The best race in cycling returns. On the 8th and 9th of April, Paris-Roubaix Femmes and Paris-Roubaix Hommes will take place across the cobbles of northern France.
In 2022, Elisa Longo Borghini soloed to victory to ensure back-to-back years of success for Trek-Segafredo in the women’s race. In the chasing group behind, Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) and Longo Borghini’s teammate Lucinda Brand completed the podium.
Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) won the men’s race in similar fashion, a solo attack ensuring victory ahead of Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) for cobblestone glory.
Goats have been busy ensuring the course is fit for riders ahead of the 2023 edition. In an effort dubbed ‘Les Biquettes de l’Espoir’ (Goats of Hope), around 40 goats were used to eco-graze the cobblestones of the famed Trouée d’Arenberg. Only the men’s peloton will appreciate their efforts, as the women’s race does not go through this sector.
Expect the unexpected, don’t write anyone off and enjoy two days of magic. To get you hyped and prepped for Paris-Roubaix 2023, we’ve put together all the things you need to know for the big weekend.
Paris-Roubaix 2023: Key information
Date: Women’s – Saturday 8th April 2023; Men’s – Sunday 9th April 2023Start: Women’s – Denain; Men’s – Compiègne, north of ParisFinish: Vélodrome André-Pétrieux, RoubaixDistance: Women’s – 145.4km; Men’s – 256.6kmCobbles: Women’s – 17 secteurs of pavé covering 29.2km; Men’s – 29 secteurs of pavé covering 54.5kmWeather: Women’s – TBC °C; Men’s – TBC °CUK live TV coverage: GCN+, discovery+, Eurosport 1
Paris-Roubaix was inaugurated in 1896, making it one of the oldest bike races in the world. However, it took until 2021 for a women’s race to be organised.
Born of a familiar story involving entrepreneurial types, newspapers and money-making schemes, over time Paris-Roubaix has come to adopt monikers like the ‘Queen of the Classics’ and ‘Hell of the North’, and remains one of the most prestigious victories to take in pro bike racing.
Its place on the calendar for 2023 slots it between the legendary Tour of Flanders and De Brabantse Pijl races.
Paris-Roubaix men’s route 2023
The Paris-Roubaix 2023 men’s race route is pretty much identical to the past few editions, but welcomes back the Haspres cobbled sector almost two decade after its last appearance.
Although the Arenberg is tackled almost 100km from the finishing line, it often causes many problems for the peloton splintering the bunch into smaller groups due to crashes, mechanicals and riders simply struggling to keep up the pace on the surface.
The Carrefour de l’Arbre is the last major test for any rider in with a chance for victory. This five-star sector (the hardest rating) has been used as a springboard for many attacks in the past thanks to its tough cobbles and close proximity to the finish.
Paris-Roubaix Femmes route 2023
Still familiar to the 2022 route, the main change in the women’s course for 2023 comes prior to the cobblestones. Two added loops will provide an extra 20km of racing for the 2023 Paris-Roubaix Femmes, as they then merge onto the men’s course in Hornaing.
