Paris-Roubaix: Geraint Thomas expects dual leader role with Wiggins

Geraint Thomas has enjoyed success on the cobbles this season after winning the E3 Harelbeke
Geraint Thomas has enjoyed success on the cobbles this season after winning the E3 Harelbeke
Date: Sunday 12 April, 9:30 BST start, finish from 15:32 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 sports extra and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Geraint Thomas is happy to share the role of leader with Sir Bradley Wiggins in Sunday's 253km (151 miles) Paris-Roubaix.

The finale to the season's cobbled classics races will be Wiggins' last for Team Sky before he leaves to front his own outfit, Team Wiggins.

"It may just be a joint thing as it's one of those races that anything can happen," Thomas said.

"I think we'll both be protected riders and have the help from the team."

In March Thomas, 28, became the first British rider to win the formidable E3 Harelbeke race in Belgium, and the first Welshman to win a classic in the series' 119-year history.

However, his hopes of following that up with victory at the Tour of Flanders the following week ended with a disappointing 14th-place finish.

While Thomas aims to rediscover "the punch" that he felt had deserted him in Flanders, Wiggins will be aiming to crown a Team Sky career that has featured a historic Tour de France victory in 2012 as well as a podium finish in the Vuelta in 2011.

The pair both finished in the top 10 last year with Thomas seventh and Wiggins ninth behind victorious Dutchman Niki Terpstra.

Wiggins, 34, has claimed that a win in the race dubbed the Queen of Classics would be "more enjoyable"external-link than his Tour de France win.

The Paris-Roubaix begins with 98km (61 miles) of surfaced road, before 27 cobbled sections, covering a total of 52.7 km, ahead of the finish in the velodrome in Roubaix.

The cobbles - covered in choking dust in the dry or a slick film of dirt in the rain - place demands on both riders' bike-handling and the machines below them.

This year's cobbled classics
28 Feb: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad - 200km (124 miles), won by Britain's Ian Stannard
1 Mar: Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne - 195km (121 miles), won by Britain's Mark Cavendish
25 Mar: Dwars door Vlaanderen - 200km (124 miles), won by Belgium's Jelle Wallays
27 Mar: E3 Harelbeke - 215km (134 miles), won by Britain's Geraint Thomas
29 Mar: Gent-Wevelgem - 239km (149 miles), won by Italy's Luca Paolini
5 Apr: Tour of Flanders - 264km (164 miles), won by Norway's Alexander Kristoff
8 Apr: Scheldeprijs - 204km (127 miles), won by Norway's Alexander Kristoff
12 Apr: Paris-Roubaix - 253km (157 miles), 27 cobbled sections, another 'Monument'

"Tactically a lot of things come into play... you can go in with plan A but usually it's plan C or D that actually happens," said Thomas, who will be riding a Team Sky bike that has been specially designed to cope with the Spring Classics.external-link

"If Brad goes away early then I'm not going to chase. If it does come back then that's my chance to go, and vice versa.

"If he's riding really well and he's got the best chance of winning, then it's all about the team winning and not who it is.

"As long as there's a Team Sky jersey stood on that top podium, we'll all be happy. We've got a few cards to play."

Both Wiggins and Thomas avoided the major pile-up in the final kilometre of Wednesday's Scheldeprijs race in Belgium that saw Team Sky colleague Elia Viviani taken to hospital.

And Thomas admits that the Paris-Roubaix is similarly difficult to plan for.

"We've done a couple of recons on the cobbles but there's nothing else like it during the year," Thomas added.

"With this race as well there's a lot more contenders: Flanders is limited to the amount of people that can actually win, but with this race on Sunday a hell of a lot can happen."

Belgian riders have won 55 of the 112 editions of the race and BMC's Greg Van Avermaet is the likeliest to continue that strong tradition.

Defending champion Terpstra could mount a strong defence after second-placed finishes in the Tour of Flanders, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Gent-Wevelgem races.

Katusha on a practice ride for Paris-Roubaix
The forecast is dry, fine weather on Sunday for Paris-Roubaix