Shane Archbold's Bora-Argon18 team tackle the cobblestones in practice for the Queen of the Classics, photo Sirotti

The Kiwi quartet of Jack Bauer, Sam Bewley, Jesse Sergent and Shane Archbold are set to light up the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix as the best and brightest do battle over some of the harshest ‘roads’ in Europe before the Spring Classics finish and the Ardennes Classics begin.

This year’s Paris-Roubaix will begin without defending champion John Degenkolb but with both Tom Boonen of Etixx-Quick Step and Fabian Cancellara of Trek-Segafredo in the mix.  It will be Cancellara’s final Paris-Roubaix as he looks to make it a fourth win, drawing him level for the most wins in history with Roger De Vlaeminck and Tom Boonen himself.

The list of riders in contention for the win though is a long one, and for first time winners this year the favourite has to be world champion Peter Sagan of Tinkoff.  The Slovakian was a picture of dominance in the Tour of Flanders this year, proving that the pressure of the world champion’s jersey is not something he will crumble under.  Flanders was Sagan’s second win of the season after taking victory in Gent-Wevelgem, and if he wins Paris-Roubaix he will match Tom Boonen’s feat of winning Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the same year; with Boonen having the extra distinction of taking E3 Harelbeke that year too.

If he is not to win then Lars Boom of Astana has the confidence and certainly the basic strength to win, having impressed at E3 Harelbeke and the Tour of Flanders where he took 11th.  Alexander Kristoff of Katusha has had a rocky spring campaign with promising results in Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders offset by a couple of trip-ups in E3 Harelbeke and Scheldeprijs; the question for him will be can he come good on the day?

Sep Vanmarcke of LottoNL-Jumbo will be looking to put to bed a string of near-misses in the biggest spring classics when he lines up for Paris-Roubaix.  The Belgian has finished third in the Tour of Flanders three times, second in Gent-Wevelgem twice and 2nd in Paris-Roubaix in 2013; he has all the basic ingredients necessary to be crowned Paris-Roubaix winner.

Sam Bewley of Orica GreenEDGE will be part of a team with a couple of options at their disposal tomorrow.  Jens Keukeleire finished 21st in Flanders, but Matt Hayman must also be given due consideration.  Despite having only ridden in one of the spring classics this year, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Hayman finished 8th in 2012, 10th in 2011; has crossed the finish line in the velodrome on no fewer than 14 occasions.  Sam will be lining up for the third time at the Queen of the Classics.

Jack Bauer of Cannondale, Jesse Sergent of AG2R La Mondiale and Shane Archbold of Bora-Argon18 all arrive at Paris-Roubaix having tackled Scheldeprijs earlier this week.  Jack Bauer finished the race in 32nd, and will be lining up for Paris-Roubaix for the fifth time.  He has the distinction of having a 100% completion record at Roubaix in all of his previous four starts.  Look out for Bauer to be in support of teammate Sebastian Langeveld who finished 7th in 2013 and 8th in 2014.

Jesse Sergent missed Paris-Roubaix last year after crashing out of the Tour of Flanders last year, but he’s back this year and in the Tour of Flanders this time around he was the only Kiwi to cross the line in Oudenaarde.  Teammate Damien Gaudin will be an interesting one to watch and an outside chance at taking France’s first win since 1997; Gaudin placed 5th in 2013.

Finally, Shane Archbold debuted at Paris-Roubaix last year, crossing the finish line in the Roubaix velodrome in front of two very proud parents.  He will take his place in the Bora-Argon18 team that features Andreas Schillinger of Germany, 16th last year.  Also keep an eye open for Archbold’s sprint charge Sam Bennett, entering his second Paris-Roubaix.

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