In terms of cobbles, there are 17 secteurs, which are the same as the final 17 of the men’s route. That means the only big name left off is Arenberg, something a lot of fans would love to see but a logistical difficulty given the geography and desired length of the race. Perhaps in a future edition…
Paris-Roubaix cobbled secteurs 2023
(Sectors in bold are in both the men’s and women’s races)
SectorKilometresNameLength (km)Rating29160.3Troisvilles to Inchy2.23/528153.8Viesly to Quiévy1.83/527151.2Quiévy to Saint-Python3.74/526146.5Saint-Python1.52/525139.4Vertain to Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon2.33/524129.4Verchain-Maugré to Quérénaing1.63/523126.7Quérénaing to Maing2.53/522123.6Maing to Monchaux-sur-Écaillon1.63/521117Haspres1.720103.5Haveluy to Wallers2.54/51995.3Trouée d’Arenberg2.35/51889.2Wallers to Hélesmes1.63/51782.5Hornaing to Wandignies3.74/51675Warlaing to Brillon2.43/51571.5Tilloy to Sars-et-Rosières2.44/51465.2Beuvry-la-Forêt to Orchies1.43/51360.1Orchies1.73/51254Auchy-lez-Orchies to Bersée2.74/51148.6Mons-en-Pévèle35/51042.6Mérignies to Avelin0.72/5939.2Pont-Thibaut to Ennevelin1.43/58b33.8Templeuve (L’Épinette)0.21/58a33.3Templeuve (Moulin-de-Vertain)0.52/5726.8Cysoing to Bourghelles1.33/5624.3Bourghelles to Wannehain1.13/5519.9Camphin-en-Pévèle1.84/5417.1Carrefour de l’Arbre2.15/5314.8Gruson1.12/528.2Willems to Hem1.42/511.4Roubaix (Espace Charles Crupelandt)0.31/5TotalMen: 54.5km; Women: 29.2km
Paris Roubaix Hommes 2023: Start list and teams
Men’s WorldTour Teams
(Full rider list TBC)
UAE Team Emirates
(Full rider list TBC)
Q36.5 Pro Cycling
Paris Roubaix Femmes 2023: Start list and teams
Women’s WorldTour Teams
(Full rider list TBC)
Human Powered Health
Israel-Premier Tech Roland
Liv Racing TeqFind
Movistar Team Women
UAE Team ADQ
Uno-X Pro Cycling
Women’s Continental Teams
(Full rider list TBC)
Arkéa Pro Cycling Team
Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling
Cofidis Women Team
Stade Rochelais Charente-Maritime
ZAAF Cycling Team
Paris-Roubaix: Recent winners
2022: Men’s – Dylan van Baarle (NED), Ineos Grenadiers; Women’s – Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA), Trek-Segafredo
2021: Men’s – Sonny Colbrelli (ITA), Bahrain Victorious; Women’s – Lizzie Deignan (GBR), Trek-Segafredo
2019: Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Deceuninck-QuickStep
2018: Peter Sagan (SVK), Bora-Hansgrohe
2017: Greg Van Avermaet, (BEL) BMC Racing
2016: Mat Hayman, (AUS) Mitchelton-Scott
2015: John Degenkolb (GER), Giant-Alpecin
2014: Niki Terpstra (NED), Etixx-QuickStep
2013: Fabian Cancellara (SUI), RadioShack
2012: Tom Boonen (BEL), Omega Pharma-QuickStep
2011: Johann Vansummeren (BEL), Garmin-Cervelo
2010: Fabian Cancellara (SUI), Saxo Bank
2009: Tom Boonen (BEL), Quickstep
2008: Tom Boonen (BEL), Quickstep
For more on about Paris-Roubaix or to get hyped for the big weekend, try these:
Paris-Roubaix was born in 1896, making it one of the very oldest bike races around. A tenuous claim puts Liège-Bastogne-Liège as being older, and therefore the oldest race that’s still alive today, but the only other recognisable events to precede the birth of Roubaix are the long-deceased relics of former classics such as Paris-Rouen and Paris-Brest-Paris.
Rewind to 1895, and to two entrepreneurial types from Roubaix who had just built a velodrome in the small northern town, which had already hosted a meet with the dominant track star of the time, American Major Taylor.
But the duo wanted more publicity for their venture, and so approached Parisian sports newspaper Le Velo to enquire about the possibility of their involvement in a race to start in Paris and end in the new velodrome in Roubaix. It was pitched as a warm-up race to the mighty Bordeux-Paris classic.
The newspaper director, Paul Rousseau, duly gave his approval. But the first edition proved difficult to get off the ground, amid concerns of it being held on Easter Sunday: How would the riders attend mass? Would spectators not rather go to church than the velodrome?
The date was presumably moved in accordance, and it was the German Josef Fischer who came out victorious, putting Maurice Garin – who would go on to win the first ever Tour de France – into third.
Every edition until that of 1919 would finish at this original velodrome, at which point began years of the race finishing at various locations around Roubaix, until it found its current home at the Roubaix Velodrome in 1943.
Of course, road conditions in 1896 were hardly of an immaculate standard, and rather than today’s need for organisers to go in search of cobbled sectors, in days of old there was no choice in the matter – roads that weren’t horrendously paved, cobbled, cindered or just plain dirt, were the exception.
Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking that it was these horrendous surfaces, as well as other hazards and a generally harsh crack of the organiser’s whip, that earned the race the title the ‘Hell of the North’.
But in sobering fact, it was the devastating effects of the world at war that gave Paris-Roubaix this timeless moniker – coined by journalists as they inspected the route prior to the race’s revival after World War One.
