

The final group are big names that will be racing but have limited chance of winning the overall race. Thomas Voeckler, Bradley Wiggins and Samuel Sanchez will all be racing but apart from maybe a do or die breakaway from Vockler, none of them have a realistic chance of winning due to the lack of a proper summit finish.

2015 Tour de Yorkshire will revisit York after 2014 Tour de France

Tour de Yorkshire Outsiders

Jean-Pierre Drucker performed well at the Driedaagse West Vlaanderen race being consistently well placed over the race. Stage 3 could be his.
Brits Owain Doull & Chris Opie are in contention – Doull in particular has done very well in 2015 with lots of top tens at the 2.2/2.1 level that the Tour of Yorkshire is pitched at. He’ll also have Bradley Wiggins as a teammate.
Chris Opie finished second in the Rutland Classic earlier in the week against not quite the same level of a field – a sign of form and could well perform this weekend.

2015 Tour de Yorkshire aims to reach heights of 2014 Tour de France

Not France…Yorkshire

Tour de Yorkshire Prediction

1 – Marcel Kittel
2 – Ben Swift
3 – Greg Van Avermaet

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Tour de Yorkshire 2015 Preview – Contenders/Outsiders was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Tour de Romandie 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile

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2015 Tour de Romandie Logo

The Tour de Romandie is set amongst Switzerland’s western region and in recent years, thanks to Team Sky, has become part of the practice run for the Tour de France. With a team time trial as well as an individual time trial, it favours those GC riders that do well against the clock as well as strong teams that can keep their leaders out of trouble on the hurdles throughout the week.
The queen stage coming just before the final time trial will see who has the early season legs amongst the elite GC riders and notch up the first psychological win.

Tour de Romandie Stages

Stage 1 – Vallée de Joux › Juraparc (19.2k) – Team Time Trial
Stage 2 – Apples › Saint-Imier (166.1km) – Medium Hills
Stage 3 – Moutier › Porrentruy (173.2km) – Medium Hills
Stage 4 – La Neuveville › Fribourg (169.8km) – Medium Hills
Stage 5 – Fribourg › Champex-Lac (166.1km) – Summit Finish
Stage 6 – Lausanne › Lausanne (17.3km) – Time Trial

Tour de Romandie Podium

Tour de Romandie Contenders

Chris Froome is the clear favourite here having won the previous two years and more or less dominating proceedings. A strong Sky team consisting of most the usual Sky Tour de France riders should keep him well protected.
Following the Tour theme, Vicenzo Nibali will be trying to show his form, although a 5th place here last year didn’t hamper him too much as he went on to win the Tour de France.
Nairo Quintana is also here in preparation for another Grand Tour bid, he’s the best climber of the elite GC guys and his time trialling is surprisingly decent but not quite on Froome’s level. A definite contender.

There are plenty of other contenders who will also feature in this race as well as in a couple of months time during the Tour de France.
Rigoberto Uran isn’t quite in that top bracket of GC contender but isn’t far off either. With the likes of Tony Martin powering along the Etixx-Quickstep team time trial train, he won’t lose much time there but may do in the final time trial.
Rui Costa did well at Paris – Nice earlier this season, coming in 4th. In this similar one week race, he can repeat this but his time trialling skills and those of his team will probably leave him too much time to make up in the mountains.

Tour de Romandie Hills

Tinkoff-Saxo will be relying on Rafal Majka for a good GC result – his 6th at least year’s Giro and the KoM jersey at the Tour de France marked him out for greater things but so far this year he’s not had the results to back this up.
After his third place in the Tour de France last year, FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot will be bidding to repeat that performance and can show his early form here. More of a climber than an all-round GC contender – he will aim to do well on the queen stage summit finish.

Ag2r’s Carlos Betancur will find himself in a similar position but as a most explosive climber, at his best, could threaten the overall podium. After a mixed 2014, it will be interesting to see which version of him turns up.
On the next rung down of quality we have Ryder Hesjedal who hasn’t had too many strong results since winning the Giro d’Italia but it’s still hard to discount him. A powerful support team will keep him out of trouble.

Tour de Romandie Mountains

Jurgen Van den Broeck has always been there or thereabouts without really getting that elite GC result. Expect to see him on the fringes of the top ten.
Frenchman Pierre Rolland will look to do well on the summit finish queen stage but his time trialling skills will hamper his bid for a very high overall position.

