Paris–Roubaix is perhaps the most famous bike race in the world after the Tour de France. Every year, millions of people watch the spectacle of a group of cyclists crazy enough to hurtle themselves over the cobblestones of Northern France at speeds in excess of 50kph. This is race only ever won by big name riders. And only then when the planets of luck and good form are perfectly aligned.

We have made several predictions for a number of different races for Spring 2019. Once in a while we get it right, but in general it turns out to be very difficult to make a list of five favourites and pick the winner. The international peloton has become a lot stronger than it was in the past. That means that there are roughly twenty riders who have the qualities for the win in Roubaix. Who picked Alberto Bettiol for the Ronde van Vlaanderen? Anyway, we are still going to have a go, and name five potential winners for this magnificent race.

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff is a sprinter from a previous generation. He therefore misses the final punch in a bunch sprint against today’s young guns. But when it comes down to pure strength and staying power, this Norwegian can still show the young generation a thing or two. He has already won the 2019 edition of Gent–Wevelgem and has been racing very keenly at the front of a number of other Spring races. He was third in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and was in the final group of riders at the front of several other races. If Kristoff gets the chance to be at the sharp end of this race, he may well win the sprint in the Velodrome in Roubaix.

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Alexander Kristoff during Paris–Roubaix 2018. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Wout Van Aert

Wout Van Aert is strong this spring. In 2018 he ended this race in 13th place, which was impressive. But this rider seems to already be stronger in 2019 than he was in 2018, having already finished on the podium in the Strade Bianche and the E3 BinckBanck Classic. He seems to get stronger with each race he rides. As a cyclocrosser he is especially suited to riding the cobbles and as such he may be poised to make a serious attempt at the win this year.

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Wout Van Aert riding Paris-Roubaix in 2018. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan is not as strong in 2019 as he was at this point in the season in previous years. But, if only because he is the defending champion, he belongs on this list. We saw bursts of his previous form during the final kilometres of the 2019 Ronde van Vlaanderen. He didn’t have enough to escape from the small elite group, but he gave it a couple of attempts. Similar to Kristoff, Sagan is a rider who could win a sprint in the Velodrome.

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Peter Sagan winning Paris-Roubaix in 2018. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Greg Van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet won this race in 2017. Similarly to Peter Sagan, we haven’t really seen Van Avermaet show his top form in the 2019 season so far. He’s ridden a couple of decent results, but he was on noticeably better form in 2018. He needs the good fortune to be in a group that doesn’t have enough strength to react to every attack. If he does find himself in such a fortunate position, he could well be the rider to launch the decisive attack, and take the win.

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Van Avermaet was the best in Roubaix in 2017. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Dylan van Baarle

The final rider we are tipping is our Dark Horse bet. Dutchman Dylan van Baarle has never won a really major race. In 2019, he did well in the general classification of the Herald Sun Tour, but he’s often near the front during the Spring Classics. In 2017 he was fourth in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. He has also been showing good form in the early part of the 2019 season, and has been seen on the attack. The timing of his moves hasn’t been ideal, but we hope he has learned from this. If he keeps his powder dry a bit longer in this race, and is able to sneak off with a powerful front group of riders, then he could well find himself on the podium.

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Van Baarle in the 2017 edition; he will be dressed in Team Sky colours in 2019. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Other riders who we reckon are in with a chance at Paris–Roubaix are Zdenek Stybar, Tiesj Benoot, Sep Vanmarcke, Sebastian Langeveld and John Degenkolb. Paris–Roubaix takes place on Sunday the 14th of April.