Have had a quick look at Oddschecker I have decided that the time to bet on Roubaix is sooner rather than later. This is to take advantage of some nicely priced outsiders whose odds may not stay that large in the days leading into Sunday’s race.
Looking at the past winners of the race there are usually two outcomes to Paris-Roubaix. Either the strongest rider on the day wins (Museeuw, Boonen and Cancellara) or a strong less fancied rider manages to stay away (Knaven, O’Grady and Van Summeren). All the signs point to Cancellara romping to victory for a third time.
It is hard to argue against this logic considering his dominant win at Flanders and past performances in this race. The only way I can see him beaten is if the race follows a similar pattern to 2011 where large groups of riders went up the road and eventually Cancellara was left isolated by his teammates and unable to chase down Van Summeren in time. The onus will be on Omega Pharma-Quick-Step and Team Sky to send some of their strong riders up the rode early in the race. If Cancellara still has a couple of teammates for support after the infamous Arenberg section of cobbles then I can’t see anyone beating him.
Having said that I still think there are some value each way bets to be had for a top three finish. First here are some I will not be backing:
Hushovd – has not finished Flanders, Milan-San Remo or E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke this season.
Phinney – amazed he is going in as joint second favourite at 14/1. Will likely win this race in his career but not this early on.
Stannard and Thomas – both priced too short at 16s and 20s respectively. Expecting strong rides from them and Team Sky after their shocker in Flanders but not podiums.
Boasson Hagen – Flanders confirmed to me that he has not got the legs to match the best
Here are some that are worth considering:
Johan Vansummeren 66/1: The winner of the 2011 race. He really impressed me at Flanders with his positioning for the key periods of the race and looked stronger than I have seen him all year. He is clearly Garmin-Sharp’s team leader. Snap up those nice odds from Bet365
Stijn Vandenbergh 80/1: For me his is the best chance in the Omega Pharma team. Terpstra looked off the pace in the Flanders and historically Chavanel has never done well at Roubaix. Vandenbergh has shown well in many races this year especially the flatter semi-classics. His only drawback is that he can’t sprint so would only win solo or he is was up against Flecha.
Matthieu Ladagnous 100/1: 5th in Flanders and 6th in Gent – Wevelgem this year. Also was 12th in this race last year. Only worry is that he is French. As they have not won a monument since Laurent Jalabert in the 1997 Tour of Lombardy. Drought
Sebastian Langeveld 80/1: If you watch Orica – Greenedge’s excellent backstage pass videos you will have noticed that he felt he had great legs at Flanders. He rode well there and was positioned well by his team. Stuart O’Grady will be key for him on Sunday as his experience in this race should put him prime position heading into the key cobbled sectors. Langeveld has been threatening a big result all year and I fancy Sunday he could get it.
Lars Boom 25/1: He is bullish about his chances and form. He has all the makings of a strong single day rider but has yet to pull off a big result yet. In stage races he has been more successful winning prologue and the GC three times. Came 12th here in 2011 and 6th last year so another improvement could see him on the podium.
Sebastian Turgot 66/1: I tipped him for Flanders last week at 200/1 as many of you must have done, as his price came in before the race. He rode well there finishing 8th after attacking before Cancellara and Sagan made their move. He surprised many to come second in Roubaix last year. At 66/1 he is worth a nibble but maybe last week was his peak.
The Tour of Flanders
For those who do not know about this historic race the best way to describe it is as the Grand National for Belgium. The race is a national instution and the country comes to a halt for it with many lining the roads or watching it on television. They will all have their favourite riders for the race ofthen a Belgium rider. As you can see from the table of past top three below the belgium riders tend to dominate this race.
One pattern that I have identified from looking at these results is form in build races. The Belgium semi classics of Dwars Door Vlaanderen (DDV) and E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke (E3) are often described as key build races to Flanders. If you study past results then this description is completely justified. Not since Steffen Wesemann’s win in 2004 has a rider won Flanders without finishing in the top ten on either DDV or E3 that year. In fact in four of those years a rider has won both (Boonen three times and Cancellara once).
The bookies have this as a straight shot out between Sagan and Cancellara and it is hard to argue against it. Sagan is the slight favourite for them but for me Cancellara holds the upper hand due to experience. For that reason I have placed a small lay bet against Sagan on Betfair.
Flanders often has a way of springing a surprise winner. Think Nuyens in 2011 (yours truly backed him at 50/1 that year) or the Devolder double where he attacked from 30km+ both times. Therefore it is worth looking at the longer priced riders in the betting markets. Looking at the top ten’s from this year’s Dwars Door Vlaanderen and E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke there are some really strong candidates for the surprise result.
Here are a few I will not be backing:
Daniel Oss – think he already has his result for the season at E3 and will mainly work for teammates but with Gilbert and Phinney pulling out he could be an interesting bet.
Geraint Thomas – British bookmakers have him patriotically too short at 20/1.
Chavanel – Best chance yet but too short at 12/1 .
Luca Paolini – historically the rider who wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad never wins Flanders.
Boasson Hagen – 40/1 seems too short for a rider who still looks not at his best.
Mat Hayman – big odds at 125/1 and has been getting closer to a big classics result recently but fancy other riders in Team Sky ahead of him.
Here are some I fancy as good value:
Oscar Gatto 66/1: Won at DDV and is the sole leader of his Vini Fantini team
Thomas Voeckler 80/1: A rider you may not associate with cobbles but rode strongly at Flanders last year to finish 8th. Was 5th in DDV this year and has the right type of climbing technique for the short climbs at Flanders.
Maxim Iglinsky 80/1: I backed him last year here and he failed to show that well but then proved his form to winner Liege-Bastogne-Leige. He comes in to this race in even better form that last with a 12th in E3 and an 8th in DDV. Only thing to count against him is his lack of a sprint. Normally comes last in a small front group of a race.
Ian Stannard 66/1: Has not suffered as much as Thomas with the tendency for British punters to shorten the odds of their riders by backing them. Stannard has shown himself in many attacks already this season. Previous doubts over his ability to follow attacks on climbs have been dispelled. Like Iglinsky he lacks a sprint but if the weather is cold he can excel.
Sebastian Langeveld 80/1: Another rider I back last year who failed by crashing out after hitting a roadside spectator. He has ridden into form this year culminating in 5th at E3. Like many others he failed to finish Gent-Wevelgem. He is the stand out strong rider for Orica GreenEDGE so rider like Mouris and O’Grady should have him well postioned for key climbs.
Tom Boonen 16/1: My shortest priced pick. This is a very long price for a former three time winner of the race. Many say his form has not been great but on certain climbs he has looked as strong as ever. Another thing in his favour is that he is the only rider to win on this new Flanders route.
Two dark horses:
Jens Keukeleire 400/1: Who you may ask, a Belgium rider on the Orica team. He got in the key move at DDV this year and finished 7th. He has been a rider who I have followed since his great 2010 form in some small semi classics for Cofidis. It would be a surprise but stranger things have happened.
Sebastien Turgot 200/1: Remember his second place at Paris-Roubaix last year? Turgot is a rider who flies under the radar but is worth considering each way. Strong form so far this year with 15th in Milan-San Remo, 12th in DDV and 10th in E3. He was in the group behind the leading three in the race last year. Could spring a surpise and has a decent kick in a sprint finish.
The pundit’s picks:
Gatto 5 pts Each Way
Voeckler 5 pts Each Way
Stannard 5pts Each Way
Langeveld 5 pts Each Way
Boonen 10 pts Win
Turgot 2.5 pts Each Way
Full list of odds for Flanders on oddschecker