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Race details
Date Early April
Region Northern France
English name Paris–Roubaix
Local name(s) Paris–Roubaix (French)
  • The Hell of the North
  • Queen of the Classics
  • The Easter race
  • A Sunday in Hell
  • L'enfer du Nord
Discipline Road
Competition UCI World Tour
Type One-day
Organiser Amaury Sport Organisation
Race director Jean-François Pescheux
First edition 1896 (1896)
Editions 113 (as of 2015)
First winner  Josef Fischer (GER)
Most wins  Roger De Vlaeminck (BEL)
 Tom Boonen (BEL)
(4 wins)
Most recent  John Degenkolb (GER)
Uwe Raab at Paris–Roubaix 1995

Paris–Roubaix is a one-day professional bicycle road race in northern France, starting north of Paris and finishing on the Belgian frontier. From its beginning in 1896 until 1967 it started in Paris and ended in Roubaix; since 1968 the start has been in Compiègne (about 85 kilometres (53 mi) north-east from Paris centre). The finish is still in Roubaix. Famous for rough terrain and cobblestones (setts),[n 1] it is one of the 'Monuments' or classics of the European calendar, and contributes points towards the UCI World Ranking. It has been called the Hell of the North, a Sunday in Hell (also the title of a film about the 1976 race), the Queen of the Classics or la Pascale: the Easter race.[1] The race is organised by the media group Amaury Sport Organisation annually in mid-April.

Paris–Roubaix is one of cycling's oldest races. It is known for its many 'cobbled sectors', being, with the Tour of Flanders and Gent–Wevelgem, one of the cobbled classics. Since 1977, the winner of Paris–Roubaix has received a sett (cobble stone) as part of his prize.[2] The terrain has led to the development of specialised frames, wheels and tyres. Punctures and other mechanical problems are common and often influence the result.

Despite the esteem of the race, some cyclists dismiss it because of its difficult conditions. The race has also seen several controversies, with winners disqualified.

The course is maintained by Les Amis de Paris–Roubaix, a group of fans of the race formed in 1983. The forçats du pavé seek to keep the course safe for riders while maintaining its difficulty.



Winners since 1977 have received a mounted cobble (sett); the organisers keep a gold-plated cobble for themselves
Théodore Vienne
Roubaix entrepreneur.

Paris–Roubaix is one of the oldest races of professional road cycling. It was first run in 1896 and has stopped only for two world wars. The race was created by two Roubaix textile manufacturers, Théodore Vienne (born 28 July 1864)[3] and Maurice Perez.[4] They had been behind the building of a velodrome on 46,000 square metres at the corner of the rue Verte and the route d'Hempempont, which opened on 9 June 1895.[5]

Vienne and Perez held several meetings on the track, one including the first appearance in France by the American sprinter Major Taylor, and then looked for further ideas. In February 1896 they hit on the idea of holding a race from Paris to their track. This presented two problems. The first was that the biggest races started or ended in Paris and that Roubaix might be too provincial a destination. The second was that they could organize the start or finish but not both.

They spoke to Louis Minart, the editor of Le Vélo, the only French daily sports paper. Minart was enthusiastic but said the decision of whether the paper would organize the start and provide publicity belonged to the director, Paul Rousseau.[6] Minart may also have suggested an indirect approach because the mill owners recommended their race not on its own merits, but as preparation for another. They wrote:

Dear M. Rousseau, Bordeaux–Paris is approaching and this great annual event which has done so much to promote cycling has given us an idea. What would you think of a training race which preceded Bordeaux–Paris by four weeks? The distance between Paris and Roubaix is roughly 280km, so it would be child's play for the future participants of Bordeaux–Paris. The finish would take place at the Roubaix vélodrome after several laps of the track. Everyone would be assured of an enthusiastic welcome as most of our citizens have never had the privilege of seeing the spectacle of a major road race and we count on enough friends to believe that Roubaix is truly a hospitable town. As prizes we already have subscribed to a first prize of 1,000 francs in the name of the Roubaix velodrome and we will be busy establishing a generous prize list which will be to the satisfaction of all. But for the moment, can we count on the patronage of Le Vélo and on your support for organising the start?[7]

The proposed first prize represented seven months' wages for a miner at the time.[8]

Rousseau was enthusiastic and sent his cycling editor, Victor Breyer, to find a route.[9] Breyer travelled to Amiens in a Panhard driven by his colleague, Paul Meyan. The following morning Breyer — later deputy organiser of the Tour de France and a leading official of the Union Cycliste Internationale - continued by bike. The wind blew, the rain fell and the temperature dropped. Breyer reached Roubaix filthy and exhausted after a day of riding on cobbles (setts). He swore he would send a telegram to Minart urging him to drop the idea, saying it was dangerous to send a race the way he had just ridden. But that evening a meal and drinks with the team from Roubaix changed his mind.[10]

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Easter mystery

Vienne and Perez scheduled their race for Easter Sunday. The Roman Catholic Church objected to it being held on the most sacred day of the liturgical year, suggesting that riders would not have time to attend mass and that spectators might not bother to attend either.[n 2] Tracts were distributed in Roubaix decrying the venture.

What happened next is uncertain. Legend says that Vienne and Perez promised a mass would be said for the riders in a chapel 200m from the start, in the boulevard Maillot. This story is repeated by Pascal Sergent, the historian of the race, and by Pierre Chany, historian of the sport in general.[11] Sergent goes as far as saying that Victor Breyer, who he says was there, said the service, scheduled for 4am, was cancelled because it was too early.[12] Neither Chany nor Sergent mentions if the date of the race was subsequently changed, however the first Paris–Roubaix (according to Sergent) was held on 19 April 1896, whereas Easter Sunday in 1896 occurred two weeks earlier, on the 5 April.[13]

The first Paris–Roubaix on Easter Sunday was the next year, 1897.

The first race

Josef Fischer won the first edition of Paris–Roubaix.

News of Breyer's ride to Roubaix may have spread. Half those who entered did not turn up at the Brassérie de l'Espérance, the race headquarters at the start. Those who dropped out before the race began included Henri Desgrange, a prominent track rider who went on to organize the Tour de France. The starters did include Maurice Garin, who went on to win Desgrange's first Tour and was the local hope in Roubaix because he and two brothers had opened a cycle shop in the boulevard de Paris the previous year.[14]

Garin came third, 15 minutes behind Josef Fischer, the only German to have won the race until 2015.[15] Only four finished within an hour of the winner. Garin would have come second had he not been knocked over by a crash between two tandems, one of them ridden by his pacers. Garin "finished exhausted and Dr Butrille was obliged to attend the man who had been run over by two machines," said Sergent.[16]

The second race

Garin won the following year, beating Dutchman Mathieu Cordang in the last two kilometres of the velodrome at Roubaix.[n 3] Sergent said:

As the two champions appeared they were greeted by a frenzy of excitement and everyone was on their feet to acclaim the two heroes. It was difficult to recognise them. Garin was first, followed by the mud-soaked figure of Cordang. Suddenly, to the stupefaction of everyone, Cordang slipped and fell on the velodrome's cement surface. Garin could not believe his luck. By the time Cordang was back on his bike, he had lost 100 metres. There remained six laps to cover. Two miserable kilometres in which to catch Garin. The crowd held its breath as they watched the incredible pursuit match. The bell rang out. One lap, there remained one lap. 333 metres for Garin, who had a lead of 30 metres on the Batave.

