EF riders navigate past some wet sections of the Paris-Roubaix route during a course recon.

Autumn Roubaix? No thank you, say the pros

By all accounts a return to autumn Roubaixs would cause a rider revolt.

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The last time we had a Paris-Roubaix in the spring, Tadej Pogačar had not ridden a Grand Tour.

After you’ve let that stat sink in, rejoice! Paris-Roubaix is back in its normal spot, well, save for a week’s delay due to French elections.

As the big event loomed on Friday, everything was good, people were getting ready to enjoy the cobbles, the Belgian beer, appetites whetted and ready for the utter chaos due to unfold on Saturday and Sunday. Enter: David Lappartient.

“Now I ask myself: why not?” Lappartient told Wielerflits of his change in heart as to a Roubaix date change. “Wouldn’t that open up possibilities in the calendar when we organize these two, perhaps the two largest Monuments at the end of the year?”

The 2021 Paris-Roubaix, held in October, was undoubtedly a hit. At least with viewers. The mud, the harrowed faces of competitors crawling across the line. The unbridled chaos.

The riders, however, disagree with any talk of a longterm change.

“I think it belongs in the spring where it is now,” EF’s Owain Doull told CyclingTips. “I think there was a bit of a novelty of having it at the back end of last year with the higher chance of a wet Roubaix and for the spectators and the fans, I think it delivered.”

For the riders, however, the carnage is a more unwelcome guest.

“I think for the riders, it was not the most pleasant experience. I think, in a way, I’m glad I’ve done a wet Roubaix now. But for the flow of the year and everything, it’s nice to have it back [in the spring].”

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl manager Patrick Lefevere also counts himself among those who prefer a springtime Roubaix.

“Everyone knows I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I wouldn’t change it,” Lefevere said Thursday in a Zoom call. “Maybe the two COVID seasons were a bit special but if he does change things, Lappartient will have to cut the calendar first.”

Lefevere noted that he was glad to have Paris-Roubaix back in a more recognizable spot on the calendar now.

“I’m just happy that both races are now back in the spring,” Lefevere said. “We are used to this, here we train like crazy for the winter. Everyone is always nervous to start the first race. Everyone plans altitude training camps and all teams have been calculating for years how they can best get their riders in shape during certain periods. That requires sacrifices.”

Indeed, more of the reason why pros like Paris-Roubaix in its usual slot is because of how it shapes the season for riders. As well as Doull and Quick-Step Tim Declerq, for Bahrain-Victorious’s Fred Wright it would mean a disruption to the normal schedule of Classics riders.

“I’m very much in the spring camp, I’m annoyed it’s even a thought process that it would be in October,” the Brit said. “The way the start of the year is kind of builds towards the Classics like Flanders and Roubaix, for me it’s in the right place now.”

“It works for how I want my season to pan out and I guess the same with lots of other Classics guys. I kind of split my season into almost three parts so you’ve got the Classics at the start and then hopefully the Tour in the middle and then the World Champs at the end.”

To then go on to race Flanders and Roubaix would be too much.

“I guess you’d adapt to it?” Wright questions. “You know… you’d put less focus on the start of the season, maybe, less sort of intense, I don’t know. It’s a long season though, innit?”

It is a long season, and we’re only just getting started.

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