The first perfectly tarmacked one hundred kilometres of Paris-Roubaix always fulfil the role of wearing the riders down. They weigh down on the legs of both the domestics and leaders, especially those who have forgotten that on leaving Compiègne, the plains of Picardy are never totally flat. However, the handlebars will really start shaking at Troisvilles with the entrance to the first cobbled sector, which will be numbered 30 and, unlike last year, will be covered by the race for the entirety of its 2.2 km. The riders with the least luck will have already suffered a puncture or two before reaching the cobbled sector at Vertain (No. 25), which regulars to the race have often ridden, though never upwards, a direction that has earned it four-star status in the classification of how difficult each cobbled sector is.
The agitated crossing of the Cambrésis and South Valenciennes areas will also reacquaint the riders with the section at the hamlet of Buat (No. 24), first ridden in 2005 and not visited since 2016. When they leave this cobbled lane that winds upwards for more than a kilometre, they will have thirty kilometres to prepare themselves for the challenge of the Trouée Arenberg (after 160 km), where there is often a radical cull among the riders, just like on the other five-star classed sectors of Mons-en-Pévèle (209.5 km) and the Carrefour de l’Arbre (240.5 km). Among the favourites still in the reckoning after this formidable sequence, perhaps John Degenkolb will find extra motivation on the section of Hornaing in Wandignies (No. 17, after 175.5 km). The second German winner of the Queen of the Classics, after Joseph Fischer in the inaugural edition in 1896, was visiting this morning, invited by the Friends of Paris-Roubaix for the inauguration of a plaque bearing his name. Perhaps it might bring him good luck…
Paris-Roubaix Challenge – Saturday, April, 11th
24 hours before the elite race, some 7,000 amateur riders will measure themselves on this legendary spring classic and its fabled cobblestone sectors. Three distances are on offer to cyclists, in order to accommodate all the preparation levels: 70, 145 and 172 kms. Every rider will find an appropriate legend.
Information and registration on www.parisroubaixchallenge.com