Nils Politt basically can’t get enough of the wind, rain and cobblestones. What sounds like a strange passion is actually his great passion for the two most important cycling classics. He is looking forward to the Tour of Flanders this Sunday and his favorite race, Paris-Roubaix, a week later.

“It’s just very, very nice to drive through so many fans who shout at you so loudly that you can no longer hear your sporting director in your ear,” Politt told dpa. It’s a huge folk festival, “like several Bundesliga games in Germany put together.”

After a strong spring so far, the Cologne native is one of the favorites in both races. At the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad he came second, at the E3 Prize, something like the dress rehearsal for the Tour of Flanders, Politt came seventh. After a few lean years, the 30-year-old classics specialist is back to the level with which he surprisingly finished second at Paris-Roubaix 2019 – maybe even a little better.

Training focus on speed

“I’m in a very, very good mood and of course I’ve gained experience,” said Politt. “I know the routes inside and out, know exactly when I have to be at the front and how to get to the front.” This knowledge can make the difference between victory and defeat on the cobbles of Belgium and France.

After three years with the German model racing team Bora-hansgrohe, Politt moved to superstar Tadej Pogacar’s Team UAE in the new year. This change helped him regain his old strength. His teammates are stronger, Politt no longer has to act as a lone fighter. “And we trained pretty hard in the winter, more than in previous years,” emphasized Politt. The German time trial champion didn’t necessarily ride on larger scales, but rather placed the emphasis on hard speed training.

The preliminary result is that Politt must be back on the list. Above all, of course, is Mathieu van der Poel. The world champion won the E3 prize and took second place at Gent-Wevelgem. Victory on the 270.8 kilometer long Ronde with its 17 poisonous climbs is only possible through him. But second place in Wevelgem gives the competition hope.

Politt: “You can alternate with the attacks”

Because Politt and Co. have to counter van der Poel’s superior strength as a team. In addition to the Rhinelander, UAE has two other options in Tim Wellens and Marc Hirschi. There is also the trio of the extremely strong Lidl-Trek team with Wevelgem winner Mads Pedersen, veteran Jasper Stuyven and the Latvian Toms Skujins. “You can take turns attacking, which makes it easier for me or someone else on the team,” explained Politt.

And then there is Wout van Aert. The Belgian all-rounder is almost desperately chasing a victory in one of the two big cobblestone races. Last year he was apparently the strongest rider at Paris-Roubaix before he had a defect in the last difficult sector and had to let his arch-rival van der Poel go. “It’s slowly starting to hurt,” said the injured van Aert.

And on Wednesday the dream shattered on the Belgian asphalt at Across Flanders. Van Aert and other favorites fell at high speed. The 29-year-old suffered a broken collarbone and several broken ribs. “It is unclear how long the recovery will take. Van Aert will definitely miss the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and the Amstel Gold Race,” his team said. For Politt this means having one less competitor, although he will be anything but happy about it.