Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) will be at the start of Paris-Roubaix for the third time in his career and is hoping to animate the finale. It will be his first time to line up at the race since 2016 when he finished 114th having finished in 100th place the previous year.
The 25 year-old Belgian is clearly in good form having finished in 8th place at the Tour of Flanders last week, 5th at Dwars door Vlaanderen and 13th at Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields but is still looking for his first win of the season.
Between the start in Compiègne and the finish on the legendary velodrome in Roubaix, an extremely demanding race of 257 kilometres through the Hell of the North awaits. Troivilles à Inchy – the first of 29 cobbled sections – looms after about 100 kilometres, after which the secteurs pavés follow in quick succession. The five-star sections Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre are most likely to play a crucial role during the 117th edition of Paris-Roubaix.
Tiesj Benoot: “I will start in the Hell of the North for the third time in my career. During my first participation in 2015, I punctured twice. The next year, I crashed hard during the Tour of Flanders, and in Paris-Roubaix, I had two flats on a very bad moment. That means that I have never been up there during the finale but I hope to do so this year.
“In the first place, I need to prove to myself that I can make it to the finale and if that succeeds, a nice result is possible. My shape certainly won’t be the problem, I still feel fresh. For me, only two chances remain during the spring Classics. If I can avoid bad luck and if everything falls into place, a podium spot will be amongst the possibilities.
“The Tour of Flanders maybe suits me – thanks to the many climbs – a little better, but Paris-Roubaix is of course less about explosive racing. A really hard race will certainly play to my advantage. I have to try to attack from a little further and hope for some hesitation behind or that some strong riders will join me.”
“It will be important to always stay at the front. Once we’ve ridden through the Forest of Arenberg, a new race begins, so to speak. The wind always plays an important role in Paris-Roubaix. During the recon, I noticed that on the sector prior to Mons-en-Pévèle and on the five-star section itself, the wind will be favourable to really start racing. We’ll have to deal with headwind during a lot of the cobbles, but not out there.”
“Many riders start Paris-Roubaix with the goal of setting an outstanding performance. During the past races, the pool of contenders was smaller, which makes it difficult to name some favourites for Sunday. Of course, I expect riders like Oliver Naesen and Wout Van Aert to be up there, but during an event like Paris-Roubaix, it is not a good idea to base your race on other riders.”
Lotto Soudal Line-up: Tiesj Benoot, Stan Dewulf, Frederik Frison, Jens Keukeleire, Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen and Brian van Goethem.