When Paris-Roubaix is raced this weekend, following two postponements, it will mark two historic milestones.
On Saturday, it will be the historic first ever women’s edition. And Sunday’s men’s race will be the first edition of the beloved French classic in more than 900 days – the reigning champion is still Philippe Gilbert, if you can believe it, way back in April 2019.
And if that’s not enough to whet your appetite, this will: it might be a wet one. There’s rain forecast before the women’s race on Saturday, and during the men’s race on Sunday, with blustery conditions also possible.
On Tuesday, Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix (the Friends of Paris-Roubaix) completed their traditional pre-race inspection of the course, and they had a bigger job than usual on their hands to prepare the cobbles for the riders.
The Trouee d’Arenberg – one of three five star sectors, denoting its difficulty – was a vibrant emerald green, covered with weeds and moss. That sector needed weeding, cleaning and a mechanical brusher vehicle to get it back to a rideable condition.
“The Arenberg [Forest] needed a big clean-up,” race director Thierry Gouvenou told local media. “The cobbles haven’t been raced on for 900 days and so they were very green, with weeds everywhere, so we’ve had to do a big clean-up along the route.” Gouvenou told local media after his reconnaissance.
There will be more weeding and maintenance required on the course before this weekend, while teams have already begun to converge on northern France for recon rides.
The last wet Paris-Roubaix was held in 2002, and saw Johan Museeuw win his third cobblestone trophy. In the years since, a succession of warm springs has meant Paris-Roubaix has been a dry and dusty affair for almost two decades. With this year’s unusual shift in the calendar, however, the drought might be over.