A classic victory was within his grasp but he could almost feel his adversary's breath on his neck. Somehow Garin held on to his lead of two metres, two little metres for a legendary victory. The stands exploded and the ovation united the two men. Garin exulted under the cheers of the crowd. Cordang cried bitter tears of disappointment.[17]

Hell of the North

The race usually leaves riders caked in mud and grit, from the cobbled roads and rutted tracks of northern France's former coal-mining region. However, this is not how this race earned the name l'enfer du Nord, or Hell of the North. The term was used to describe the route of the race after World War I.[18] Organisers and journalists set off from Paris in 1919 to see how much of the route had survived four years of shelling and trench warfare. Procycling reported:[19]

They knew little of the permanent effects of the war. Nine million had died and France lost more than any. But, as elsewhere, news was scant. Who even knew if there was still a road to Roubaix? If Roubaix was still there? The car of organisers and journalists made its way along the route those first riders had gone. And at first all looked well. There was destruction and there was poverty and there was a strange shortage of men. But France had survived. But then, as they neared the north, the air began to reek of broken drains, raw sewage and the stench of rotting cattle. Trees which had begun to look forward to spring became instead blackened, ragged stumps, their twisted branches pushed to the sky like the crippled arms of a dying man. Everywhere was mud. Nobody knows who first described it as 'hell', but there was no better word. And that's how it appeared next day in the papers: that little party had seen 'the hell of the north.'[19]

The words in L'Auto were:

We enter into the centre of the battlefield. There's not a tree, everything is flattened! Not a square metre that has not been hurled upside down. There's one shell hole after another. The only things that stand out in this churned earth are the crosses with their ribbons in blue, white and red. It is hell! '[19]

This wasn't a race. It was a pilgrimage.

— Henri Pélissier, speaking of his 1919 victory.[20]

History of the cobbles

File:Alain bernard.JPG
Alain Bernard, President of 'Les Amis de Paris Roubaix': "These days the mayors come to me with cobbles."

Seeking the challenge of racing on cobbles is relatively recent. It began at the same time in Paris–Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, when widespread improvements to roads after the second world war brought realisation that the character of both races were changing. Until then the race had been over cobbles not because they were bad but because that was how roads were made. André Mahé, who won in 1949 (see below Controversies), said:

After the war, of course, the roads were all bad. There were cobbles from the moment you left Paris, or Senlis where we started in those days. There'd be stretches of surfaced roads and often there'd be a cycle path or a pavement and sometimes a thin stretch of something smoother. But you never knew where was best to ride and you were for ever switching about. You could jump your bike up on to a pavement but that got harder the more tired you got. Then you'd get your front wheel up but not your back wheel. That happened to me. And then you'd go sprawling, of course, and you could bring other riders down. Or they'd fall off and bring you down with them. And the cycle paths were often just compressed cinders, which got soft in the rain and got churned up by so many riders using them and then you got stuck and you lost your balance. And come what may, you got covered in coal dust and other muck. No, it's all changed and you can't compare then and now.[21]

The coming of live television prompted mayors along the route to surface their cobbled roads for fear the rest of France would see them as backward and not invest in the region. Albert Bouvet, the organiser, said: "If things don't change, we'll soon be calling it Paris–Valenciennes," reference to a flat race on good roads that often ends in a mass sprint. L'Équipe said: "The riders don't deserve that." Its editor, Jacques Goddet, called Paris–Roubaix "the last great madness of cycling."[22] Bouvet and Jean-Claude Vallaeys formed Les Amis de Paris Roubaix[23] (see below). Its president, Alain Bernard, led enthusiasts to look for and sometimes maintain obscure cobbled paths. He said:

Until the war, Paris–Roubaix was all on routes nationales. But many of those were cobbled, which was the spirit of the race, and the riders used to try to ride the cycle paths, if there were any. So Paris–Roubaix has always been on pavé, because pavé was what the roads were made of. Then in 1967 things began to change. There was less pavé than there had been. And so from 1967 the course started moving to the east to use the cobbles that remained there. And then those cobbles began to disappear as well and we feared that Bouvet's predictions were going to come true. That's when we started going out looking for old tracks and abandoned roads that didn't show up on our maps. In the 1970s, the race only had to go through a village for the mayor to order the road to be surfaced. Pierre Mauroy, when he was mayor of Lille,[24] said he wanted nothing to do with the race and that he'd do nothing to help it. A few years ago, there was barely a village or an area that wanted anything to do with us. If Paris–Roubaix came their way, they felt they were shamed because we were exposing their bad roads. They went out and surfaced them, did all they could to obstruct us. Now they can't get enough of us. I have mayors ringing me to say they've found another stretch of cobbles and would we like to use them.

— Alain Bernard, President of 'Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix', 2007.[21]
The first section of pavé at the Carrefour de l'Arbre
Commemorative marker-post for the Pavé de Luchin at the Carrefour de l'Arbre

It was Alain Bernard who found one of the race's most significant cobbled stretches, the Carrefour de l'Arbre. He was out on a Sunday ride, turned off the main road to see what was there and found the last bad cobbles before the finish. It is a bleak area with just a bar by the crossroads. Bernard said:

"Until then, it [the bar ('Cafe de l'Arbre')] was open only one day a year. In France, a bar has to open one day a year to keep its licence. That's all it did, because it's out in the middle of nowhere and nobody went there to drink any more. With the fame that the race brought it, it's now open all year and a busy restaurant as well."

— Alain Bernard, President of 'Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix', 2007.[21]

The Amis de Paris–Roubaix spend €10-15,000 a year on restoring and rebuilding cobbles. The Amis supply the sand and other material and the repairs are made as training by students from horticulture schools at Dunkirk, Lomme, Raismes and Douai. Each section costs €4-6,000, paid for equally by the Amis, the organisers and the local commune.[25] Bernard said:

"The trouble is that the Belgians then come out to see the race and they pull up a cobble stone each and take it home as a souvenir. They've even gone off with the milestones. It's a real headache. But I'm confident now that Paris–Roubaix is safe, that it will always be the race it has always been."

— Alain Bernard, President of 'Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix', 2007.[21]

Strategic places of historic races

The strategic places where earlier races could be won or lost include Doullens Hill, Arras, Carvin and the Wattignies bend.[26] Some sections of cobbles have deteriorated beyond the point of safety and repair or have been resurfaced and lost their significance. Other sections are excluded because the route of the race has moved east.


