By the time the Paris-Roubaix reconnaissance rides come around, most of the preparation is already done. The riders have been slowly building their form in the weeks and months leading up to the race, the mechanics have been working hard to select and install the right gear, and directors have been planning out how best to attack the race and use the riders at their disposal.
But getting to ride the cobbles of Northern France is a vital part of the preparation. Even for the riders that have been racing on the cobbles of Belgium in the weeks prior — in races such as E3 Harelbeke and the Tour of Flanders — a ride on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix is invaluable. For one thing, the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix are considerably rougher than the worst cobbles of Flanders.
Naturally, it’s the rougher sectors of pave — the five-star sectors — that have the biggest say in how the race unfolds. And hence, the riders will often focus their attention on sectors such as the Forest of Arenberg and the Carrefour de l’Arbre, getting reacquainted with the road surface and assessing the key corners and the key moments when position will be crucial.
In a race as volatile and unpredictable as Paris-Roubaix, every little bit of preparation and prior experience is important.