A perfect blend of positioning, power and tactical nous are required if a rider is to lift the famous cobble-stone trophy awarded to the victor, not too mention a large slice of luck. Given the conditions, mechanical issues are unavoidable in Roubaix, the timing of which can be the difference between winning and losing.
The Hell of the North opens with approximately 100 kilometres on flat and smooth asphalt. That’s roughly two hours to warm up to the idea that an onslaught is imminent.
The hardship begins near Troisvilles on a stretch of pavé with three stars and a length of 2,200 metres. The route continues with every 6 kilometres or so a bunch of cobbles. But actually, this phase of the race is just about creating suspense.
Tension rises when approaching the Arenberg Forest at the heart of the race. The so called Trouée d’Arenberg is 2,284 metres long and rendered dark by the over-stretching trees on either side. The road heads straight on through the woods and because it descends slightly in the first half speeds are high. Aspiring winners should be at the front, otherwise you risk getting caught up behind or in crashes.
Paris-Roubaix really is on fire when hitting the pavé to Wandignies-Hamage and the route continues onto Mons-en-Pévèle. The combination of the length of 2,985 metres and the sorry state of the cobbles account for brutal hardship in the peloton.
Still ten sectors remaining after leaving Mons-en-Pévèle. Within less than 30 kilometres the pilots tackle the pavé of Mérignies à Avelin (700 metres), Pont-Thibault à Ennevelin (1,400 metres), Templeuve – L’Epinette (200 metres), Templeuve-Moulin-de-Vertain (500 metres), Cysoing à Bourghelles (1,300 metres), Bourghelles à Wannehain (1,100 metres) and Camphin-en-Pévèle (1,800 metres).
The iconic Carrefour de l’Arbre appears with 16.5 kilometres left. At 2,086 metres, this stretch of pavé is feared for the sloped corners. After 1,200 metres a tricky left-hand bend leads to a slight ascent. Specialists who want to strike on their beloved pavé should to do it on the Carrefour de l’Arbre, as this is their last opportunity. The last three sectors are too easy.
Gruson and Willems à Hem lead the way to the last cobbled section, in Roubaix itself, which is only there for show. The cobbles are neatly organised to avoid major discomfort. Riders continue into the old Velodrome with one and a half laps to go.
Dylan van Baarle won last year’s edition with a long range attack. The Dutchman didn’t wait until Carrefour de l’Arbre to make a difference. In fact, he attacked in the sector before it and soloed to victory. He entered the Velodrome almost 2 minutes ahead of the first chasers to drink in the nectar of a marvellous victory. Wout van Aert outgunned Stefan Küng in the sprint for second place.
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Paris – Roubaix 2023: route, profile, more
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