Former Tour de Romandie winner Simon Spilak cannot be ruled out, it’s been five years since he won here but finishing second to Chris Froome two years in a row is a sign he takes this race seriously.

Tour de Romandie Team Sky Train

Tour de Romandie Outsiders

Reto Hollenstein – The Swiss rider’s home race, he’s being groomed as IAM’s potential GC leader and the right combination of having the team behind him and riding through home may lead to a solid result overall.
Ramunas Navardauskas – Definitely one with a chance of a stage win, the powerful Lithuanian excels on uphill sprints after tough rolling profiles.
Simon Yates – I keep tipping him to do something great…5th overall in the recent Tour of the Basque Country shows he’s on the cusp.

Tour de Romandie Prediction

1 – Chris Froome
2 – Nairo Quintana
3 – Vicenzo Nibali
4 – Rigoberto Uran
5 – Rui Costa

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Tour de Romandie 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Liege Bastogne Liege 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile

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Liege Bastogne Liege 2015 Logo

Liege Bastogne Liege Profile

Liege Bastogne Liege 2015 Profile

Liege Bastogne Liege is the finale of the Spring Classics and is somewhat similar to the previous classic at Fleche Wallonne in that it has a hilly parcours with a climb at the end. The key difference however is that this climb can be won by those more punchy powerful climbers rather than lighter guys on the steeper Muy de Huy.

Liege Bastogne Liege

Liege Bastogne Liege Contenders

A similar list of contenders means that one of Valverde or Kwiatkowski must be considered the favourite after recent results. Both have won important races recently and can surely repeat that in this race too.

Other riders however have targeted this race specifically – Philippe Gilbert is one, who despite dropping out of Fleche Wallonne after a crash stands a good chance here.
Dan Martin is another good shout having won here in 2013, he came very close to winning here again last year but crashed on what was pretty much the final corner. He can repeat his win if he can cast aside the bad luck.
Joaquim Rodriguez is always a contender in this sort of race, often teaming up well with Dani Moreno in a powerful one two attack. After two second places, he will be gunning for the win.

Liege Bastogne Liege 2013 Dan Martin distances Joaquim Rodriguez

Last year’s winner Simon Gerrans will be racing, but after being seemingly injured ever since Mark Cavendish took him down in the 2014 Tour de France it’s probable his condition will prevent a genuine attempt for another victory.

The young Dutch pairing of Bauke Mollema and Tom-Jelle Slagter remain on the cusp of that one career defining result. They finished 5th and 6th last year and provided they come through unscathed should find themselves in the top ten without too much trouble.

Liege Bastogne Liege 2013 Dan Martin wins

2014 World Champion Rui Costa will be racing, a solid Paris-Nice and Amstel Gold Race means he has the form to challenge for a podium spot.

The punchy finish will suit French rider Tony Gallopin who has been in exceptional form with top ten finishes Paris – Nice, Milan – San Remo, Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold. Built in a similar mould to Phillipe Gilbert, he can also finish highly placed.

The Tour de France warmups will continue with Vicenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana in attendance, it doesn’t look like Chris Froome will be racing after coming off on Wednesday.

Liege Bastogne Liege 2014 Dan Martin crashes

Liege Bastogne Liege Outsiders

I’m still backing Simon Yates, the finish suits him and with duo-leader status with Michael Albasini he will have the free reign to get a result.
Benoit Vaugrenard will almost certainly not be mentioned in pre-race previews but does have four top-15 placings here. A decent outsider as FDJ don’t feature too much this time of year.
It’s hard to work out which of Sky’s riders will be given the full backing, especially as their line-up hasn’t been full confirmed as yet but I would love to see Nicolas Roche attacking up the final climb with Dan Martin as they distance all others.

Liege Bastogne Liege Prediction

1 – Kwiatkowski
2 – Valverde
3 – Gilbert

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Liege Bastogne Liege 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

How to repair a snapped aluminium dropout on a carbon bike…hopefully (Part 1)

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I was out riding earlier this week and suddenly the back end felt like it was wobbling around, I put it down to having a different tyre on that was pumped right up but the feeling persisted. Eventually 7 and a half miles out, I got off and checked it out properly.

Turns out there was a clear crack through the drive side dropout area that meant the chainstay was pretty much hanging loose and flexing everytime I pedalled. With no option, I had to nurse it home by riding it back through the city trying to avoid all potholes and look for the smoothest part of the road. From behind apparently it was like my back wheel was wagging like a tail – each time I stopped pedalling I could hear and feel the wheel rubbing on the brakes, effectively keeping it upright.

