PREVIEW: The Paris – Roubaix is finally here, and everything is set for a race packed with action on Sunday April 10th. We give you an update on the course, the cobble sections, the favourites and tv-covarage.
Paris – Roubaix (1UWT)
27 cobble sections
Tv coverage: Eurosport from 12.45 pm (CET)
Sunday April 10th marks the end of the cobblestone classics in northern France and Belgium. The race from Paris to the Velodrome in Roubaix will be the final showdown. Last year’s winner John Degenkolb is sidelined, and won’t participate. That leaves Peter Sagan as the biggest favourite, after his impressive win in the Tour of Flanders. Can anyone beat the world champion, or will it be Sagan again?
Since 1977, the departure of the race has taken place in Compiegne, 100 kilometres from the Paris city centre. The same goes for the 2016-edition. From Compiegne, the riders head out north in the direction of Roubaix. The first 100 kilometres are cobble free, but from thereon, the suffer fest begins. A total of 27 cobble sectors await the peloton, which totals more than 52 kilometres.
The sectors have been categorized by the ASO, to give the riders, and the audience, an idea of how challenging the cobblestones are. They are ranked from one to five stars, where five star sectors are the toughest. There are only three five-star sectors all together, but that doesn’t mean that the rest will be easy. The constant flow of fatiguing cobble sectors will tire the riders all the way to Roubaix.
Here is an overview of all the sectors:
|27||Troisvilles (km 98.5 – 2200 m)||3|
|26||Viesly (km 105 – 1800 m)||3|
|25||Quievy (km 108 – 3700 m)||4|
|24||Saint-Python (km 112.5 – 1500 m)||2|
|23||Vertain (km 120.5 – 2300 m)||3|
|22||Verchain-Maugré (km 130 – 1600 m)||3|
|21||Quérénaing – Maing (km 133.5 – 2500 m)||3|
|20||Monchaux-sur-Ecaillon (km 136.5 – 1600 m)||3|
|19||Haveluy (km 149.5 – 2500 m)||4|
|18||Trouée d’Arenberg (km 158 – 2400 m)||5|
|17||Wallers – Hélesmes. dit « Pont Gibus » (km 164 – 1600 m)||3|
|16||Hornaing (km 170.5 – 3700 m)||4|
|15||Warlaing – Brillon (km 178 – 2400 m)||3|
|14||Tilloy – Sars-et-Rosières (km 181.5 – 2400 m)||4|
|13||Beuvry-la-Forêt – Orchies (km 188 – 1400m)||3|
|12||Orchies (km 193 – 1700 m)||3|
|11||Auchy-lez-Orchies – Bersée (km 199 – 2700 m)||4|
|10||Mons-en-Pévèle (km 204.5 – 3000 m)||5|
|9||Mérignies – Avelin (km 210.5 – 700 m)||2|
|8||Pont-Thibaut (km 214 – 1400 m)||3|
|7||Templeuve – Moulin de Vertain (km 220 – 500 m)||2|
|6a||Cysoing – Bourghelles (km 226.5 – 1300 m)||3|
|6b||Bourghelles – Wannehain (km 229 – 1100 m)||3|
|5||Camphin-en-Pévèle (km 233.5 – 1800 m)||4|
|4||Le Carrefour de l’Arbre (km 236.5 – 2100 m)||5|
|3||Gruson (km 238.5 – 1100 m)||2|
|2||Hem (km 245.5 – 1400 m)||2|
|1||Roubaix (km 252 – 300 m)||1|
The three highlighted sectors are Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and Le Carrefour de l’Arbre. These are the three toughest ones in the eyes of the ASO. Here’s a short presentation of the three sectors:
Tourée d’Arenberg (km 158 – 2400 m)
The Arenberg forest is perhaps the most mythical and legendary of the cobble sections in Paris – Roubaix. The cobbles were laid in the time of Napoleon 1, in the late 18th century, which should be telling of the section’s general state. The road is straight and narrow, with a thick forest on both sides. A dirt road runs along the path, but it is sealed off with fences – too bad for the riders, good for the spectators. The size of the stones are rather irregular, which makes it almost impossible to find a continuous comfortable path. No matter how the 2,4 kilometre long section is ridden, it is massively painful.
It has probably become a cliche, but it still has to be said: you can’t win the Paris – Roubaix in the Arenberg forest, but you can certainly loose it. Many have suffered heavily, as punctures and crashes are common. Take a look at this video of Tom Boonen from 2011, where he punctured at the Arenberg path, and had to wait more than 90 seconds for a new wheel. The 2011 edition ended with a DNF for the Belgian four-time-champion.
Mons-en-Pévèle (km 204.5 – 3000 m)
The Mons-en-Pévèle comes approximately 50 kilometres after the Arenberg forest. However, the riders have been through seven other sections since then, getting even more beaten up. Contrary to the Arenberg section, the 3000 metres of the Mons-en-Pévèle are divided in three parts(two major turns, the first to the right, the second to the left). This will probably lighten the riders mood a bit. The section will be packed with fans, hoping to witness the decisive attack.
