The Paris-Roubaix is one of the oldest one-day cycle races that is still held today, with a history dating all the way back to 1896. The race if famous for its difficulty, rough terrain and cobblestones. A feature film about the 1976 race was titled “The Hell of the North, a Sunday in Hell”, which definitely gives you an idea of just how brutal this legendary cycle race can be!
The Paris-Roubaix has followed an almost identical route for many years now, and it’s a route which always guarantees a spectacle. As they say, if it isn’t broke, why fix it? Riders traverse slippery cobbles and swirling, dusty tracks as they push themselves to the limit over 259 kilometers on their journey to the Roubaix Velodrome.
Considering the difficulty of the terrain, participants know they will be encountering mechanical issues at some point during the race. The severity and timing of these problems can make the difference between a high-place finish or a devastating loss. With so much at stake, spectators are guaranteed an exciting race.
The opening third of the route is intended as a warm up for the competitors, and doesn’t feature much in the way of cobbles or other difficult sections. The race then heats up with some cobbled streets followed by the Arenberg Forest, where the so called Trouee d’Arenberg (Arenberg Hole) lies, a dark, descending area of track leading into the woods which has seen a huge number of crashes in recent years.
The race doesn’t let up here either – those lucky enough to make it through Arenberg unscathed are immediately confronted by the cobbles at Wandignies-Hamage and Mons-en-Pevele. The cobbles here are in particularly bad condition, which is a nightmare for every rider. The race only gets more brutal over the remaining eleven sectors – There are seven cobbled country roads within 20 kilometers immediately after Mons-en-Pevele, and the riders will need a great deal of energy, willpower and a sprinkle of luck if they are to negotiate all of them successfully.
When the competitors finally arrive in Roubaix, they are treated to a carefully arranged cobbled section which is intended to minimize their discomfort before they enter the Velodrome, where they will complete one and a half laps to finish the race.
The unpredictability of the Paris-Roubaix course has resulted in few riders managing to win the race consistently, year after year. Belgium’s Tom Boonen was a formidable contender in the early 2000s, winning the race in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2012. Australia’s Matthew Hayman has competed in the race an unbelievable 18 times, and although he has only managed to clinch one victory in 2016, he insists that he will be continuing to compete for several more years to come.
Tom Boonen’s many victories have helped Belgium to top the list of wins by country – They hold a massive 57 titles as of 2021. That total is way out in front of the next closest country, France, who have won the race just 28 times. The remainder of the top five consists of Italy with 13 wins, the Netherlands with 6, and Switzerland with 4.
Teams Competing this Year
Phillipe Gilbert will be defending his title this year with team Lotto Soudal. The starting list for the 2021 race also includes several former winners such as Peter Sagan, and Niki Terpstra. Do you have a favorite in this year’s race? If you fancy a bet, Unibet Indiana have great odds on all of the competitors. You can check out the rest of the starting line-up below:
World Tour Teams
Greg Van Avermaet, Oliver Naesen, Lwarence Naesen
Heinrich Haussler, Marcel Sieberg, Alfred Wright
Peter Sagan, Daniel Oss, Maciej Bodnar, Marcus Burghardt, Nils Politt
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits
Piet Allegaert, Jean-Pierre Drucker, Jelle Wallays, Szymon Sajnok
Zdenek Stybar, Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert, Tim Declercq, Bert Van Lerberghe
EF Education Nippo
Sebastian Langeveld, Jens Keukeleire
Stefan Küng, Arnaud Démare
Intermarché – Wanty-Gobert
Taco van der Hoorn, Jonas Koch
Israel Start-Up Nation
Wout van Aert, Mike Teunissen, Maarten Wynants, Nathan van Hooydonck
John Degenkolb, Philippe Gilbert, Florian Vermeersch
Iván García, Imanol Erviti
Luke Durbridge, Amund Grøndahl Jansen
Søren Kragh Andersen, Tiesj Benoot, Casper Pedersen
Team Qhubeka ASSOS
Trek – Segafredo
Mads Pedersen, Jasper Stuyven, Koen de Kort, Edward Theuns
Alexander Kristoff, Matteo Trentin, Marc Hirschi, Sven Erik Bystrøm, Rui Oliveira
Alpecin – Fenix
Mathieu van der Poel, Tim Merlier, Laurens De Vreese, Dries De Bondt, Silvan Dillier
Total Direct Energie
Niki Terpstra, Edvald Boasson Hagen