Nine cobbled sectors for the Tour? That’s nothing compared to what’s on the menu for Paris-Roubaix with 28 sections of the famous pave making up over 50 of the race’s 257 kilometres.
The race begins, as per usual, in the town of Compiègne, 80 kilometres north of Paris. The opening 100 kilometres of racing are more of a warm up for riders with all the cobbles placed later in the route.
The first cobbled sector is near Troisvilles. Twenty kilometres further down the road riders deviate slightly from last year’s route to take in two sections of cobbles that haven’t been used in the race for 10 years, Haussy (800 metres) and Saulzoir (1200 metres). Also included in this detour are the cobbles of Famars (1200 metres), last seen in the 2012 edition.
Forest of Arenberg
Shortly after Famars the riders reach one of the most dangerous and certainly the most famous cobbled sector: Trouée d’Arenberg. The section descends slightly through the woods so speeds are high and you should notice the big names preferring to spend energy at the front rather than risk getting caught up in crashes. It was in Arenberg two years ago where a break containing Johan VanSummeren formed and despite the best efforts of Fabian Cancellara, the big Belgian held him off to take the biggest win of his career.
The final cobbled sectors
After the notorious Arenberg, each cobbled sector follows the other in rapid succession. Mons-en-Pévèle is amongst the toughest. Three uncomfortable kilometres for tiring riders who try everything they can to increase comfort levels, including riding the grass at the side of the road. It is not uncommon for riders and spectators to collide late in the race with just last year, an exhausted Zdenek Stybar, riding in the lead group, slowed after hitting a spectator and never recovered the lost ground.
With 15 kilometres to go riders face the Carrefour de l’Arbre (2100 metres), and whatever group or individual comes out of here first will likely be the same by the finish line. A right turn near Café L’Auberge de l’Arbre and it’s the heavenly feel of smooth asphalt all the way to Roubaix.
The last cobbled section, in Roubaix itself, are a tribute to the race and neatly organised to avoid major discomfort. Riders go from here into the old Velodrome with one and half laps to go…..
Paris-Roubaix 2014: Images and more
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