Early races were run behind pacers, as were many competitions of the era.[27] The first pacers were other cyclists, on bicycles or tandems. Cars and motorcycles were allowed to pace from 1898.[28] The historian Fer Schroeders says:

In 1898, even cars and motorcycles were allowed to open the road for the competitors. In 1900, the race was within a hair's breadth of disappearing, with only 19 riders at the start. The following year, the organisation therefore decided to allow help only from pacers on bicycles. And in 1910, help from pacers were stopped for good. An option which lifted Paris–Roubaix out of the background and pushed it, in terms of interest, ahead of the prestigious Bordeaux–Paris.[n 4][28]


Cobblestone in northern France, near Lille.

Originally, the race was from Paris to Roubaix, but in 1966 the start moved to Chantilly, 50 km north, then in 1977 to Compiègne, 80 km north.[29] From Compiègne it now follows a 260 km winding route north to Roubaix, hitting the first cobbles after 100 km. During the last 150 km the cobbles extend more than 50 km. The race culminates with 750m on the smooth concrete of the large outdoor velodrome in Roubaix. The route is adjusted from year to year as older roads are resurfaced and the organisers seek more cobbles to maintain the character of the race — in 2005, for example, the race included 54.7 km of cobbles.[30]

The start

The race has started at numerous places:

  • 1896–1897 Porte Maillot, Paris
  • 1898–1899: Chatou
  • 1900: Saint-Germain
  • 1901: Porte Maillot, Paris
  • 1902–1913: Chatou
  • 1914: Suresnes
  • 1919–1928: Suresnes
  • 1929–1937: Porte Maillot, Paris
  • 1938: Argenteuil
  • 1939: Porte Maillot, Paris
  • 1943–1965: Saint-Denis
  • 1966–1976: Chantilly
  • 1977–present Compiègne

The opening kilometres (the départ fictif) have often been a rolling procession. Racing has started further into the ride (départ réel). The start of open racing has been at:

  • 1896–1897: Porte Maillot
  • 1898–1899: Chatou
  • 1900: Saint-Germain
  • 1901: Porte Maillot
  • 1902–1913: Chatou
  • 1914: Suresnes
  • 1919: Suresnes
  • 1920–1922: Chatou
  • 1923–1929: Le Vésinet
  • 1930–1938: Argenteuil
  • 1939: Le Vésinet

27 cobbled sectors

The organiser, Jean-François Pescheux, grades the cobbles by length, irregularity, the general condition and their position in the race.[31]

In 2008, there were 28 cobbled sections, three considered maximum difficulty. As well as the Trouée d'Arenberg, difficult sections include the 3000m Mons-en-Pévèle (213 km) and the 2100 m Carrefour de l'Arbre (244 km) — often decisive in the final kilometres. The 27 sectors of 2015 were:[32][33]

Name Kilometre Marker Length
(in m)
27 Troisvilles to Inchy 98 2200 ***
26 Viesly to Quiévy 104 1800 ***
25 Quievy to Saint Python 106.5 3700 ****
24 Saint-Python 111.5 1500 **
23 Vertain to Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon 119 2000 ***
X Capelle-sur-Ecaillon - Le Buat 126 1700 ***
22 Verchain-Maugré - Quérénaing 138 1600 ***
21 Quérénaing - Maing 141 2500 ***
20 Maing - Monchaux-sur-Écaillon 144 1600 ***
19 Haveluy 155.5 2500 ****
18 Trouée d'Arenberg (Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.) 163.5 2400 *****
17 Wallers-Hélesmes 167,5 1600 ***
16 Hornaing - Wandignies-Hamage 176.5 3700 ***
15 Warlaing - Brillon 184 2400 ***
14 Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes - Sars-et-Rosières 187.5 2400 ***
Name Kilometer Length
(in m)
13 Beuvry-la-Forêt - Orchies 194 1400 ***
12 Orchies 199 1700 ***
11 Auchy-lez-Orchies - Bersée 205 1200 **
10 Mons-en-Pévèle[n 5] 210.5 3000 *****
9 Mérignies – Pont-à-Marcq 216.5 700 **
8 Pont Thibaut to Ennevelin 219.5 1400 ***
7 Templeuve l'Epinette
Templeuve Le Moulin de Vertain
6 Cysoing - Bourghelles
Bourghelles - Wannehain
5 Camphin-en-Pévèle 239 1800 ****
4 Le Carrefour de l'Arbre 242 2100 *****
3 Gruson 244 1100 **
2 Hem 251 1400 *
1 Roubaix 'Espace Charles Crupelandt' 257.5 300 *

27 - Troisvilles to Inchy

27 cobble sections of 2011

Length - 2,200m

First used 1987. The highest of all the cobbles at 136m. A memorial to Jean Stablinski is at the entrance to the road. The section drops 900m at two per cent. Students of the Lycée Professionnel Horticole de Raismes planted a hedge in November 2007 to prevent flowing mud. The section climbs gently for the next 900m on to the plateau at 121m. This section is often difficult because of mud. The right-angled left bend towards Inchy is made difficult by mud. The road then drops at 3.2 per cent for 400m.[33][34]

Cobbles rated ***. The cobbles are in fairly good condition except at the end. The second part, after the main road, is always muddy.[35]

26 - Viesly (rue de la chapelle) to Quievy

Length - 1,800m.

First used in 1973. This section is slightly descending, dropping evenly from 120m to 100m. It is almost entirely straight, although muddy in parts.

Cobbles rated ***. In fairly good condition.[33][34][35]

Paris-Roubaix 2006.png

25 - Quievy to Saint Python

Length - 3,700m

First used in 1973. This section crosses two regional roads, D113b and D134. This and the section from Hornaing to Wandignies-Hamage are the longest. The section rises from 95 to 117m. It begins with a gentle drop, continues with a gentle rise for 600m, then an almost entirely flat section. Having been straight, there is then a difficult 90-degree right bend that leads to a 2 km uphill drag that riders find exhausting.

Cobbles rated ****. Fairly good condition. The regional council relaid the cobbles at the end of the section in 2007. The beautiful farm of Fontaine au Tertre is on the left at the end of the cobbles.[33][34][35]

24 - Saint-Python

Length - 1,500m

First used in 1973. The start is at 104m, the end at 82m. The road is almost straight, starting with 500 flat metres then a 1 km descent to Saint-Python.

Cobbles rated **. In good condition but muddy at first.[33][34][35]

23 - Vertain to Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon

Length - 1,900m plus 100m from which the tar has been removed.

First used in 1985. It drops from 105m to 89m in almost a straight line apart from a small bend to the left in the middle.

Cobbles rated ***

X - Capelle sur Ecaillon to Buat

Length - 1,700m.

First used in 2005. Rising from 91m to 102m in almost a straight line, it starts with a four percent drop over 700m, then rises from 66m for 400m at seven per cent, followed by a slow rise of two percent for 500m. The steepest part of the course, ridden by specialists on a 46-tooth ring.

