Welcome To Hell: Replicating The Fiendish Paris-Roubaix Route

As road cyclists are often a masochistic sort, seeking out the most extreme circuits on which to test their bikes (and themselves), it’s no surprise that Paris-Roubaix remains one of the most infamous ‘classic’ races on the calendar.

Labelled at various times as ‘a Sunday in Hell’ and ‘Hell of the North’ – the trip gets underway in northern France, Paris-Roubaix unfolds on the roughest terrain seen in a Monuments race, with cobblestones so thick that mechanical failure and personal injury are, seemingly, par for the course.

That’s probably why some maniacal cyclists love it so much…

L’enfer du Nord

Mathieu van der Poel can be described as an outstanding cyclist and a glutton for punishment.

He won Paris-Roubaix in 2023 and has confirmed his intent to race next year as well, hence his addition to the latest betting odds at 7/2. Wout Van Aert, who finished third this year, will also start as a 7/2 chance, with Jasper Philipsen rounding out the top three at 11/2.

The Paddy Power news site will keep interested parties informed of the latest developments on the route – of which there is likely to be plenty, based on previous years of this chaotic race.

It’s amazing to think that, despite the danger inherent in the Paris-Roubaix circuit, this is one of the oldest classics on the planet, with Van der Poel triumphing in the 127th edition of the race.

The action gets underway around 50 miles north of Paris in Compiégne, rattling through 27 sections lined with cobblestones or ‘setts’, often known as Belgian blocks. Among them is the infamous Trouée d’Arenberg, a section so dangerous that it has regularly been removed from the itinerary – albeit latterly restored following work to improve its safety. The likes of Johan Museeuw and Philippe Gaumont have both suffered severe injuries here – the former’s career in the saddle almost ended by his 1998 crash.

No wonder Italian ace Filippo Pozzato described it as the ‘true definition of Hell’…

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    Paris-Roubaix: Most Controversial Moments

    At least the race finishes in the purpose-built track surroundings of the Roubaix Velodrome on the Belgian border – a veritable relief after what has gone before.

    The descriptions of Museeuw and Gaumont’s injuries are so gruesome that they can’t be published here, but needless to say that the risks are real: the former nearly lost a leg with amputation considered, while the latter spent more than a month in bed unable to move.

    And those are only a couple of the controversies that have dogged Paris-Roubaix. Jean Marechal won the 1930 edition but was later disqualified for his alleged part in a collision which saw Julien Vervaecke thrown into a ditch – Marechal forever protested his innocence, while in 1937 an error saw Georges Speicher declared the victor; despite the fact he finished second behind Romain Maes. The result was upheld.

    Bernard Hinault won in 1981 despite falling off his bike an astonishing six times on the cobbles – plus a seventh when a dog got onto the track, forcing the Frenchman to swerve dangerously out of its path.

    The Irishman, Sean Kelly, perhaps summed up Paris-Roubaix better than anyone else when he said ‘it’s a horrible race to ride, but the most beautiful one to win.’ You can replicate parts of the Paris-Roubaix route too… if you dare.

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    Welcome To Hell: Replicating The Fiendish Paris-Roubaix Route — Bike Hacks