But as Nord pas de Calais recovered from the battles fought out on its open wastes; as the French economy recovered and roads gradually began to improve, the race director’s found that they had to actively search out cobbled sectors to maintain the spirit of the race.
A period of dominance from Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser and ‘Mr. Paris-Roubaix’ Roger De Vlaeminck in the 60s and 70s preceded the formation of Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix though.
In an effort to restore the spirit of the Queen of the Classics came this thousands-strong group, which was founded in 1983.
Their aim of discovering and restoring cobbled roads to be used in the race has been appreciated ever since, as well as their maintenance of current ones – the merciless Forest of Arenberg, Carrefour de l’Arbre and Mons-en-Pevele sectors included.
Famous editions of Paris-Roubaix
1927 – A controversial victory
21-year-old Belgian George Ronsse had attacked early and built up a solo lead, but was caught by a 16-man chase group on the run in to Roubaix. Present in the group were French duo Charles Pellisier (younger brother of the more famous Henri), and Joseph Curtel, with the former a known sprinter and – once the junction was made – the expected winner.
But it was Curtel and the former soloist Ronsse who battled to the line, with Curtel (left in the picture) supposedly winning the sprint. He was carried off by French supporters while the band began playing the French national anthem, until the formal results were read out, declaring Ronsse the winner.
Rider protests were denied, accusations of shady dealings were made against Ronsse’s Automoto team, but the result still stands.
1943 – The race enters the velodrome
A landmark year for Paris-Roubaix, as 1943 was the first year that the famous Roubaix Velodrome was used as the finish line. Although the initial editions of the race were held with the finish at a velodrome, it was located on a different site, and while some alternate locations around Roubaix have been used sporadically since, it is the one first used in 1943 that has retained the finish to this day – along with the fabled post-race shower block in the adjacent changing rooms.
1988 – The early breakaway survives
While an early breakaway always goes in Paris-Roubaix, it is not common for it to hang on until the end, such is the fatiguing nature of the course. But in 1988, a breakaway went after 27km, and the finish was contested between two of its original protagonists after attacking their companions in the finale and holding off the remnants of the peloton behind.
Dirk Demol of Belgium and Thomas Wegmuller of Switzerland were those two riders, but in a cruel twist of fate for Wegmuller, a plastic bag became entangled with his rear derailleur with just a handful of kilometres left.
Efforts to remove it were unsuccessful, and a bike change at that stage of the race would have been suicidal, so Wegmuller was left to contest the finish in a gear unbefitting of an all-out sprint. Unsurprisingly, it was Demol who came out as the victor.
1996, 1998 & 2001 – Mapei and Domo 1,2,3
In 1996 the Mapei-GB team provided a rarely-achieved feat by completing the podium. Johan Museeuw, Gianluca Bortalami and Andrea Tafi crossed the line arm in arm, finishing 2 minutes and 38 seconds ahead of 4th place.
In 1998 they did it again, with Franco Ballerini, Andrea Tafi and Wilfried Peeters all finishing by themselves, but nonetheless ahead of everyone else.
For a third time in six years, Domo – Farm Frites unbelievably were able to do the same, with the winner Servais Knaven and Johan Museeuw – after having almost lost his leg to gangrene after a crash in ’98 – in second, and Latvian Romans Vainsteins in third.
2006 – Train stops play
While 2006 was also the year that Fabian Cancellara took his first of three victories to date, and when pre-race favourite and long-time Roubaix aspirant George Hincapie was befallen by a snapped steerer and subsequent broken collarbone, it as also a year of disqualifications.
While Cancellara had already attacked and left his companions with 20km to go on the Camphin-en-Pevele sector, those in pursuit (Vladimir Gusev, Leif Hoste and Peter Van Petegem) crossed a level crossing while the barriers were down.
Although the three would place 2nd, 3rd and 4th on the day, they were disqualified for their earlier infringements.
2012 – Boonen makes it four
If Roger De Vlaeminck is ‘Mr Paris Roubaix’ with his four victories, then Tom Boonen surely became a modern day equivalent when he matched his Belgian predecessor in the win tally.
In a year where his long-time rival Fabian Cancellara was ruled out after crashing in the Tour of Flanders, Boonen escaped with his teammate Niki Terpstra, before dropping the Dutchman and soloing to victory, over a minute and a half in front of second place Sebastian Turgot.