Cobbles rated ***. Fairly good state but with a strip of tar on the right during the descent.[33][34][35]

22 - Verchain-Maugré to Quérénaing

Length - 1,600m.

Possibly first used in 1974 . Virtually level - 80m to 78m, virtually straight, rising a little and then descending gently for a greater distance.

Cobbles rated **. In good condition apart from some holes.[33][34][35]

21 - Quérénaing to Maing

Length - 2,500m

First used in 1996 and thereafter always used in the same direction. The road is the D59, falling from 85m to 40m in a straight line. It starts with a gentle descent to 72m over 400m, then a slight rise for 400m. Then comes a flat stretch followed by a long descent of between 2.5 and 3.8 per cent.

Cobbles rated ***. In good condition with a muddy part.[33][34][35]

File:Paris-Roubaix Secteur pavé de Maing à Monchaux.jpg
Paris–Roubaix Secteur pavé de Maing à Monchaux sur Ecaillon.

20 - Maing to Monchaux sur Ecaillon

Length - 1,600m.

First used in 2001. The road is the D88, rising from 47 to 50m in an almost straight line. It begins with a slight rise for 1,000m, then a slow descent for 600m.

Cobbles rated ***. Hard at first, with deep holes, then in excellent condition.[33][34][35]

19 - Wallers Haveluy

Length - 2,500m.

First used in 2001 and every year since. This is the Bernard Hinault section, named in his presence on 28 March 2005 by the municipality. This section is sometimes used by the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque. It starts at 31m and finishes at 34m. It begins with a gentle rise and finishes with a gentle fall.

Cobbles rated ****. They are described as average condition but with a lot of mud. The second half is more difficult.[33][34][35]

18 - Trouée d'Arenberg

Trouee d'Arenberg - 2008 Paris–Roubaix.

Length - 2,400m.

First used in 1968. A straight road through the forêt domaniale de Raismes/Saint-Amand/Wallers, dropping slightly at first, then rising. The altitude is 25m at the start and 19m at the end.

The Trouée d'Arenberg, Tranchée d'Arenberg, (Trench of Arenberg), Trouee de Wallers Arenberg, has become the symbol of Paris–Roubaix. Officially 'La Drève des Boules d'Herin', the 2400m of cobbles were laid in the time of Napoleon I through the Raismes Forest-Saint-Amand-Wallers, close to Wallers and Valenciennes.[36] (Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.) The road was proposed for Paris–Roubaix by former professional Jean Stablinski,[37] who had worked in the mine under the woods of Arenberg.[38] The mine closed in 1990 and the passage is now preserved. Although almost 100 km from Roubaix, the sector usually proves decisive and as Stablinski said,

A memorial to Stablinski stands at one end of the road.[40]

2013 Paris - Roubaix, Forest of Arenberg

Introduced in 1968, the passage was closed from 1974 to 1983 by the Office National des Fôrets. Until 1998 the entry to the Arenberg pavé was slightly downhill, leading to a sprint for best position. The route was reversed in 1999 to reduce the speed. This was as a result of Johan Museeuw's crash in 1998 as World Cup leader, which nearly cost his leg to gangrene. In 2005 the Trouée d'Arenberg was left out, organisers saying conditions had deteriorated beyond safety limits. Abandoned mines had caused sections to subside. The regional and local councils[n 6] spent €250,000[41] on adding 50 cm to restore the original width of three metres and the race continued using it.[42] The Italian rider Filippo Pozzato said after trying the road after its repairs:

It's the true definition of hell. It's very dangerous, especially in the first kilometre when we enter it at more than 60kh. It's unbelievable. The bike goes in all directions. It will be a real spectacle but I don't know if it's really necessary to impose it on us.[41]

In 2001 a French rider, Philippe Gaumont, broke his femur after falling at the start of the Trouée when leading the peloton.[41] He said:

What I went through, only I will ever know. My knee cap completely turned to the right, a ball of blood forming on my leg and the bone that broke, without being able to move my body. And the pain, a pain that I wouldn't wish on anyone. The surgeon placed a big support [un gros matériel] in my leg, because the bone had moved so much. Breaking a femur is always serious in itself but an open break in an athlete of high level going flat out, that tears the muscles. At 180 beats [a minute of the heart], there was a colossal amount of blood being pumped, which meant my leg was full of blood. I'm just grateful that the artery was untouched.[43]

Gaumont spent a month and a half in bed, unable to move, and was fitted with a 40 mm section fixed just above the knee and, to the head of the femur, with a 12 mm screw.

Cobbles rated *****. The cobbles are extremely difficult to ride because of their irregularity. So many fans have taken away cobbles as souvenirs that the Amis de Paris–Roubaix have had to replace them.[33][34][35]

Joost Posthuma (Paris–Roubaix 2008)

17 - Wallers-Hélesmes(le Pont Gibus)

Length - 1.600m.

Cobbles rated ***

16 - Hornaing to Wandignies-Hamage

Length - 3,700m.

First used in 1983, the entire length being used first in 1988. The last 2,900m were used by the Tour de France in 2004. The road is the D130. It falls from 23 to 17m in the shape of an L. It is flat, starting with 800m in a straight line, followed by a turn to the right near two châteaux, then a straight line of 2,900m towards Wandignies-Hamage.

Cobbles rated ***. In good condition.[33][34][35]

File:Paris-Roubaix Secteur pavé de Warlaing à Brillon.jpg
Paris–Roubaix Secteur pavé de Warlaing à Brillon

15 - Warlaing to Brillon

Length - 2,400m.

First used in 1983. The road is the D81, at 17m at each end, formed in an L shape. The first 400m is straight, then a right hand bend followed by a 2 km straight.

Cobbles rated ***. In a good condition at first but then with sunken sections.[33][34][35]

14 - Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes to Sars-et-Rosières

Length - 2,400m.

First used in 1980 but only for the first 1,400m. Used over its entire length from 1982. An L-shaped section of the D158b with two 90-degree right hand turns and one 90-degree to the left. Starts at 18m and finishes at 19m.

Cobbles rated ***. In good condition and regularly maintained. Sometimes muddy because of use by tractors.[33][34][35]

Michail Ignatiev, Paris–Roubaix, 2008

13 - Beuvry-la-Forêt to Orchies

Length - 1,400m.

First used in 2007. The section was specially laid for the race, 700m of cobbles being added to 700m which was already there. The section was named after Marc Madiot in 2007. It rises slightly for the first half and is then flat.

Cobbles rated ***. In good condition, although the surface is described as "chaotic" in the first part.[33][34][35]

12 - Orchies, chemin des Prières, and chemin des Abattoirs

Length - 1700m.

First used in 1980. The last 600 metres were used in the opposite direction for the first time in 1977. The section is L-shaped, the first 1,100m being flat and the last 600 slightly uphill.

