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Filippo Ganna wants to think of Paris-Roubaix as a long time trial, a really long one.
Ganna will start Sunday’s race as one of Ineos Grenadiers’ team leaders, alongside Amstel Gold winner Michal Kwiatkowski.
The cobbled classics aren’t Ganna’s usual stomping ground, but he is a former winner of the junior Roubaix, and he would like to add his name to the list of Italian winners — which includes Fausto Coppi, Felice Gimondi, and most recently Sonny Colbrelli — that have won the race.
“We will see this Sunday if we can enter in the velodrome in a good position but for sure we have a good team,” Ganna said in a pre-race press conference. “A lot of Italian people have won this fantastic race and I hope that one day in the near future I can try to be on this list but it’s not easy. We know that there are a lot of riders ready for this race.”
“We will see in a few days if I can arrive close to a big result. For sure, with the team, we have some really important guys who can be in the front. My body is more as a specialist for the TT, but I just need to imagine doing a TT for 260k.”
With his raw power and his win in the 2016 junior race, Ganna has been touted as a favorite for this Sunday’s race. Ganna is not so sure about that but he’s more than happy to take the compliment.
His first challenge will be making it into the Roubaix velodrome in time, a task he hasn’t managed in his two previous appearances at the race. He finished his elite debut in 2018 but was outside the time limit and only made it over two pavé sectors before climbing off the following year.
“I don’t know why people think that I am a favorite, but I want to say thank you to everyone for the big support,” he said. “I’ve done Roubaix two times before and one time I punctured in the Arenberg and another one I jumped in the car after two sectors.
“We hope to arrive in the front because it’s not nice to have a DNF on the paper at the end of the day. We will see if we are ready or not once we are in the race because in training it’s totally different. At the moment, we are thinking about recovery and keeping energy and hopefully arrive on the day of the race with special legs.”
Feeling like a neo-pro
Ineos Grenadiers’ other leader is equally as green when it comes to the “Hell of the North.” Kwiatkowski, a past winner on the cobbles at E3 Harelbeke (now the E3 Saxo Bank Classic), made his debut at the race just last year.
He finished the mud-caked race in 70th place and more than 20 minutes down on the winner Sonny Colbrelli. With dry weather expected for this weekend, Kwiatkowski feels as though he’s making his debut all over again.
“So far my experience of racing it was just last year with completely different conditions. It makes 2021 and 2022 completely different. I’ve done some cobbled classics in the past, but they are completely different,” he said. “I always had a good feeling on the cobbles but racing on Sunday I feel like I am starting from scratch and it’s just hard to say how I’m going. I’m super motivated, but at the same time, it’s hard to just speak about the race. I feel like a neo-pro really coming into Roubaix.”
Despite the lack of experience in the team’s top leaders, there is plenty of it back in the engine room of the squad with Luke Rowe, a top 10 finisher in the race, and Dylan van Baarle in the seven-man team. There’s also some more youthful exuberance in Brabantse Pijl winner Magnus Sheffield and fellow rising star Ben Turner.
Given Kwiatkowski’s history in the cobbled spring races, it’s a bit of a surprise that this is only his second attempt at the race. The Polish rider said that he would have loved to try earlier, but it just wasn’t possible to fit it into his calendar.
“I think it’s a pity that the body has the limitations that you can’t combine so many big races. I think that the combination of the Ardennes and the cobbled classics it’s always a bit tricky,” he said. “There are so many nice races on the calendar, but at the same time, you have to pick the right ones. It’s always a hard choice and you’re picking up the race calendar based on the experience you have and you can change a little bit but not completely because that can be wrong.
“I think that this year with changing the dates of Amstel and Roubaix gave me the opportunity of trying something new and combining those Ardennes races and Roubaix.”