Fabian Cancellara appears to laugh off Bradley Wiggins's aim to challenge in Paris-Roubaix... but still says he's welcome

Fabian Cancellara questioned Bradley Wiggins’s participation this spring in Paris-Roubaix. The Swiss Spartacus will lead team Trek over the cobble sectors that characterise Paris-Roubaix on April 13 and aim for a fourth title. When he listed the riders reaching form for the spring classics he left off Team Sky’s Wiggins.

“Wiggins? Why?” Cancellara said with a grin and a light laugh during a press conference yesterday. “Of course he’s welcome. Everyone is welcome to Roubaix. Everyone. Even [Nairo] Quintana is welcome.”

Colombia’s Quintana, 57kg and 5-foot-6, placed second at the Tour de France and won the climber’s jersey. He is not aiming for Paris-Roubaix but Wiggins is. He circled the Queen of the Classics and the Tour of California on his calendar as races he wants to win.

Wiggins’ best place so far in the Roubaix velodrome that hosts the finish is 25th in 2009. He raced three times in his professional career, the last time in 2011. In the last seasons, he focused on climbing faster and winning stage races. In 2012, he won the Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandy and the Critérium du Dauphiné stage races en route to the biggest one of them all, the Tour de France.

However, this winter he changed direction. He said he would aim for Roubaix, the week-long Californian stage race and to support Chris Froome in his title defence.

In its 111 editions, a British rider has never won Roubaix. Roger Hammond, in 2004, and Barry Hoban, in 1972, each placed third.

“Roubaix has a special charm,” Wiggins told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper today. “Among the classics, it’s the one best suited to my characteristics. I’m no longer as light as I was in 2012, I’m a few kilogrammes heavier. I’m more powerful. I’m convinced I can do well in Roubaix for a very simple reason: When you face the pavé it’s like you’re racing a time trial.”

“I know he put on eight kilogrammes. He does not look like a Tour competitor anymore, I’ve seen that. He’s building up for being another type of rider,” Cancellara explained last night.

Cancellara said that he was unsure if Wiggins could realistically challenge seasoned Roubaix riders like himself and Tom Boonen, who count seven wins between them.

“You take my ‘He’s welcome to this race’ in two different ways, as a joke or as a serious comment. I don’t want to go into details about what he could do. I said everyone is welcome. I could also challenge myself [to become a classification rider]. But that’s not who I am. It’s not my challenge.”

This year’s Tour de France stage five also covers 15.5 kilometres of Paris-Roubaix’s cobbles. Cancellara explained that the lightweight grand tour riders will suffer.

“When I see Quintana and other riders who will have to compete for the Tour over the cobbles… OK, I’ll be different at the Tour than it is at Roubaix but it’s going to hurt.”

Wiggins and Cancellara will clash during the final stage time trial of Tirreno-Adriatico today (Tuesday). Wiggins is currently in 56th spot overall, 29-19 behind race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). Cancellara is a handful of places ahead, in 52nd.

Fabian Cancellara on Stage 5 of the 2014 Tirreno Adriatico

Fabian Cancellara on Stage 5 of the 2014 Tirreno Adriatico

Fabian Cancellara in Paris-Roubaix 2013

Fabian Cancellara in Paris-Roubaix 2013

Bradley Wiggins on Stage 5 of the 2014 Tirreno Adriatico

Bradley Wiggins on Stage 5 of the 2014 Tirreno Adriatico

Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky during he opening Team Time Trial of the 2014 Tirreno-Adriatico in which they placed 6th

Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky during he opening Team Time Trial of the 2014 Tirreno-Adriatico in which they placed 6th

Bradley Wiggins during Stage 4 of the 2014 Tirreno-Adriatico

Bradley Wiggins during Stage 4 of the 2014 Tirreno-Adriatico

Bradley Wiggins after Stage 4 of the 2014 Tirreno-Adriatico

Bradley Wiggins after Stage 4 of the 2014 Tirreno-Adriatico

Bradley Wiggins before the start of Stage 2 of the 2014 Tirreno Adriatico

Bradley Wiggins before the start of Stage 2 of the 2014 Tirreno Adriatico