Cobbles rated ***. In a good state, fairly muddy at first, irregular in the last 600m.[33][34][35]

11 - Auchy-lez-Orchies to Bersee

Length - 1,200m.

First used in 1980. The second section, Nouveau Monde, was skipped in 2007 and 2008 due to the poor condition of the cobbles, but part of this section has since been repaired and will return to the race in 2009.[44] The sector rises from 40 to 54m. It is almost flat in the form of a semicircle.

Cobbles rated ***. In correct state, although irregular and difficult in the second half.[33][34][35]

File:Paris-Roubaix - Secteur pavé de Mons-en-Pévèle (mars 2008).jpg
'Les Amis' clean and repair the Secteur pavé de Mons-en-Pévèle

10 - Mons-en-Pévèle

Length - 3,000m

First used in 1978. Overall the 3,000m rises from 53m at the start to 63m at the end. It begins with a 300m drop of two per cent down to the Ruisseau La Petite Marque at 47m. This is followed by 800m that rise 3m. A 90 degree right hand turn to the rue du Blocus introduces an 800m straight that falls 2m and leads to a difficult, muddy, 90-degree left hand turn to the ruelle Flamande. The final 1,100m of the ruelle Flamande and Chemin de Randonnée Pédèstre rise 16m to Mérignies.

Mons-en-Pévèle, (Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.), is the 10th section of pavé before the finish. Its 3,000m are rated the hardest level of difficulty, five stars. It is in the municipality of Mons-en-Pévèle. It is one of the key sectors, one of the toughest and within 50 km of the finish. It has been used every year since 1978, 2001 excepted. In 1997, 2000, 2002 and 2003, only the first 1,100m were used.

In 2008, Stijn Devolder's attack on this sector was a contribution to the victory of Tom Boonen, his Quick Step team-mate.

Cobbles rated *****. Good condition for the first 1,100m, then deteriorating, followed by 1,100m on which mud runs down from fields.[33][34][35]

9 - Mérignies to Pont à Marcq

Length - 700m.

First used in 1981. The road is the rue de la Rosée. It rises from 35 to 37m, almost straight.

Cobbles rated **. Good condition.[33][34][35]

8 - Pont Thibaut to Ennevelin

Length - 1,400m.

First used in 1978. A flat double L shape with two 90 degree left hand turns.

Cobbles rated ***. Good condition but muddy for the first 1,000m, then difficult at the end, although work is scheduled to improve it.[33][34][35]

7 - Templeuve — Le Moulin de Vertain

Length - 200m.

First used in 1992. A straight line rising 2m.

Cobbles rated *. Bad at first, then good.[35]

Length - 500m.

First used in 2002. This section, covered by earth, was dug out for the 100th race. It drops from 38m to 33m in a straight line.

Cobbles rated ***. A short section but with cobbles which are hard to negotiate.[33][34][35]

File:Paris-Roubaix 4 - Secteur pavé de Bourghelles.jpg
Secteur pavé de Bourghelles, le calvaire (March 2008)
Imanol Erviti, 2008

6 - Cysoing to Bourghelles to Wannehain

Length - 1,400m.

First used in 1981. Since 2006 it has included the 300m leading to Bourghelles. Known as the Duclos-Lassalle section, it is level and L-shaped, rising fractionally, descending, rising and then descending again to finish at its original height of 44m.

Cobbles rated ****. In good condition for the first 700m, bad for 300m to the right hand corner, and good again for the last 300m.[35]

Length - 1,100m.

First used in 1992. A slight rise followed by a slight descent.

Cobbles rated ****. Fairly good condition at first and then hard to ride in the second half because of the irregular surface. Partly repaved with cobbles from the old road at Péronne-en-Mélantois taken by Paris–Roubaix in the 1950s.[33][34][35]

5 - Camphin-en-Pévèle

Length - 1,800m.

First used in 1980. L-shaped, falling from 52 to 50m. The right-hand corner in the middle is difficult because of mud.

Cobbles rated ****. Fairly disjointed throughout but markedly bad in the last 300m.[33][34][35]

4 - Camphin-en-Pévèle to Carrefour de l'Arbre

Length - 2,100m.

First used in 1980. An L-shaped section rising from 48 to 51m. Flat for 1,200m, then a difficult left-hand bend leading to a slight ascent.

Le Carrefour de l'Arbre (or Pavé de Luchin) is the fourth section of pavé before the finish in Roubaix. Its 2.1 km are rated at the hardest level of difficulty, five stars. The crossroads (carrefour) is on open land between Gruson and Camphin-en-Pévèle. Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found. The route departs westward from Camphin-en-Pévèle along the rue de Cysoing towards Camphin de l'Arbre. The first half is a series of corners, then along irregular pavé towards Luchin. The second half finishes at the Café de l'Arbre restaurant and has more even pavé. A sharp turn towards Gruson signals the start of sector 3, although this has sometimes been included in sector 4.

The Carrefour de l'Arbre / Pavé de Luchin sector has often proved decisive. This is due to its proximity to Roubaix (15 km) and cumulative difficulty, even it is regarded less challenging than the Trouée d'Arenberg. The leader at the completion of the sector has a good chance of leading at the velodrome, as Fabian Cancellara did in 2006 and Stuart O'Grady in 2007. As the last area where an attack could prove decisive, it is popular with spectators.

Cobbles rated *****. Alternate good and bad sections. The section before the corner leading to the restaurant is particularly bad and hard to ride.[35]

3 - Le Carrefour de l'Arbre to Gruson

Second half of Sector 4, Le Carrefour de l'Arbre, leading up to the Cafe de l'Arbre
Frederik Willems and Filippo Pozzato from Team Liquigas on approach the 'Carrefour de l'Arbre' in 2008

Length - 1,100m

First used in 1978. This section drops from 50m to 45m in a straight line.[35] It was incorporated into stage 3 of the 2004 Tour de France between Waterloo and Wasquehal.[33]

Cobbles rated **[33][34]

2 - Hem

Length - 1,400m

This sector is believed to have been first used in 1968 but perhaps as early as the 1950s. A winding section rising from 25m to 30m. Always swept by wind. In 2004, Johan Museeuw suffered a puncture on this stretch, which cost him the chance to contest the sprint for a record-equalling fourth victory.[33]

Cobbles rated *. Fairly good state, sometimes separated, but riders usually use the strips of pavement on either side of the cobbles, even if they are pitted by holes that cause frequent punctures.[33][34][35]

1 - Roubaix, Espace Charles Crupelandt — The final cobbles

Sign indicating 5 km remaining to race before the finish line

Length - 300m

The final stretch of cobbles before the stadium is named after a local rider, Charles Crupelandt, who won in 1912 and 1914. The organiser of the Tour de France, Henri Desgrange, predicted he would win his race. Crupelandt then went to war and returned a hero, with the Croix de Guerre. Three years into peace, however, he fell foul of the law and was found guilty in court. The Union Vélocipédique banned him for life, possibly at the urging of rivals in cycling.[35][45]

Crupelandt raced again but registered with an unofficial cycling association, with which he won national championships in 1922 and 1923. He died in 1955, blind and with both legs amputated.

