This Sunday, April 11th, the most famous single-day classic of the year, the Paris-Roubaix, runs for it’s 108th edition. The ‘Queen of the Classics’, ‘The Hell of the North’, ‘A Sunday in Hell’, no matter what you call it, Paris-Roubaix is the one-day cycling race that captures more of the world’s imagination and interest than any other. Perhaps it’s the history and the longevity of the race, first run in 1896, or perhaps it is the calendar date, with a long-standing association to Easter, spring and the arrival of the cycling season. Although these may be reasons for peaked interest, beyond all else, it is the cobbles. The kilometers of seemingly endless and torturous cobblestones.
The 2010 edition of the Paris – Roubaix is 259km and it will feature 52.9km of cobblestones. For decades the race has been decided on the cobblestones and if the weather has it’s nasty ways, it will play a significant role in determining the race as well.
“A Paris–Roubaix without rain is not a true Paris–Roubaix.
Throw in a little snow as well, it’s not serious.” – Sean Kelly
When the weather turns foul, the Paris – Roubaix becomes a masterpiece. The cobblestones, notoriously sharp, rough and power-sapping, turn slick, muddy and visually uniform. The riders, caked in mud so thick, it’s impossible to know what team kit they are wearing, will often have an easier time riding in the muddy grass down the side of the pave than on the cobbles themselves.
“It’s a bollocks, this race! You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping … it’s a pile of shit.” said Theo de Rooj
When then asked if he would start the race again, de Rooij replied:
“Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!”
This year’s race has the opportunity to be a historic one with Belgian Tom Boonen striving to tie Roger De Vlaeminck’s record for four wins – the most in history. Boonen won the race for the first time in 2005 and is the current defending champion with consecutive wins in 2008 and 2009. There are however, a few riders who will have a word or two to say about Boonen winning again. First, and foremost is Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, who is, if not the pre-race favorite, at least equally so to Boonen after last weeks win at de Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Cancellara himself could tied a record as well if he were to win this year’s Roubaix as only one other rider has won both de Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris Roubaix in the same year – another swiss rider Henri Suter in 1923.
Although Boonen and Cancellara seem to be the odds on favorites, there are many riders who are considered threats to the win on Sunday. These riders include Thor Hushovd, Stijn Devolder, Juan Antono Flecha and George Hincapie. Riders who were considered possible winners but are out of the race for various reasons are Heinrich Haussler (injury), Edvald Boassen Hagen (injury), Sylvain Chavanel (fatigue), Alessandro Ballan (Cytomegalovirus), and Fillipo Pozzatto (Flu) is suspected to miss.
I will be showing the race from 7am on at Giancarlo’s cafe for the local folk.
The race schedule is to start at 10:35 CET (1:35 PST) and finish between 17:05-17:25 CET (8:05-8:25 PST)
The current weather forecast for Roubaix can be found here
For more information visit the official Paris-Roubaix site