‘I want to give something back’ - How will Alpecin-Deceuninck balance two superstars at Paris-Roubaix?

Mathieu van der Poel and Jasper Philipsen explain how they will balance their ambitions in the Hell of the North

Two Monuments down, two wins already ticked off. Can Alpecin-Deceuninck make it a hat-trick of major one-day victories in the space of a month at this Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix?

The Belgian team count the two race favourites among their roster, the victor of Milan-Sanremo, Jasper Philipsen, and last weekend’s Tour of Flanders conqueror, Mathieu van der Poel. A year ago, the duo pulled off a memorable one-two, Van der Poel taking home his first cobblestone, and Philipsen proving that he’s more than just a man for flat bunch sprints.

So what about this time around? A repeat? “I think if we can create a situation like we did last year that will benefit both of us,” Van der Poel said. “Our strength is that we have different ways in which we can win the race. Our strength is we’re a duo. Jasper is one of the favourites here also and he was really impressive last year.”

Though Van der Poel is the pundit’s backer among the pair, the world champion has also turned provider to Philipsen on a number of occasions, including at Sanremo four weeks ago. Should the pair arrive into the Roubaix velodrome together, who’d get the nod from the team car? “In this situation, we have clear instructions,” Philipsen said, without specifying what they were. “I know what we have to do - but first we have to get there. Of course I want to give something back at some point [to Van der Poel for teeing up his win at Sanremo] so why not Sunday?”

Jasper Philipsen wins Milan-Sanremo after being assisted by Mathieu van der Poel 

Van der Poel, though, disagreed with that mindset. “I don’t do it [assisting] to get something back,” he said. “I did it because in that situation it was the best option. I know he would have done the same. So it’s not that I do something like that to get it back in the future.” Reading between the lines, though, is the secret pact that Philipsen is to play second fiddle to Van der Poel? “I think if we enter the velodrome together, Jasper is going to go left and I’m gonna go right,” the Dutchman joked, “and the first one to the line wins.”

Humour aside, the memories of last year are warm. “It was quite unique to finish one-two in the velodrome,” Philipsen smiled. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in cycling so far.” But that was then, this is now. “The good thing is we don’t need to prove ourselves in the Classics this season, or it’s not like Roubaix is our last chance. We are hungry to go for the win on Sunday.”

Their chances of success have been increased with Visma-Lease a Bike missing both Wout van Aert and Matteo Jorgensen. There’s still Mads Pedersen of Lidl-Trek, and a crucial thing called Lady Luck to get on their side, but the notable thing being in the company of Van der Poel and Philipsen was the abundance of confidence and carefree pressure. Philipsen even joked that Van der Poel has been “more by the pool” in Spain in the last few days. “Just look at his tan lines,” he laughed.

Limited sun is forecast in northern France on Sunday, but the plan for Alpecin is clear: have one, or ideally both, of their main in the leading group come the finale. “The win will come from a smaller group,” Philipsen predicted. “And from there there are multiple possible scenarios.”

Shop now