Paris-Roubaix riders unlikely to cop any slop

The cobblestones are “so dry and so good”, according to Paris-Roubaix race director. 

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Paris-Roubaix is the most evocative of the Classics, with scenes of muddy mayhem seared into cycling’s mythology. Last year, fans of a wet Roubaix got their wish with a historically dank edition. This year, however, looks like one for the dust enthusiasts. 

On Tuesday, the men’s race director Thierry Gouvenou and Paris-Roubaix Femmes director Franck Perque were out on the course assigning star ratings for the cobbled sectors and giving things a final look over. What they saw was, I am sorry to report, pristine pavé.  

“I don’t remember the cobblestones ever being so dry and so good before,” Gouvenou told Sporza. “They are exceptionally dry. Normally you have to do some fine-tuning after such a reconnaissance, but that’s not the case now.”

Part of that is to do with the COVID-related calendar changes last season, which moved Paris-Roubaix to October – after it had already been cancelled in 2020. That meant that the volunteer group that maintains the cobbles, Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix, cleared more than 900 days of accumulated mud and moss from the cobbles ahead of the 2021 edition. 

Six months later, that preparatory work has held up. “I don’t remember that the cobblestones have been so dry and well placed,” Gouvenou said. “Last autumn it was mossy and swampy, but we are now reaping the benefits of the cleaning work in the autumn.”

Philippe Gilbert (front) was the last winner of a dry Paris-Roubaix, way back in 2019.

The course conditions are one thing, and the weather conditions are another. Fans hoping for a slip ‘n’ slide will be disappointed there too: forecasts ahead of the weekend show 0% chance of precipitation, temperate conditions of around 19 °C (66 °F) during the day of both the men’s and women’s races, and light breezes.

Almost makes it sound like a nice day for a bike ride in hell.

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