The stone-by-stone guide to Paris-Roubaix’s 29 cobble sectors
The Arenberg and the Carrefour get all the press, but there are no easy or inconsequential sectors at Paris-Roubaix. Here’s a rundown of all 29 sectors, with notes from our own recon this week.
The 29 cobble sectors of Paris-Roubaix 2018
163.5km from the finish
The opening salvo. The appetizer. A little taste of what’s to come. It’s slightly downhill and speeds are high, resulting in lots of flats and crashes. It’s also often muddy, thanks to farm fields that slide into the sector’s trough. There will be riders who don’t make it past this first sector.
157km from the finish
This sector was refinished prior to the 2017 edition but is still plenty nasty, mostly because it’s quite long and because it comes just a few kilometers after Troisvilles.
148km from the finish
It’s not that bad. Unless you flat on one of the potholes on the left side, then it’s quite bad.
145.5km from the finish
The first half usually sees a tailwind, then a 90-degree bend sets off a crosswind. It goes uphill after the bend, too, which is rude.
138km from the finish
This one is new for 2018, and shouldn’t prove decisive.
127km from the finish
Two stars? Two measly stars? Okay, if you ride down the crown (right in the middle) this short sector isn’t that bad. But there are huge holes on both sides, so woe be the rider who tries to make a pass.
122.5km from the finish
This one is mostly flat and, to be quite honest, completely unremarkable. It’s still horrid, mind, it’s just sort of unremarkably horrid.
116.5km from the finish
The pace has started to quicken now, in anticipation of Haveluy and then the Arenberg. This one isn’t noteworthy in itself, but position here is crucial.
103.5km to go
This sector is often muddy even when the rest of the course is clean and dry, but that’s not what makes it difficult. No, what makes Haveluy so important is its proximity to the next sector, the Arenberg. Things are getting nervous now. The jockeying for position is in full swing. Elbows are flying. The race, dear readers, is on.
95km from the finish
Everything to this point is just warmup. The entrance to the Arenberg is slightly downhill, as is the first half of the sector, and the stones were clearly set by someone who took little pride in their work. The cobbles are big, spaced widely, and jut up like teeth. The tree cover keeps things damp and slippery.
Organizers run a street sweeper over the Arenberg before each race, but that hardly helps. The stones are polished smooth by use and even the slightest dirt or water makes them treacherous. There is no good line. There are only less bad lines.
89km from the finish
After Arenberg, the peloton makes a left turn onto pavement. The wind is usually from the left, so they’ll line up in the right-hand gutter, put their heads down, and trudge toward Hélesmes, a short distance away. This sector isn’t hard in and of itself, it’s hard because the sting of the Arenberg is still fresh. There’s a train crossing halfway through that has stopped racers before.
82.5km from the finish
You thought Hélesmes was bad? Wandingnies is the longest sector all day and heart rates are still spiked from the Arenberg. It goes on forever, dipping slightly up and then slightly down so that you can’t seem to find a rhythm.
75km from the finish
You must be near the front for Brillon, because there’s only one line. Straight down the middle, on the crown. The right and left sides sink downward and are full of speed-sapping holes. If gaps form, there’s no way to pass the rider in front and close them down. Stay up front.
71.5km from the finish
Also called Tilloy, this sector was recently worked on by les Amis des Paris-Roubaix, the volunteer organization that maintains the cobbles. That doesn’t mean it’s in great shape, though some of the more massive holes have been leveled somewhat. This is a long one, and is particularly rough in places. Plus we’re getting into the meat of the race, where long-range attacks may set off.
68km from the finish
The first half of this sector was created specifically for the race and added in 2007. It has a flatter face, a less pronounced crown, and that may lead riders to believe they can deviate in their line choice. Bad idea. The holes between cobbles near the edges of this sector are just wide enough for a road tire. Stay away from them.
60km from the finish
Orchies, more like ouchies, am I right?
But really, there is very little recovery between Beuvry-la-Forêt and this relatively short but quite rough sector. There’s some grass down the middle in the first half that can be nice to ride on but holds hidden holes, too. There’s a monument to Marc Madiot at the start.
54km from the finish
The stones in this sector are broken and gashed. They’re tire eaters. It was so bad in 2007 and 2008 that they actually removed Berée from the race. Even after les Amis did some work on it in 2009, it’s still awful. It can be decisive if the riders want it to be. Or they take it easy ahead of Mons-en-Pévèle. The riders make the race, after all.
48.5km from the finish
A left-hand turn off the pavement drops riders onto this sector, one of the worst in the race, which heads downhill for a couple hundred meters before flattening out. Its stones are savage and its length is leg breaking. Multiple corners make it difficult to pick and hold a good line. It’s just the right distance from the finish to launch a long-distance attack. In short, this is the one.
42.5km from the finish
Avelin doesn’t matter on its own. It matters because it starts 3km after Mons-en-Pévèle finishes and ends 2km before Ennevelin. They’re coming thick and fast now.
Pont Thibault – Ennevelin
39km from the finish
Two left-hand corners cause frequent crashes. Bodies are tired and wits aren’t as sharp as they once were.
Two parts of this sector were refinished in early March by Les Amis, but as usual, the group hasn’t managed to make the stones any softer. The work mostly involves digging up the cobbles and improving drainage underneath, then putting the stones back. Rider his this segment with over 215km in their legs and though it’s rarely decisive, it often sets up attacks.
Templeuve – L’Epinette
33.5km from the finish
This sector should be included with the one that follows, there’s simply a short paved stretch between the two. Together, they offer a chance for a sneaky move.
Templeuve – Moulin-de-Vertain
33km from the finish
See above. You know the old adage, “attack when it hurts”? Well, this is one of those moments that feels like it’s made for a bit of rest, with a stack of big sectors coming up and a couple just behind, but that’s what makes it so dangerous.
26.5km from the finish
Cysoing is usually easy to spot thanks to massive piles of manure off to one side, but the sector itself isn’t particularly notable. It does have some curves, and the edges of those curves hold water if it’s rained recently. Stay on the crown.
24km from the finish
For a 1.1km sector to gain three stars the surface must be awful, and it is. This is where the finale begins. A small stretch of pavement in the middle offers a brief respite, but otherwise, these are some of the worst cobbles in the race.
19.5km from the finish
Brutal. The last 500 meters of this sector can end a rider’s day. Jagged stones reach up and grab at tires and have caused riders to flat out of the front group in recent years. With only 20km to go, no move can be allowed to get away.
Carrefour de l’Arbre
17km from the finish
A rough, hole-filled S-turn opens this sector, which turns left once again to head toward its exit. It’s long and horribly rough, and the crown is the only place one can feasibly ride. It also climbs slightly. If you don’t have the legs, there is no faking it here. If a group remains, this is the last chance for the non-sprinters to get away.
14.5km from the finish
Cross the road after Carrefour and within a hundred meters you’re back on cobbles. Gruson is in good shape, as Roubaix sectors go, but it’s really just an extension of the Carrefour and is thus frequently part of the race’s final and most decisive attacks.
8km from the finish
The last chance. This is the final true sector, and any strongman who wants to go solo has to be alone by now. The cobbles are in good condition, and it’s not particularly long, so an attack here is truly a last-ditch effort.
1km from the finish