Paris-Roubaix Challenge Sportive, Joshua Cunningham
A pain more engulfing than the one endured on the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix will not be experienced while riding a bicycle. This is a fact that I am now certain of.
I’m negotiating one, for it could be any, of the 28 cobbled sectors that make up the 170km route of the Paris-Roubaix Challenge, and the unrelenting punishment has turned my face into a grimace – a teeth-baring contortion akin to an old English gurning competition – and my hands are clamping the bars tighter than a pair of mole grips.
For one embarrassing moment I hear a small groan escape the gaps between my grinding teeth, and I feel a dollop of something – it could be sweat, it could be saliva or snot – land firmly on my dust-encrusted thigh.
None of this matters, though. Any ideals of maintaining style were abandoned some time ago, along with the ability to stick to a chosen line or resist the temptation to ride in the gutter.
The only thing I can think about is the banner I can see through the dusty haze, hung across the road to mark the end of this clattering torment and the start of the tarmac-smooth salvation that lies ahead.
The history of Paris-Roubaix needs no retelling. The name alone conjures images of dust-caked faces and bone-shattering crashes from down the years. The race is almost as old as cycling itself, and it is always one of the most exciting spectacles of the pro calendar, but it is hard for the armchair viewer to understand exactly what the riders are going through when they blast onto the cobbles.
This is why I’m here – for enlightenment, to experience the reality of trying to pedal across roads that are entirely unsuited to bicycles, and to comprehend the pain, fear and exhaustion that riding on cobbles inflicts. I’m learning quickly.
Dawn of the dead
Geoff Waugh / Cyclist
The day begins at 5.45am, at a hotel breakfast buffet being rapidly harvested of carbohydrates by a marauding bunch of MAMILs.
The gates of the Challenge officially open at 7am, so after filling my stomach to just the right side of uncomfortable, I give my bike a once-over and make the early morning dash from my hotel in St Quentin to the start in Busigny.
The 170km route all but follows the pro race’s parcours inch for inch (albeit without the preceding 100km), but there are 140km and 70km options too, both of which start from the Roubaix velodrome.
A misty and cold scene greets us upon arrival. Gaggles of riders sit perched on their car boots and point us in the direction of the sign-on.
The foggy shroud allows no more than a dozen metres of visibility, but gradually some sort of communal village building comes into view under an inflatable gantry.
It spills out groups of riders, tottering around in cleats and clasping steaming polystyrene cups of watery coffee, before joining the masses in their uncomfortable wait for one of the precious few Port-a-loos to become vacant.
I receive my entry pack along with a handful of sweets, then proceed to attach the number to my bars and ‘sector guide’ to my Pinarello’s top tube – while trying not to pay too much attention to the length, frequency and severity of the cobbled sectors it cruelly details.
Geoff Waugh / Cyclist
I’m feeling anxious, although I can’t pinpoint exactly why. A glance around the bustling street confirms I’m not alone, as I catch the eyes of a few riders, momentarily detached from their bantering circle of Lycra-clad friends and alone with their thoughts. Their faces reveal underlying doubts about our impending ride.
It’s not the 170km length: I’m sure I can handle that. It’s not the bike either: the same Pinarello DogmaK will be ridden by Team Sky in the pro race tomorrow. It’s not even the legs: they’ve served me well so far.
No, it must be those sinister cobbles – the reason we’re all here – that are fuelling our communal sense of apprehension, and I get the feeling it’s a suspicion that’s going to be painfully justified.
I scramble to join a mass of riders about to leave, preferring the shelter of wheels to ease myself through the first few undulating kilometres.
It’s a little before 8am, with the temperature still low, and my gilet is proving of little hindrance to the cold morning haze as we coast out of Busigny into the unknown.
Stoned to death
Despite this not being a race, there is a definite change of pace as we near the first cobbled section, and the drop-off in conversation only confirms that things are about to get serious.
To avoid potential collisions I make my way to the front of the group as a banner looms overhead, signifying the start of ‘Sector 28 – Troisvilles à Inchy’, and no sooner have we passed under it than the first thunderingwaves of stone break under our front wheels.
The craggy shards have more in common with a rock garden than a road, with an intertwining maze of crevices vanishing into muddy, tyre-swallowing depths that are all but unavoidable.