This sector, dropping from 32m to 27m, is unofficially known as the 'Chemin des Géants,' [Road of the Giants]. It was first used in 1996, having been created for the centenary by laying a strip of smooth new cobbles down the centre of the wide boulevard of the avenue Alfred Motte. Dotted among the cobbles are plaques to every race winner, the giants.[33]

Cobbles rated *. Excellent condition.[33][34]

The finish

The last 750m are in the vélodrome in Roubaix
Shower cubicles at Roubaix track are named after winners

The finish until 1914 was on the original track at Croix, where the Parc clinic now stands. There were then various finish points:[46]

  • 1896–1914: Rue Verte/route d'Hempempont, Croix, Roubaix
  • 1919: avenue de Jussieu, Roubaix, behind the dairy
  • 1920–1921: Stadium Jean Dubrulle, Roubaix
  • 1922–1928: avenue des Villas (now the avenue Gustave Delory), Roubaix
  • 1929: Stade Amédée Prouvost, Wattrelos
  • 1930–1934: avenue des Villas, Roubaix
  • 1935–1936: Flandres horse track, Marcq
  • 1937–1939: avenue Gustave Delory (former avenue des Villas), Roubaix
  • 1943–1985: Roubaix Velodrome
  • 1986–1988: avenue des Nations-Unies
  • 1989–present (as of March 2014): Roubaix Velodrome

The race moved to the current stadium in 1943, and there it has stayed with the exceptions of 1986, 1987 and 1988 when the finish was in the avenue des Nations-Unies, outside the offices of La Redoute, the mail-order company which sponsored the race.[47]

The shower room inside the velodrome is distinctive for the open, three-sided, low-walled concrete stalls, each with a brass plaque to commemorate a winner. These include Peter Van Petegem, Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck,[48] Rik van Looy and Fausto Coppi.[49]

When I stand in the showers in Roubaix, I actually start the preparation for next year.

— Tom Boonen, 2004.[50]

A commemorative plaque at 37 avenue Gustave Delory honours Émile Masson Jr., the last to win there.


Paris–Roubaix presents a technical challenge to riders, team personnel, and equipment. Special frames and wheels are often used. Some have wider tires, cantilever brakes, and dual brake levers. Many teams disperse personnel along the course with spare wheels, equipment and bicycles to help in locations not accessible to the team car.

André Mahé, winner in 1948, said such specialisation is recent:

Riders have experimented, however. After the Second World War many tried wooden rims of the sort used at the start of cycle racing. Francesco Moser wrapped his handlebars with strips of foam in the 1970s. Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle and Greg LeMond experimented with suspension in their front forks in the 1990s.[51]

Some top riders receive special frames to give more stability and comfort. Different materials make the ride more comfortable. Tom Boonen, using a Time frame with longer wheelbase for the first time, won the race in 2005 and has since continued to use a bike with a longer wheelbase.[52][53] George Hincapie had a frame featuring a 2 mm elastomer insert at the top of the seat stays. The manufacturers claimed this took nearly all the shock out of the cobbles. Hincapie's Trek bicycle fared less well in 2006: his aluminum steerer tube snapped with 46 km to go, the crash injuring his shoulder.[54][55]

The bicycle made for Peter Van Petegem in 2004 was a Time. The distance from bottom bracket to rear axle was 419 mm rather than his normal 403. The distance from the bottom bracket to the front hub was 605 mm instead of 600 mm. The depth of the front forks was 372 mm instead of 367.5 mm The forks were spaced to take 28 mm tyres. The sprockets were steel rather than alloy and the steerer column was cut 5 mm higher than usual to raise the handlebars if needed before the start.[25]

The bad roads cause frequent punctures. A service fleet consisting of four motorcycles and four cars provides spares to riders regardless of team.[56] Yves Hézard of Mavic the equipment company which provides the coverage, said:

Every year we change fewer wheels, because the wheels and tyres are getting better and better. We changed about 20 wheels today. Five years ago, it was much worse — we'd be choosing about a hundred. Tyres are becoming much better than before. So, yes, our job is easier — except that the race generally goes faster now, so we're under a bit more pressure. Every year, there's new types of gears, new aluminium frames, new titanium frames, so it's getting more complex for us to offer neutral service. We have a list in the car of who is riding Mavic or Shimano or Campagnolo; the moment someone gets a flat tyre we need to think of a lot of things at once. Is it a titanium frame or a carbon frame or a steel frame?


1907 – The wrong gendarme

In 1907, Georges Passerieu broke away from a small leading group just before Douai because he knew he couldn't outsprint them if they all finished together. He was chased all the way to Roubaix by a Belgian, Cyrille van Hauwaert, and tension in the velodrome was high. The crowd heard that Passerieu had reached the stadium but nobody rode on to the track. The leader was just about to ride in when a gendarme stepped into his path to check if his bicycle had the obligatory tax plate attached to it. Passerieu had already had a hard day and a shouting match broke out before he was allowed to continue.

1930 – The wrong team

In 1930, Jean Maréchal finished 24 seconds ahead of Belgian Julien Vervaecke but was moved to second because, while Maréchal was trying to pass Vervaecke, the Belgian tumbled into a ditch. According to some, Maréchal hit the Belgian's shoulder, causing his fall. Jacques Augendre, historian of the Tour de France, said Maréchal, who was 20, "was riding as an individual for a little bike-maker, Colin, and he got to Roubaix alone. His happiness was short-lived. Arbitrarily accused of having provoked a fall by Julien Vervaecke, with whom he had broken away, he was disqualified without any sort of hearing. Important detail: Vervaecke belonged to the all-powerful Alcyon team, run by the no less powerful Ludovic Feuillet..."[57]

1934 – The wrong bike

In 1934 Roger Lapébie was disqualified for changing bicycles. Second placed rider Gaston Rebry was awarded the victory once officials discovered that Lapébie's bike was missing a race sticker.[58]

1936 – The wrong man

In 1936 the Belgian, Romain Maes, appeared to win but judges declared Frenchman Georges Speicher the winner and Maes second.[59] Shouting began in the stands and for a moment it looked as though fighting would start, but calm returned and the result was upheld. A Belgian may not have won but there were seven Belgians in the first ten.

