Wiggins is targeting the Classics this spring before ending his WorldTour career with Team Sky. Paris-Roubaix forms the cornerstone of his cobbled ambitions as he looks to step down from the top of professional road racing with a Monument win.
"Wiggins is more motivated now and he's a complete rider," Merckx told Cyclingnews at the recent Tour of Qatar.
Team Sky and Wiggins have conquered the Tour de France together, winning the race in 2012 before the British team returned in 2013 for their second straight title, courtesy of Chris Froome. Despite Grand Tour successes the team have struggled to find the right blend and formula in one-day racing. Podiums in the Classics have been few and far between and although they have won important one-day races in Belgium, success in one of cycling’s monuments still alludes them.
"Paris-Roubaix is a race where it's every man for himself. If you're good on the pave then you just need that little bit of luck so that you don’t have a flat at a bad moment," said Merckx, who won Roubaix on three occasions during his incredible career.
"He'll be there for sure and if he wins there, for his career, and goes on to take the Hour Record, that will make him a big champion, a very complete champion."
Wiggins of course will have to take on two of the most successful Classics riders of all time in Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, if he is to win Paris-Roubaix but Merckx correctly points to the fact that the depth of Classics contenders is rapidly expanding.
"There are more top Classics riders these days. You have Boonen, you have Gilbert, Cancellara, Kristoff, and then you have more and more young riders coming through. There's Lars Boom who is strong and it won't be so easy for someone like Boonen this year. You also have Terpstra and the world champion.
"Cancellara appears more motivated this season and his condition is better than in previous years but Wiggins is one of the riders who I believe can win Paris-Roubiax. The others will have to watch out for Wiggins because he's a great rider and he used Qatar as preparation. He can't be overlooked. I think he’s one of the top favourites for Roubaix."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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