I try to steer my line towards the smoother central crown of the road, a meager channel of reprieve wide enough for just one rider, before it falls away on either side into two parallel seas of jumbled stonework.
Once over the initial shock, I find some space, some rhythm, and start to negotiate my way forwards, trying desperately to keep the all-important momentum going.
Geoff Waugh / Cyclist
Maintaining speed over the cobbles is essential; without it every separate stone becomes a tyre-impeding obstacle. So I adopt a gung-ho approach, stomping on the pedals, following the direction my bike dictates, and hoping for the best.
Successfully negotiating a chosen line through this carnage borders on miraculous, and changing gear is nigh-on impossible. But by the end of the 2.2km induction I’m amid a small bunch of cyclocross riders (why am I not surprised to see this lot revelling in the ordeal?), and if it weren’t for my severe oxygen debt I’d be inclined to breathe a long sigh of relief.
The ensuing succession of sectors passes by in a similar fashion. They are all harsh and exhausting, but the excitement, novelty and hardships of each installment leave me craving the next as soon as I have recovered from the last.
Most riders seem to have found themselves in groups of ten to 15; either cooperatively going through-and-off, or letting a couple of rampaging pedal-bashers lead from the front.
My own company has the sportive demographic well represented, with road bikes, cyclocross bikes, mountain bikes, carbon, steel and aluminium all contributing to an eclectic mix of styles rolling through to poke their noses into the wind.
We even pass one heroic individual aboard a wooden velocipede, swinging his legs nonchalantly while clattering over the cobbles, with nether-regional consequences I dread to even think about.
The first food station appears in a petite village square, and all but a determined few stop to gorge on the various forms of sugar-laden fodder and fill up their bidons from industrial irrigation containers.
There’s even a mechanic sheltering under a gazebo, puffing on a cigar and dressed in blue overalls naturally, but also on hand to deal with any non-terminal bike injuries the conditions may have inflicted.
As for fixing morale, I bump into Cyclist’s photographer Geoff taking a few snaps: ‘Those cobbles look brutal,’ he chuckles through the car window. ‘Because they bloody are!’ I bleat, while rolling off into the mist.
Geoff Waugh / Cyclist
After the stop I notice that the number of groups has dwindled, and more and more riders are resigned to riding alone at their own manageable pace as fatigue kicks in. We’re no more than a third of the way through the distance, and yet the ride has already become a game of survival.
Trench town rock
Paris-Roubaix wasn’t always like this. When the race started it was indeed a fearsome endeavour, as the road quality was shambolic, whether on cobbles or not.
But after the First World War, from which the race picked up its ‘Hell of the North’ nickname owing to the apocalyptic scenes the battles left in their wake, the roads were repaved to a substantial quality.
As a result, Paris-Roubaix lost its attraction, and the routes we pass over today are those which organisers were forced to go in search of, in a bid to reinvigorate the perilous heart of the race.
More sectors pass. I’m aware they have names, but by now they are starting to blend into one, possibly because the rattling of my brain within my skull has rendered me incapable of distinguishing between them.
The misty shroud has lost none of its opacity either, and as I trundle on alone, through grassy fields and past dilapidated red-brick farm buildings, a positively Dickensian air descends upon the landscape.
A ghostly apparition ahead morphs into the hunched figure of a fellow rider who looks up briefly from his own suffering to bear witness to mine. Having exchanged weary glances, we drift silently apart until he is lost again in the mist and I continue on alone down the grey roads, past the brown fields.
Geoff Waugh / Cyclist
Soon enough I find myself surrounded by derelict mining machinery, and my brain is still alert enough to inform me that we must be in the Arenberg Forest.
As I ride through the wastelands of abandoned rust-green metal and occasional piles of slag, I begin to call up memories of old Roubaix stories.
For it was in these mines, under the Arenberg trench itself if the legend is to be believed, that Jean Stablinski laboured before turning professional as a cyclist, and who eventually went on to become a key initiator of the Trouee d’Arenberg’s maiden inclusion to the race in 1968.
‘Paris-Roubaix is not won in Arenberg,’ he once said, ‘but from there the winning group is selected.’ Gulp.
The Arenberg trench, or simply ‘The Trench’, is 2,400m of bike riding that no one can prepare themselves for. Its brutality is unparalleled in any of the 28 sectors of Paris-Roubaix. If there was a competition for the least bike-friendly surface imaginable, then this would be on the shortlist.