1949 – The wrong route

André Mahé in 2007

The result in 1949 took several months and two international conferences to sort out. André Mahé was first but his win was challenged because he took the wrong course. Mahé was in a break of three that reached Roubaix velodrome in the lead, but he was misdirected by officials and entered the track by the wrong gate. Mahé was declared winner but a few minutes later other riders arrived using the correct route and Serse Coppi, brother of famous Fausto, won the sprint for what was assumed to be the minor placings. After a protest and several months, Serse Coppi was named joint winner with Mahé.[60] Mahé said in 2007:

C'est trop bête d'en parler (It's too stupid to talk about). There was a break. Coppi attacked. His brother Fausto gave him a push to get him away. He wanted his brother to win. I waited a bit and then I attacked and I caught him and the break. Then I went off by myself. I was going to win Paris–Roubaix. At the entrance to the vélodrome, there were crowds everywhere, blocking the way. I looked around for where to go and I was directed round the outside wall of the track, to where the team cars had to park. It wasn't like nowadays, when there's television and everything. Then it was more chaotic and the whole road was blocked. People said I should have known the way into the track. But how do you know a thing like that at the end of Paris–Roubaix, when you've raced all day over roads like that? A gendarme signalled the way to go and that's the way I went.[21]

It was a journalist on a motorbike who managed to get up to me. He was shouting 'Not that way! Not that way!' And I turned round in the road and I rode back beneath the outside wall of the grandstand and I saw a gateway that went into the track, a gateway for journalists. And that's the way I went, except that it came out on the other side of the track from the proper entrance. The bunch came in and Serse won the sprint. But then his brother told Serse to go to the judges to object. He told Serse that I hadn't ridden the entire and precise course and that therefore I should be déclassé. But that was below him. Coppi wanted his brother to have a big victory. He was a great champion, Coppi, but to do what he did, to protest like that to get a victory for his brother, that wasn't dignified for a champion. That was below him. A champion like that should never have stooped that low. I never spoke to him about it. Never did. Why should I?[21]

1981 – The wrong race

In 1981 Bernard Hinault said after winning the race:

The only other times he rode it were in 1980, when he finished fourth, and in 1982, as the defending champion. When he was criticised, he said: "I don't go into offices and tell people to work harder, yet people ask me to be the strongest on the cobbles."[43] Hinault fell seven times in that race, including 13 km from the finish when a small black dog called Gruson ran out in a bend and ran under his wheel. Hinault had been clear with Roger De Vlaeminck, Hennie Kuiper and Marc Demeyer. The incident made Hinault angry and he raced back to the others and won in Roubaix.

He was not the first star to refuse. Jacques Anquetil called it a lottery after puncturing 13 km from the end in 1958 and never took it seriously again.[51]

In 2002 only two of the top 20 riders in the UCI table - Jens Voigt and Erik Zabel - were on the start line. The following year only Zabel was there. In 2004 he had stayed at home as well. Philippe Brunel wrote in L'Équipe:

We won't go as far as say that the five-time winner of the Tour [Hinault] - who every year gives the winner his celebration cobble stone on behalf of the organisers — has contributed to the dilution [paupérisation] of the queen of classics, which would offend him, but his words have contributed to the snub, or the indifference, of those who stay away. The fact isn't new but the phenomenon is getting worse and is concerning. The peloton of stayaways has grown to the point where Paris–Roubaix is now only for a tight group of specialists... especially the Belgians, capable of maintaining high speed on the cobbles.[51]

1988 – The wrong place and time

The 1988 race contained a rare spectacle where an early morning breakaway group held on until the finish: 27 kilometres into the race a group of unknown riders broke away and the pack did nothing to chase them down throughout the race. It was on a section of cobblestones outside Roubaix that Thomas Wegmuller (SUI) and Dirk Demol (BEL) broke away from the lead group to try for the victory. As if the success of the breakaway wasn't enough, Paris–Roubaix was about to deliver a cruel irony.

When the two entered Roubaix, Wegmuller ran over a plastic bag that flew out in front of him, which became jammed in his derailleur. Wegmuller was unable to change gears which was crucial for a sprint finish. He got assistance from his team car to remove the bag, but his gears still would not change. Knowing that a bicycle change would be suicidal to his chances, Wegmuller continued on his damaged bike; Demol continued to draft behind him.

When it came down to the final sprint, Wegmuller could only watch as Demol sprinted past him to take the victory. Laurent Fignon finished third after a late breakaway from the chasing peloton.

2006 – The wrong train

In 2006 Leif Hoste, Peter Van Petegem and Vladimir Gusev were disqualified for riding through a closed train crossing 10 km before the finish and just ahead of an approaching freight train.[20] Fabian Cancellara won and Tom Boonen and Alessandro Ballan were given the remaining places on the podium.

I know the rules, yes, but I don't understand why nobody stopped us, and why nothing was said to us in the 10km that followed. All that just to be told two minutes before going to the podium that we had been disqualified. Cancellara deserved his victory but for me, I will always be in second place even though I have been disqualified.

— Leif Hoste, L'Équipe, April 2006.[20]

"It's crazy. In Belgium they would have stopped the train."

— Peter Van Petegem, April 2006[20]


Theo de Rooij

The American television channel CBS covered Paris–Roubaix in the 1980s. Theo de Rooij, a Dutchman, had been in a promising position to win the 1985 race but had then crashed, losing his chance of winning. Covered in mud, he offered his thoughts on the race to CBS' John Tesh after the race:

“It's a bollocks, this race!” said de Rooij. “You're working like an animal, you don't have time to piss, you wet your pants. You're riding in mud like this, you're slipping ... it’s a pile of shit.”

When then asked if he would start the race again, de Rooij replied:

“Sure, it's the most beautiful race in the world!”[62]

"Thousands line the road in this annual rite of spring cheering their larger than life heroes. Urging, at times, even helping them victory. They ride in the tracks of bygone legends dreaming of distant fame and glory. But glory is not without a price.
These bloodied and battered warriors struggle through the rain, the cold, the mud, on roads better suited to oxen cart than bicycles. But for the victor there is glory, immortality and a place in history amongst the giants of the road.
Since 1896, the greatest bike racers on earth have come to test their very souls in this brutal and beautiful spectacle".

CBS Sports - 1987

Other observations

  • "A Paris–Roubaix without rain is not a true Paris–Roubaix. Throw in a little snow as well, it's not serious." - Sean Kelly[63]
  • "Paris-Roubaix is a horrible race to ride but the most beautiful one to win." - Sean Kelly[64]
  • "Let me tell you, though — there's a huge difference between the Tour of Flanders and Paris–Roubaix. They're not even close to the same. In one, the cobbles are used every day by the cars, and kept up, and stuff like that. The other one — it's completely different ... The best I could do would be to describe it like this — they plowed a dirt road, flew over it with a helicopter, and then just dropped a bunch of rocks out of the helicopter! That's Paris–Roubaix. It's that bad — it's ridiculous." - Chris Horner[65]
  • "This is a race that suits me when I'm having a good day. On the other hand, if you don't have the legs, this is the worst place you could possibly be." - Jo Planckaert, 2004[66]
  • "It's a circus, and I don't want to be one of the clowns." - Chris Boardman (speaking before the start on British Eurosport).[67]

Les Amis de Paris–Roubaix

File:Paris Roubaix - Les forçats du pavé at Mons en Pévèle - 02.jpg
'Les forçats du pavé' working at Mons en Pévèle
File:Paris-Roubaix, Les travaux réalisés en 2008.jpg
Pavé under repair by Les Amis de Paris–Roubaix

Les Amis de Paris–Roubaix – the "friends" of the race – is an enthusiasts' group founded by Jean-Claude Vallaeys in 1983. It is based in France but open to members all over the world. It has its roots in the Paris–Roubaix Cyclo-Touriste of 1972. By 1982 there were 7,242 participants. There and at other events on the course, a petition calling for the cobbles to be saved gathered 10,000 signatures. Jean-Claude Valleys, Jean-François Pescheux[n 7] and the Vélo-club de Roubaix, which Vallaeys founded in 1966, formed Les Amis de Paris–Roubaix in 1982 at a photo exhibition at the Maison du Nord-Pas de Calais[n 8] in Paris.

