Cobbles galore

March 1 st 2024 - 17:42

The 121st edition of Paris-Roubaix, scheduled for Sunday 7th April, will start in Compiègne and cover a distance of 259.9 km to the velodrome in Roubaix. In the meantime, the return to the sections at Briastre (after 111.5 km) and Le Hameau du Buat (after 129.5 km) will increase the amount of cobbles to 55.7 km (compared with 54.5 km in 2023), the highest total on the race for the last 30 years.

The 4th edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes with Zwift will take place the day before, on Saturday 6th April, on a very slightly modified route which will now total 148.5 kilometres. However, the amount of cobbles remains unchanged, accounting for 29.2 km of the distance, spread over 17 sections that correspond to the finale of the men’s race.

The weekend’s grand festival of cobbles includes five races, because on Saturday, amateur riders will be able to choose from three distances as part of the Paris-Roubaix Challenge. It will also witness fierce contests among young riders. On Sunday, the U18s will do battle over 111 kilometres from the start in Lécelles, while, for the first time, the U22s will be riding on the same day as their elite counterparts, over a distance of 163 kilometres between Le Cateau-Cambrésis and Roubaix.

08/04/2023 - Paris-Roubaix femmes avec Zwift - Denain / Roubaix (145,4km) - RAGUSA Katia (LIV RACING TEQFIND), JACKSON Alison (EF EDUCATION - TIBCO - SVB), TRUYEN Marthe (FENIX-DECEUNINCK)
08/04/2023 - Paris-Roubaix femmes avec Zwift - Denain / Roubaix (145,4km) - RAGUSA Katia (LIV RACING TEQFIND), JACKSON Alison (EF EDUCATION - TIBCO - SVB), TRUYEN Marthe (FENIX-DECEUNINCK) © A.S.O/Thomas Maheux

They will be shaking at the mere thought of it, namely the programme reserved for the riders on Paris-Roubaix after one hundred kilometres, when they will encounter the first cobbled section of the day on exiting the village of Troisvilles (# 29, after 96.3 km). It is a traditional starter to the day’s menu of cobbles, but its familiarity makes it no less dreaded, often giving the riders a fright, or sometimes worse: Peter Sagan can testify to this, having seen his career on the race come to an end last year at this very spot. This sequence on which the race toughens up continues at the entrance to Quievy on one of the longest sections (3.7 km), followed this year by another tricky portion measuring 3 kilometres (# 26, Viesly > Briastre), which has not featured since the 2019 edition. A little further on is where the race makes its return to the upwardly inclined section of Le Hameau du Buat (# 24, Capelle > Ruesnes), which is the second change made by Thierry Gouvenou this year: “The influence on the race scenario will not be immediate, but having long and difficult sections to start with makes the race tiring and the consequences may be felt later on”. Indeed, it is vital to stay as fresh as possible for as long as possible before tackling the trickiest cobbled sections, including before the Trouée d’Arenberg (# 19, after 164.6 km), because the sorting of the wheat from the chaff got off to a very tough start last year on the section at Haveluy (# 20, after 156.4 km) due to an acceleration by Wout van Aert. The Queen of the Classics is also the one with the longest finale, because the pretenders for the crown will have to battle and struggle over almost 100 kilometres for those who have got past the Trouée d’Arenberg in a good position. They will still have 18 sections to cover (and why not several portions of tarmac to test each other?), including the “five-star” sections at Mons-en-Pèvèle (# 11, after 211.3 km) and Le Carrefour de l’Arbre (# 4, after 242.8 km), on which the decisive moment of the 2023 edition took place with a puncture for Van Aert, allowing Mathieu Van der Poel to claim victory alone at the velodrome.  

The route that the women’s pack will be tackling has not undergone any major alterations, but bypassing a section deemed too risky has increased the total distance by more than three kilometres without disrupting the day’s essentials. It turns out that the part prior to the cobbles is usually used by daring riders to break away from the rest, a tactic which bore fruit for Alison Jackson in 2023. The attackers could be under much tighter control this time, as it is risky to rely on a regrouping or a counterattack when facing a series of cobbled sections. For the fourth time, or more simply since the creation of Paris-Roubaix Femmes with Zwift, the women riders will be tackling the last 17 sections of the men’s race, over a total of 29.2 kilometres of cobbles, including the sections at Mons-en-Pévèle and Le Carrefour de l’Arbre.

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