The bunch in which I enter The Trench immediately thins to one solitary line of riders, jostling for position on the central crown once again.
My handlebars ricochet back into my palms relentlessly, like some sort of crazed pneumatic drill, while my glasses slip closer to the end of my nose, obscuring my vision slightly, but there’s little I can do about it as it’s impossible to remove a hand from the bars.
The pain is exhaustive, absolute, and one I’m not used to dealing with. We all know what oxygen debt feels like, what lactic acid feels like, what bonking feels like, and can for the most part deal with them accordingly.
But the searing, breathtaking pain currently being doled out to my arms and hands by the incessant blows is quite simply unbearable. I’m not in control – I am a passenger at the mercy of my bike, and of the road – if you can call it that.
We soldier on, and after five minutes eventually reach the end of our affliction, grovelling over the final few yards before emerging out of the forested nightmare into a vivid picture of the devastation it’s caused.
Some riders collapse over their bars as soon as they reach tarmac, before being nursed out of the way by a team of marshals. Others muster the energy to find a small patch of seclusion in which to dismount and lie star-fished next to their steeds.
Upturned, broken bikes stand in the middle of groups of concerned, head-shaking riders, and the surrounding bins spill out as many inner tubes as they do energy gels.
It’s like the aftermath of a battle – something that this area has more experience of than most, dotted as it is by the graves of soldiers who fought over these muddy fields during the First World War.
The good news is that the sun has burnt through the remaining wisps of fog, and with the Arenberg Trench behind me I tell myself that things can only get better from now on.
Maybe it’s just a trick of the mind, but improve they do, and with the sun high in the sky, the cobbles pass under my wheels with a relative sense of serenity, and my legs rejoice in a second wind of enthusiasm.
I feel that Roubaix’s back has been broken. Or then again, maybe I’m just delirious from the continual pummelling my body is undergoing.
The brief lull in suffering allows for some sightseeing though, and I notice the famous abattoir the route passes through at the start of the Orchies sector like some twisted omen, as well as the graffitied bridge over the ‘Pont Gibus’ cobbles – newly reinstalled as of 2013 thanks to the restorative labour of Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix, the group of fans who keep the roads of Roubaix in their hellish state.
Yet the respite is short lived and my exuberance is deflated – along with my back tyre, forcing me to reluctantly pull over and change the pinch-punctured tube.
It’s now that it becomes apparent just how pitiful my dexterity has become as a result of the day’s exertions, as I painfully fumble around with tyre levers and valves, my throbbing, swollen fingers barely able to unfurl from their petrified, bar-gripping state.
It’s then like salt in the wounds as I clamber back on to my bike, only to realise I’m about to encounter the day’s second, and final, five-starred sector: Le Carrefour de l’Arbre.
Out of the frying pan…
Geoff Waugh / Cyclist
This section is one of the timed primes, but no sooner do I apply the power than my head hangs back between my shoulders and I, along with the masses, head for the gutter in tired desperation.
The dirt is the dry, billowing dust synonymous with Roubaix editions of recent years. It cakes my bike and body, tickling the back of my throat as I gasp for air, and turns into viscous channels of muddy slime as the sweat runs off my face.
The pain has reached a climax and, despite what I’ve been told about staying loose while riding cobbles, I find myself gripping harder and harder, my knuckles turning white in a bid to somehow squeeze out the pain.
It’s a futile struggle, and I’m spat out the end of the Carrefour de l’Arbre barely able to release the strangle I have on my garroted handlebars; my hands either scared or rattled stiff.
The remaining three sectors are a tiresome drag. They’re not hard enough to warrant excitement, but not easy enough to be insignificant; they are a necessary evil, and for that very reason seem almost representative of the day’s struggles.
The final, ceremonious sector that precedes the velodrome is sporadically pavéd with smooth plaques, nestled between the cobbles and adorning the names of Paris-Roubaix victors past.
Geoff Waugh / Cyclist
So it’s in the company of Lapize, Merckx, De Vlaeminck, Moser and Boonen that I make my modest entry onto the fabled track, and while my name will not be joining theirs on the stones of Roubaix, at least I’m a little closer to appreciating the mettle required to gain such an honour.
Don’t miss our full guide to the spring Classics