With limited options, I’ve decided to expoxy the crack and then wrap carbon fibre tow around the whole area in an attempt to reconnect and brace the joint.

Enjoy the pictures of the repair!

The initial damage

Screw out, yup, the split is all the way through

Broken part removed for cleaning

Here it is..a light bit of sanding

Beautifully clean and sanded

Epoxy time!

Screws back in and more epoxy added – it’s probably technically rideable in this state but it wouldn’t put up with too much stress.
Next step – Carbon fibre!

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How to repair a snapped aluminium dropout on a carbon bike…hopefully (Part 1) was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

La Fleche Wallonne 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile

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2015 La Fleche Wallonne Logo

La Fleche Wallonne is one of the key Ardennes Classics taking place in Belgium each year. The finale takes place on a circuit with two warmup climbs before the finish on the Muur de Huy which produces some fantastic finishes as the world’s best battle it out to time their attacks on the hill to perfection. Many of the best cyclists have won here such as Kubler, Poulidor, Merckx, Zoetmelk, Moser, Hinault, Fignon, Criquielion and Jalabert – a testament to the quality of the race.

La Fleche Wallonne Profile

2015 la fleche wallonne profile

La Fleche Wallonne Contenders

Alejandro Valverde is the obvious favourite for this race being the only double winner in the field, with one of those being last year. He has been there or thereabouts this year but may have returned to his habit of finishing on the podium (e.g. Strade Bianche).
Joaquim Rodriguez won Fleche Wallonne in 2012 and is always a threat on this sort of hilly finish. He won the overall in the Tour of the Basque Country two weeks ago so is clearly in great form going into this race.

2015 La Fleche Wallonne

Philippe Gilbert won here in his spectacular year of 2011, he’s not quite in the same form but a dig at the finish of Amstel Gold last weekend shows his ambition.
Dan Martin favours this type of race and has come close in recent years with a 2nd and a 4th.
World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski won Amstel Gold with a great sprint finish last weekend and just missed out on Paris-Nice, it wouldn’t be hard to see him repeat that performance on Wednesday as the form rider.
Bauke Mollema finished 4th in this race last year and came 2nd overall in this year’s Tirreno – Adriatico. 55th in last weekend’s Amstel Gold may be a bad sign however.
Former world champion Rui Costa doesn’t have a good previous result to bank on here but is the sort of punchy climber who stands a chance at the final of Fleche Wallonne. His 4th place in Amstel Gold shows he has the form to be a contender.

2015 La Fleche Wallonne Muur de Huy

There is an interesting Tour de France warm-up aspect to Fleche Wallonne with Nairo Quintana, Vicenzo Nibali and Chris Froome all lining up. They may contend for the win or they may be jokers in the pack attacking early on the final climb to assist others.

2015 La Fleche Wallonne Muur de Huy Turn

Then there’s the rest – either super domestiques or team leaders. Carlos Betancur did well in 2013 but hasn’t pushed on quite as much as we thought he could after a dodgy 2014. Sky’s Sergio Henao was 2nd in 2013 but also had a underwhelming 2014 and questions over blood values. Dani Moreno won here in 2013 but his role is never quite clear with Rodriguez racing, he’s a great plan B. The Dutch pair of Tom-Jelle Slagter and Wilco Kelderman can do well with Slagter finishing 5th last year and Kelderman in good form this year. Oldest man in the race, Rinaldo Nocentini often does well on an uphill finish such as the Muur de Huy. Former Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez has three top ten finishes at Fleche Wallonne and will work closely with Gilbert. And finally, Rafal Majka will be doing a rare one-day race, it will be interesting to see if he makes an appearance on the Muur de Huy.

