Paris-Roubaix 2018 is similar to recent editions with some minor adjustments. So the riders get underway in Compiègne and hit the first cobbles in Troisvilles at kilometre 93.5. The second stretch of pavé is different though, as it runs not from Viesly to Quiévy like last year, but from Viesly to Briastre. This was then the fourth sector, which now leads from Fontaine-au-Tertre to Quiévy. The fifth stretch goes from Saint-Hilaire to Saint-Vaast, while the sixth bounces on the cobbles between Saulzoir and Verchain-Maugré. In this village the riders are halfway through the race and from then on the route is a copy of last year’s.
Because the pavé from Fontaine-au-Tertre to Quiévy is now included, the 3,7 kilometres sector between Hornaing and Wandignies-Hamage is no longer the single longest stretch of pavé. Both account for the same distance on bone-joltingly rough farm cobbles, although they are not the toughest cobbled sectors – not by any stretch. The riders hit the first sector at kilometre 111.5 and the second at kilometre 174.5.
At the pavé to Wandignies-Hamage the race already is on fire. As always, tension really starts to rise when approaching Trouée d’Arenberg, which is 12.5 kilometres earlier – at kilometre 162. The straight and narrow road through the Forest of Arenberg lies at the heart of the Hell of the North. Last year, this year, next year… The 2,284 metres section heads straight on through the woods and because it descends slightly in the first half speeds are high and crashes lurk. If you aspire to win Paris-Roubaix, you have no choice – you have to spend energy at the front at this point. Otherwise, you risk getting caught up behind or in crashes.
At kilometre 200 tension further rises as we are approaching Mons-en-Pévèle. Every cycling fan will feel a rush when hearing this illustrious name. As Trouée d’Arenberg and Carrefour de l’Arbre, the renowned pavé of Mons-en-Pévèle is emblematic of the race. Obviously, the sector is in the route of Paris-Roubaix too – at kilometre 208. The combination of the length of 2,985 metres and the sorry state of the cobbles account for brutal hardship in the peloton. Handlebars jolt like pneumatic drills and, to make it even worse, the riders are far from fresh when racing these rocks.
Still eleven sectors to go. Within 20 kilometres after Mons-en-Pévèle the route bounces on the pavé of Mérignies à Avelin (700 metres), Pont-Thibault à Ennevelin (1,400 metres), Templeuve – L’Epinette (200 metres) and Templeuve-Moulin-de-Vertain (500 metres) on short notice, Cysoing à Bourghelles (1,300 metres), Bourghelles à Wannehain (1,100 metres) and Camphin-en-Pévèle (1,800 metres). After the last cobbles of Camphin-en-Pévèle there are 39 kilometres left to race.
Barely 1 kilometre pneumatic torture on the iconic Carrefour de l’Arbre – one of the three sectors that lie at the heart of the race. The finale now is well underway. At 2,086 metres, this stretch of pavé is most feared for the cobble stones from hell and the sloped corners. After 1,200 metres a tricky left-hand bend leads to a slight ascent. If specialists want to strike on their beloved pavé, the Carrefour de l’Arbre is their last opportunity. At the end the riders turn right at Restaurant l’Arbre Gruson and it’s the heavenly feel of smooth asphalt almost all the way (15 kilometres) to the Velodrome in Roubaix.
Just two more harmless sectors, Gruson and Willems à Hem, lead the way to the last cobbled section, in Roubaix itself, which is a tribute to the race. The cobbles are neatly organised to avoid major discomfort. Riders go from here into the old Velodrome with one and half laps to go…
Last year, Greg Van Avermaet accelerated on Carrefour de l’Arbre with Zdenek Stybar and Sebastian Langeveld on his wheel. This proved to be the decisive move. They dropped Jasper Stuyven and Gianni Moscon, who, surprisingly, rejoined the leaders when rounding onto the final lap in Roubaix Velodrome. Yet the chase had been tapping their resources and Van Avermaet outsprinted Stybar and Langeveld, while Stuyven held off Moscon. The peloton sprint was won by Arnaud Démare ahead of André Greipel, only 12 seconds after Van Avermaet.
Read also: results/race report 2018 Paris-Roubaix.
Paris-Roubaix 2018: Route maps, and more
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