Mons-en-Pévèle is far from the finish line in Roubaix. On the other hand, it has been proven quite recently, that the winning attack actually could come already here. In 2012, Tom Boonen even went for it at the sector prior to the Mons-en-Pévèle, 55 kilometres before the Velodrome in Roubaix. In the end, Tornado Tom won with a minuite and a half. in 2010, Fabian Cancellara also attacked before the Mons-en-Pévèle, but used the sectore to increase his lead on followers Tom Boonen and Thor Hushovd. In the end, Cancellara won with two minutes.
Le Carrefour de l’Arbre (km 236.5 – 2100 m)
Le Carrefour de l’Arbe is the last real test for the riders on their way to Roubaix, with only 19 kilometres left to the finish line from the end of the section. The three remaning sections aren’t that hard, and will have a limited impact on the outcome of the race. Carrefour de l’Arbe on the other hand, is likely to be decisive. The cobble stones here are somewhat similar to those in the Arenberg forest, althoug a bit smaller and sharper. Their irregularity makes it incredibly tough to ride steadily, without loosing speed. The section also has it twists and turns, and is quite narrow. The riders will therefore have to ride carefully, as the treacherous roads can easily bring them down. And the enormous crowds don’t help. In 2009, Thor Hushovd famously did a salto mortale over the cobbles here, and lost the race to Tom Boonen.
The Favourites (***)
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
The world champion has proven to be even stronger than last year. A strong tactical win in Gent Wevelgem was simply a warm up for the massive win in the Tour of Flanders. Cancellara and Vanmarcke were nowhere near Sagan on the final kilometres to Oudenaarde. The 26-year-old Slovak obviously is the biggest favourite for Sundays race, although he almost admitted that the Tour of Flanders-victory gave him the possibility of “having some fun” in the next races. Let’s hope that it means he will make Paris – Roubaix even more spectacular.
Fabian Cancellara (Trek Segafredo)
The Swiss phenomenon has won the Paris – Roubaix three times, and is certainly hungry for his fourth. It will be a wistful experience for Cancellara, as it is his final Paris – Roubaix. Sagan is no doubt the main favourite, but Cancellara is sure to have some tricks up his sleeve. Compared to Sagan, Cancellara possesses great knowledge when it comes to the cobble sections of northern France. He certainly looked strong in De Ronde as well, finishing second behind Sagan. It is not impossible that Fabian has tried to postpone his form a bit, trying to get an extra boost in Paris – Roubaix. He will certainly fight till the end, and we should really enjoy the last time we get to se Spartacus float across the bumpy cobblestones.
Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha)
Although satisfied with his fourth place in the Tour of Flanders, Alexander Kristoff has not been completely satisified with his classics season so far. The Norwegian, with two monuments to his belt, will try his best to turn it around on Sunday April 10th. His coach and manager (and stepfather) Stein Ørn claims Kristoff will be even stronger in Roubaix. It was the hills in De Ronde that made him struggle, let us see how well he deals with the flat cobble sections of Paris – Roubaix.
Sep Vanmarcke (Lotto Jumbo)
Vanmarcke yet again showed his strength in the cobblestone classics in Tour of Flanders, where he finished third. He showed great tactical abilities, when he chose to join Sagan and Kwiatkowski for what turned out to be the decisive attack.
Vanmarcke has previously shown that the Paris – Roubaix probably suits him better than De Ronde, with a second and a fourth place as his best results. The second place from 2013 was particularly strong, where he was the only rider capable of following Cancellara. It is not impossible that Vanmarcke will be in the front group at the Velodrome in Roubaix on Sunday.
Nikki Terpstra (Etixx Quickstep)
Nikki Terpstra is one of the three former winners who will participate in Paris – Roubaix (along with Boonen and Cancellara). According to Dutch fans, Terpstra is their only chance of winning the race. He definitely looked strong in the Tour of Flanders, but didn’t stand a chance in the final hills. A flat profile suits the 31-year-old Dutchman as well. He is part of a strong Etixx Quickstep-side, riding alongside with Stybar and Boonen. They will certainly pose a threat if Patrick Lefevre plays his cards right.
Riders worth mentioning (*)
Tom Boonen, Daniel Oss, Lars Boom, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Zdenek Stybar, Mark Cavendish, Tony Martin, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Jens Keukeleire, Borut Bozic, Jurgen Roelands, André Greipel and Arnaud Demaré (if he rides).
2016 marks the first year where the entire Paris – Roubaix will be broadcasted live. Around 20 national broadcasters worldwide have the honour of producing an all-day show, dedicated to the hell of the north. Eurosport haven’t announced if they will show the entire race yet, but unfortunately it looks like they won’t. Their broadcast is scheduled from 12.45 pm, although the race begins as early as 10.20 am (or 10 to 20 minutes later, depending on the weather).
More information is available at cyclingfans.com or steephill.tv.