Many riders racing Paris-Roubaix will be happy just to complete the course. But Sunday’s Hell of the North will be bittersweet for Team Sky’s Gabriel Rasch, whether he finishes or not. This edition of the Queen of the Classics will be his last race as a pro before becoming a sports director with the British WorldTour team.
Team Sky sponsor Muc-Off has produced a video in which the Norwegian domestique talks about his affinity with the Classics and looks forward to his new career.
Rasch has ridden Paris-Roubaix five times, with his highest placing coming in 2011 when he finished 23rd, riding for Garmin-Cervélo.
He told the Team Sky website: “I’d like to go out on a high and get my best-ever result in the race. I know if everything goes my way, and I am really lucky, that I can be up there at Paris-Roubaix.”
“First and foremost, I’ll be looking to help our team leaders, but I’d still like to be competitive myself and hang in there for as long as possible. If you’ve got the form on the day, you’ll always have a chance because it’s such an unpredictable race.
“I think my strengths as a rider suit this type of race but everything still has to run perfectly. The Classics are the hardest and best races in the sport in my opinion – and Paris-Roubaix is the biggest of them all. It has so much history and so many people turn out to watch it. I love everything about it and I’m pleased I’ve got the chance to ride it one last time.
“Of course, it will be emotional after the race on Sunday, and I think if I’d quit cycling straight after retiring, it would have left a big hole in my life, but now I have new goals to motivate and challenge me.”
Rasch had a successful amateur career in Norway, including winning the national road championship in 2003.
He was already in his thirties when he began his pro career in 2008 at Crédit Agricole alongside compatriot Thor Hushovd, who encouraged him to join.
Having turned 38 on Wednesday, he ends it at Sky alongside another Norwegian, Edvald Boasson Hagen, who also rides on Sunday.
His racing days almost came to a premature end when he was forced to abandon last Sunday’s Tour of Flanders after picking up a knee injury in a crash.
Briefly, it looked as though he might have to miss the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday – which happened to be his 38th birthday – as well as this weekend’s Queen of the Classics.
Happily, that hasn’t happened, and he completed the Belgian race, finishing in 77th place, crossing the line alongside Hushovd, and on Sunday morning in Compiègne will begin his final race as a pro.
He’s not picked a bad one to go out on.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.