Greipel: There's no time to catch your breath at Paris-Roubaix

André Greipel will start his eighth Paris-Roubaix in Compiègne, France, on Sunday, hoping that he can improve upon his best finish of seventh place at the race two years ago.

Then, Greipel was one of the leaders at Belgian WorldTour team Lotto Soudal, but a move to Arkea-Samsic for 2019 will see him as the sole leader of the French Pro Continental team for this year's Roubaix.

The 11-time Tour de France stage winner is best known for his sprinting prowess, but the 36-year-old German has performed consistently well at the cobbled Classics, and has scored regular top-20 finishes at the Tour of Flanders on top of his Roubaix top 10 in 2017.

"Paris-Roubaix requires a lot of concentration, a bit of luck and solid legs to be present in the finale," Greipel said on his team's website.

"There are the cobblestones, obviously, but you also have to fight to be at the front ahead of every sector. There's no time to catch your breath," he continued. "We know that we're going to suffer, and the most difficult aspect of it is that you're in this fight with yourself.

"Our legs and arms will hurt, but you can never give up, and just have to keep pushing on the pedals," said Greipel. "Sunday is a big objective, and I'm very motivated."

The six riders that will support him share a mixture of youth and experience, and include 2009 Tour de France stage winner Brice Feillu, for whom this Sunday's race will be his fourth Roubaix, and 2015 junior Paris-Roubaix winner Bram Welten, who's riding his second senior 'Hell of the North'.

"I'm not really the perfect rider for Roubaix," admitted Feillu, "but it's a race that's always fascinated me, and is one that you have to try to do at least once during your career.

"To perform on the pavé, you need to be able to be both powerful and flexible, and you need to know how to kind of let the handlebars go. And it's a race that's never over. You just have to keep believing, as anything can happen, and you can't quit until you get to the velodrome in Roubaix," he said.

Much will be expected of Welten in the future, and he expects it of himself, too. The 22-year-old Dutchman didn't finish his debut Roubaix in 2018, but will do everything to make it to this year's finish.

"I won the junior Paris-Roubaix in 2015, when the race was on the same day as the pros' race. There was already a big crowd at the velodrome and it was fantastic to raise my arms there," Welten remembered.

"During the race, you're focused on the road, but it's magical to see the people encouraging you as soon as you take a quick look around," he said. "Roubaix is one of my favourite races, and a big objective. I want to perform here – and I want to be on the podium within 10 years."

Arkea-Samsic for the 2019 Paris-Roubaix: Franck Bonnamour, Brice Feillu, André Greipel, Benoit Jarrier, Alan Riou, Clément Russo, Bram Welten

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