2015 La Fleche Wallonne Muur de Huy Andy Shleck

La Fleche Wallonne Outsiders

Julian Arredondo is a decent climber who won the King of the Mountains jersery in last year’s Giro, he also finished just outside the top ten in the 2014 running of Fleche Wallonne so we know he can be there at the finish. He won’t receive much attention going into the race but is a decent shout for a top ten.
Simon Yates came 5th overall a couple of weeks back in the Tour of the Basque Country so is clearly in some hill climbing form. Greenedge may let him loose off the leash for this one and we can see him claim a top 15 place.
Tim Wellens is one of those quiet GC riders where you don’t really see them but almost silently they appear in the top ten. He’s only 23 but a top 10 position overall at Paris – Nice this year

La Fleche Wallonne Prediction

1 – Rodriguez
2 – Kwiatkowski
3 – Valverde

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La Fleche Wallonne 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

North Wales Cycling – 3 Rides in Easter Week

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Snowdonia National Park Sign

I spent a few days up in North Wales recently, cycling over the Easter holiday. The plan was to do a few rides and use the trip as a sort of training camp to prepare for the upcoming events that I have planned. With the Norwich 100 at the end of May and the Dunwich Dynamo in July not too far after that either, it was definitely time to kick start the season.

North Wales Day 1

North Wales Llanberis - Caernarfon - Bangor Cycle Route

Day 1 Route

The first day was overcast but the main issue was the ridiculous wind conditions – whenever there was a headwind we were ground to a halt. One of our party decided to abandon a couple of miles in after being blown around by the sidewinds and the hill peaking at 20% shortly afterwards nearly killed off another. The tailwind down the valley past Llyn Cwellyn was a great start to the ride but the turn and climb up the Nantlle ridge was horrendous. Upon reaching the top, it was decided to not descend into the wind and we turned around to head back where we’d come.

Luke bailed out upon reaching Waunfawr again, but as it was dry and the sun was sort of out, Adam and I pushed on for some extra miles. Still battling the headwind, we reached Caernarfon and whilst in the square debating a tea stop, felt some drops and dashed inside as the rain came down. Half an hour later it was all good to go again.

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

We followed the coastal bike path from Caernarfon to Bangor which was surprisingly good, did a quick loop around town before heading back to the bunkhouse. Chopping off a corner resulted in a solid hill climb but also meant some new lanes explored and we made it back in the dry.

Route

North Wales – Day 2

Pen y Pass Loop Cycle Route

Day 2 Route

The second day in North Wales saw just two riders set off on what is a favourite loop around past Tryfan and Snowdon – this was the first time we’d reversed it though. Early riding was nice and smooth with the tailwind working for us. There was an interesting diversion into a small industrial estate only to find the planned bike path was loose stone and flints – we avoided this.

We began the climb up the Ogwen valley on the main road which wasn’t particularly fun before turning off onto a single track road on the other side of the valley. This was a fun rolling road with a few nasty leg killers near the end. The Garmin told me the first steep part topped out at 17% and the second really steep part went up to 25%…proper leg grinders but thankfully quite short. Neither of us stopped on the climbs but did get off shortly after the last one for a breather. Going over a second cattle grid we suddenly appeared outside Ogwen Cottage and the climbing was over.

Down the Ogwen Valley

Down the Ogwen Valley

We whizzed down the Ogwen valley towards Capel Curig, the gentle downhill combined with the tailwind meant 6 miles of barely pedalling and hitting 25+mph with minimal effort. The turn in Capel Curig brought us into the headwind for the first time though and the open valley up to the roman camp junction was a hellish slog. When we got the junction I attempted to have a serious go at the Strava segment knowing that our planned tea stop was at the Pen-y-Pass hut at the top. Lots of pros have posted their own times as the Tour of Britain came along the same route in 2013. Unsurprisingly I was 2 minutes slower but still ended up in the top 12% of all riders.

It was not a fun descent into the wind but no dramas and home through Llanberis.

Route

North Wales – Day 3

Etape Eryri - Etape Bach Cycle Route

Day 3 Route

Day 3 in North Wales was a solo ride as everyone else went rock climbing. The route planned was the shortest version of the Etape Eryri, a sportive event that happens later in the year. The wind had died down and it was almost a nice day for the first time!

The route took me back into Caernarfon and along a flat coast road that I’ll definitely use again – it was next to the sea and great for a mini time trial.

The next section of interest was the climb up the descent we chose not to do on day 1 – the legs were hurting from three days of riding so it wasn’t done quickly and the steepness didn’t suit me at all. The lack of traffic though meant it was a nice, chilled, quiet climb up the Nantlle ridge.

Nant Gwynant

Pros at Pen y Pass

Pros at Pen y Pass

Descending into Beddgelert, I nearly took out a waitress who was carrying a tray of coffee from a cafe to the garden across the road…wouldn’t have been a fun crash! From Beddgelert it was a solid steady climb all the way up to Pen-y-Pass. It’s a climb I’ve only been down so had an idea of what it was like but I was surprised at how relentless it was, turns out it is a genuine Cat 3 climb. It was very similar but shorter version of the Puy Mary climb I did in France last year.
The legs were still not at their best so it was a case of putting it in a decent gear and just using a steady cadence to climb up.

