The best part of the cycling season start Saturday: the cobbled classics are coming. These are the 12 riders I think we should focus during the period from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (02.03) to Paris-Roubaix (14.04).
MICHAEL VALGREN (Dimension Data)
The winner of last year’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (and the Amstel Gold Race) moved from the Astana to the Dimension Data. The African team wants to have a strong spring classics squad, let’s see how Valgren is going to take this opportunity.
MADS PEDERSEN (Trek-Segafredo)
The another Danish “shooting star” of the last season. He has no great victories yet, but his 5th place at Dwar door Vlaanderen and his 2nd place at Ronde van Vlanderen made clear, he is the cobbled classics specialist of the future.
MATTEO TRENTIN (Mitchelton-Scott)
According to his results in February (3 stage wins), he is one of the riders in best shape currently.
GREG VAN AVERMAET (CCC)
His last year wasn’t that succesful as the one before, but he started this season with a stage win and 2 podium places. I think, his preperation for the classic season is on the best path.
PETER SAGAN (Bora-Hansgrohe)
We haven’t seen Sagan since the Vuelta a San Juan in January. This is his first season without wearing the rainbow jersey after three consecutive years. The honor of being a world champion made him to race sometimes more complicated, although he earned some really big victories.
JULIAN ALAPHILIPPE (Deceuninck-Quick Step)
Not a cobbled classics specialist at all, but he is going to participate at the two Italian one day races Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo. He had a really good seasonstart, has already three victories in South-America. He is going to kick his European season on the famous white gravels of Toscana.
ALEJANDRO VALVERDE (Movistar)
According to some interviews, the current world champion wants to take part on many races as it’s possible. He isn’t a cobbled specialist either, but he gave a great performance at Dwars door Vlaanderen last year (11th place) and want to participate at Ronde van Vlaanderen at the very first time in his career this year.
TIESJ BENOOT (Lotto-Soudal)
His breakthrough year was 2015 but his first big victory was the Strade Bianche last year. He is stronger and stronger every year, probably we will see him a few times on the top of the podium this season.
OLIVER NAESEN (Ag2R)
His best year was definitely 2017, when he earned top10 places at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke. 2018 was a less succesful one (although he was 4th at E3 and 6.th at Gent-Wevelgem), and we dont’t know too much about his current form, but who knows? Maybe this season will be his big one.
YVES LAMPAERT( Deceuninck-Quick Step)
The reigning Belgian champion won the Dwars door Vlaanderen last year, and he is the member of the Wolfpack, pretty good on the cobbles, he can’t miss this list.
NIKI TERPSTRA (Direct Energie)
After 8 seasons with Quick Step, Terpstra moved to the Direct Energie, which was a brave decision, let’s see, how he can handle the situation riding in a procontinental team. He is the defending champion of E3 Harelbeke and Ronde van Vlaanderen.
WOUT VAN AERT (Jumbo-Visma)
The three-times cyclocross world champion has shown his talent for one day road races last year. He had a 3rd place at Strade Bianche, 10th at Gent-Wevelgem, 9th at Ronde van Vlaanderen and 13th at Paris-Roubaix. He wore the jersey of the procontinental team Verandas Willems Crelan last years, now he is the member of the Jumbo-Visma team and will be at the startline of most of the races of the spring classics season.