Between all the talk of the big Classics contenders, Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) has been quietly riding a solid campaign this spring. The German says that he is going to give it his all at Paris-Roubaix to try to end his spring on a high note.
After Alberto Bettiol surprised the major favourites at the Tour of Flanders last week, Politt's performances have put him on the radar as a dark horse for this weekend's Roubaix.
Politt finished seventh at the race last year, leading home the second of the chasing groups behind Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), but the 25-year-old German has brushed off the expectations.
"Of course, I've seen a lot of it on social media already, but I don't see myself as a favourite," Politt said at the Paris-Roubaix teams presentation in Compiègne, France, on Saturday.
"But I know that I can finish the race in the top 10, and so I'll just just go out there and fight with everything I've got. It's the last cobbled Classic, so I'll give it my best and we'll see what happens."
With Katusha-Alpecin having been struggling for results since the start of the season – with just one win, courtesy of Marcel Kittel at the Challenge Mallorca in February – Politt has been a shining light for the Swiss-registered team. He's currently their best-placed rider in the UCI rankings, although the team is sitting down in 21st place.
His spring didn't start well with a disqualification for riding on the dirt track next to the road at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, but second in the Paris-Nice time trial in March was a good sign of form for Politt. Since then, he's gone on to finish sixth at the E3 BinckBank Classic and took fifth at the Tour of Flanders.
"I've already shown at the E3 and at Flanders that I can fight for the win or a podium, which is a big step forward since last year, and a really nice feeling," explained Politt.
"So far, I'm really happy with how my Classics have gone – especially my fifth place at Flanders last week. I'm really looking forward to Sunday, and think that my shape's still good. I feel good, I feel well and I feel recovered, and will arrive at the race feeling stress-free."
There might only be three British riders set to ride Paris-Roubaix this Sunday, but you'd be mistaken for thinking the French race was happening in Britain, given all the talk about the weather over the last few days.
It's expected to be a dry and sunny day for the race, but the wind is expected to play its part. Politt believes that the wind factor is likely to lead to a bigger group than normal making it to the finish line at the velodrome in Roubaix on Sunday afternoon.
"As things stand, I think we're set to have more of a headwind for the race, and so I think it'll be a big group coming into the last three or four *****pavé sectors, and then, for sure, some riders will try to attack there.
"I'd expect a group of almost 20 riders to get away," Politt predicted. "Maybe three or four guys will get away initially, but I think that a bigger group will be coming."
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