With no wind the descent down Pen-y-Pass was much more fun this day, safely hitting speeds over 40mph and sprinting through Llanberis. A fun way to end the three days of riding.

Route

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North Wales Cycling – 3 Rides in Easter Week was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Paris – Roubaix 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile

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Paris Roubaix 2015 Logo

Paris – Roubaix is the flattest of all the classics but has around 30km of brutal cobbled sections (which I can vouch for). The race traditionally suits heavier, powerful riders but without Boonen and Cancellara, the race is ready to move onto a new generation. If wet, this race can descend into a true Hell of the North and will have plenty of crashes. Hopefully the weather stays dry and we have a classic duel.

Paris – Roubaix Profile

Paris Roubaix 2015 Profile

Paris – Roubaix Contenders

With no Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara, for once there’s no overwhelming favourite with previous history. It looks like there will only be two previous winners racing, such has been the domination of these two in the last decade.

Paris Roubaix Mud

This year’s Paris – Roubaix favourite has to be Alexander Kristoff, the form he has shown this spring has been immense. He has won 9 races so far this year, which is a huge haul – it’s hard to look beyond the winner of the Tour of Flanders.

In the chasing group are the likes of Peter Sagan, Niki Terpstra, John Degenkolb and Sep Vanmarcke.
Peter Sagan has been a bit iffy this year, but it feels wrong to rule him out completely.
Niki Terpstra won Paris – Roubaix in 2014 and has won the Tour of Qatar and numerous podium spots this year.
John Degenkolb came 2nd last year but also has won Milan – San Remo this year so is clearly in form.
Sep Vanmarcke has once again been repeating his excellent run of top ten finishes without a win, this will continue.

Paris Roubaix Arenberg

Following on from that group are the Sky duo of Bradley Wiggins & Geraint Thomas. Bradley will want to finish off his road career with a strong result, he looked good in this race last year so can get a decent result with some luck. Geraint Thomas won the E3 Harelbeke race a few weeks ago and has been impressive this year, he also seems to have stopped his habit of crashing when in good positions.

Quickstep’s backup plan will be Zdanek Stybar who has won Strade Bianche and finished 2nd in E3 Harelbeke during 2015.
In the absence of Fabian Cancellara, Stijn Devolder has been asked to step up and become the Trek team’s classics leader. Good results in Driedaagse de Panne and Tour of Flanders give Trek some hope.

Paris Roubaix Cobbles

The final group of contenders includes Greg van Avermaet, Matti Breschel, Jurgen Roelandts & Lars Boom.
Van Avermaet has done well all spring but has often been the face seen trying the do or die move out of the peloton, which has hamped some finishing positions – 2nd in Strade Bianche and 3rd in Tour of Flanders shows he can do well.
Matti Breschel has 4 top-20 finishes at Paris – Roubaix, his current form is suggesting a similar result – he will be backup to Peter Sagan.
Jurgen Roelandts has been sneaking into the top-10 quite a bit this season. 11th at Milan – San Remo, 7th at both E3 Harelbeke and Gent – Wevelgem and 8th at the Tour of Flanders.
Lars Boom hasn’t had the best spring but his 6th place at the Tour of Flanders has given Astana hope and he should be their main focus despite all the off-bike issues Astana have.

Paris Roubaix Crash

Paris – Roubaix Outsiders

Sebastien Turgot has previously finished second here and been on the cusp of the top ten in the last two years but won’t command the attention these results should deserve as he isn’t as strong as several of the others during the rest of the year.

Cannondale’s Dylan van Baarle is a rider whose best years are ahead of him – winning last year’s Tour of Britain put him on the map and good results this Spring mean he can do well in Paris – Roubaix.

Normally I just go for Edward Theuns, but I’m getting bored of that. His teammate Jelle Wallays won Dwars door Vlaanderen earlier in the Spring so is in an equally good position as Theuns.

Paris Roubaix Hincapie Mud

Paris – Roubaix Prediction

1 – Alexander Kristoff
2 – Sep Vanmarcke
3 – Geraint Thomas

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Paris – Roubaix 2015 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling