2018 Paris-Roubaix wild cards announced

Van Aert's Veranda's Willems secure a spot but Sport Vlaanderen and Wanty miss out

Race organisers ASO have confirmed the 25 teams that will line up at this year’s Paris-Roubaix, with a strong mix of French and Belgian squads handed wild cards for the spring monument. On top of the 18 WorldTour teams, Veranda's Willems-Crelan, Cofidis, Delko Marseille Provence KTM, Direct Energie and Team Fortuneo-Siamsic have all earned return invitations for the 2018 race.

Sport Vlaanderen and Wanty-Groupe Gobert are the most notable absences from the seven wild card invitations, with WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic and Vital Concept Cycling Club both earning their debut entry to the Hell of the North.

Wanty will be able to find some solace in the fact that ASO gave them the much sough-after invitation to the Tour de France, but for Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise it will be a big disappointment. It is the first time since the 2013 race that they have missed out on a spot. They did, however, earn berths at ASO’s two Ardennes offerings, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Roompot Nederlandse Loterij are another team to miss out after making their debut last season while Verandas Willems-Crelan will make their debut. The Belgian outfit is the home of cyclo-cross world champion Wout van Aert, who has been branching out into road racing over the past few seasons.

Last year, Van Aert said that he would increasingly focus on a road career and looked to follow in the footsteps of another cyclo-cross world champion, Zdenek Stybar, in bidding for Paris-Roubaix. He had hoped to ride Strade Bianche but Verandas Willems-Crelan was not invited by RCS Sport. Now Van Aert has a bigger goal for later in the spring.

"I'm happy. One of the reasons I planned my cyclo-cross season this year is because I want to get a taste of the big Classics in the spring. We'd have always assumed that we would ride but it is a relief that it's been confirmed," he said.

"Paris-Roubaix perhaps suits me the best considering my physique and at Paris-Roubaix, the smallest details count, so we will prepare with perfection."

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) took his first monument victory at last year’s Paris-Roubaix, beating Quick-Step Floors’ Stybar and Sebastian Lengeveld (Cannondale-Drapac), completing a superb Classics campaign for the Belgian.

The route of this year’s Paris-Roubaix is yet to be confirmed, but the race is set to take place on April 8.

2018 Paris-Roubaix wild cards: Cofidis, Solutions Crédits, Delko Marseille Provence KTM, Direct Energie, Team Fortuneo – Samsic, Veranda’s Willems – Crelan, Vital Concept Cycling Club, WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic.

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