Its aim was to find enough stretches of cobbled road to preserve the nature of the race. So many roads had been resurfaced that, as the organiser said, there was a risk that it would become a fast race on smooth roads won by sprinters rather than those who had fought through hell. Alain Bernard, who succeeded Vallaeys, says: "We have succeeded in that. Today, the association looks after the maintenance of these paths of legend, working with local administrations to preserve them. But alongside that, we also do other things to preserve the value of the race, building up an impressive collection of documents, holding exhibitions, honouring former winners, holding tours of the route."[23]

Les Amis says it is too late to save the sector of Bersée, which was removed from the race because of its dangerous state in 2007. The situation is becoming critical, it says, at the Pont Gibus at Wallers, at Mons-en-Pévèle, Pont Thibaut at Ennevelin, the pavé of the Duclos-Lassalle section at Cysoing, and at Camphin-en-Pévèle.

"Their disappearance would be a fatal blow to the Queen of Classics," says the association.[68]

Les forçats du pavé

The weather is often bad for the riders; it is frequently worse for the forçats du pavé (literally 'convicts of the cobbles'), as they call themselves[n 9] In March 2008, "Les Amis" published an account of their work thus:[69]

Saturday 22 March: a cold wind sweeps the plain of Pévèle; alternating showers of hail, melted snow and cold rain. Not a day to venture outside... Nevertheless, at the foot of the Mons-en-Pévèle ridge, silhouettes busy themselves along the soaked cobble roadway. Backs bent against the gusts, they tirelessly scratch at the ground with primitive tools. Who are these dozen souls — A work-gang from a byegone era? Automatons? Treasure-hunters?

No, these are members of the "Amis de Paris Roubaix", trying to clean off the mud and crusted earth left on the cobbles by farm work. They are on an important section of Paris–Roubaix and, without their intervention, the greatest of cycling classics, due to be held in only a few days, will not be able to come through... And without these cobbled routes, the Paris–Roubaix would disappear, depriving the whole world of one of sport's most intense and gripping events. This they know, and they'll be back again the two weekends before the race, far from the media and officials who will soon bustle here.

The passion that drives them is much stronger than the bad weather. It has nothing to do with the current storms in the cycling world. These discreet servants of the "Queen of the Classics" have only one ambition — to clean the stones so that the when the day comes for the champion to be crowned they can hold their cobbled trophy high.

Winners and records

Winners by year

Rider Team
1896 Germany Fischer, JosefJosef Fischer (GER) Diamant
1897 France Garin, MauriceMaurice Garin (FRA) La Française
1898 France Garin, MauriceMaurice Garin (FRA) La Française
1899 France Champion, AlbertAlbert Champion (FRA)
1900 France Bouhours, ÉmileÉmile Bouhours (FRA)
1901 France Lesna, LucienLucien Lesna (FRA)
1902 France Lesna, LucienLucien Lesna (FRA)
1903 France Aucouturier, HippolyteHippolyte Aucouturier (FRA) Peugeot
1904 France Aucouturier, HippolyteHippolyte Aucouturier (FRA) Peugeot
1905 France Trousselier, LouisLouis Trousselier (FRA) Peugeot-Wolber
1906 France Cornet, HenriHenri Cornet (FRA)
1907 France Passerieu, GeorgesGeorges Passerieu (FRA) Peugeot-Wolber
1908 Belgium Hauwaert, Cyrille vanCyrille van Hauwaert (BEL) Alcyon-Dunlop
1909 France Lapize, OctaveOctave Lapize (FRA) Biguet-Dunlop
1910 France Lapize, OctaveOctave Lapize (FRA) Alcyon
1911 France Lapize, OctaveOctave Lapize (FRA) La Francaise-Diamant
1912 France Crupelandt, CharlesCharles Crupelandt (FRA) La Francaise-Diamant
1913 Luxembourg Faber, FrancoisFrançois Faber (LUX) Peugeot-Wolber
1914 France Crupelandt, CharlesCharles Crupelandt (FRA) La Française-Diamant
1915 No race
1916 No race
1917 No race
1918 No race
1919 France Pelissier, HenriHenri Pélissier (FRA) JB Louvet & La Sportive
1920 Belgium Deman, PaulPaul Deman (BEL) La Sportive
1921 France Pelissier, HenriHenri Pélissier (FRA) JB Louvet & La Sportive
1922 Belgium Dejonghe, AlbertAlbert Dejonghe (BEL)
1923 Switzerland Suter, HeiriHeiri Suter (SUI) Gurtner-Hutchinson
1924 Belgium Hevel, Jules vanJules van Hevel (BEL) Wonder-Russell
1925 Belgium Sellier, FelixFélix Sellier (BEL) Alcyon-Dunlop
1926 Belgium Delbecque, JulienJulien Delbecque (BEL) Alcyon-Dunlop
1927 Belgium Ronsse, GeorgesGeorges Ronsse (BEL) Automoto
1928 France Leducq, AndreAndré Leducq (FRA)
1929 Belgium Meunier, CharlesCharles Meunier (BEL) La Française-Diamant
1930 Belgium Vervaecke, JulienJulien Vervaecke (BEL) Alcyon
1931 Belgium Rebry, GastonGaston Rebry (BEL) Alcyon
1932 Belgium Gijssels, RomainRomain Gijssels (BEL) Dilecta-Wolber
1933 Belgium Maes, SylvereSylvère Maes (BEL) Alcyon-Dunlop
1934 Belgium Rebry, GastonGaston Rebry (BEL) Alcyon
1935 Belgium Rebry, GastonGaston Rebry (BEL) Alcyon
1936 France Speicher, GeorgesGeorges Speicher (FRA) Alcyon
1937 Italy Rossi, JulesJules Rossi (ITA) Alcyon
1938 Belgium Storme, LucienLucien Storme (BEL) Leducq-Hutchinson
1939 Belgium Masson Jr., EmileÉmile Masson Jr. (BEL) Alcyon
1940 No race
1941 No race
1942 No race
1943 Belgium Kint, MarcelMarcel Kint (BEL) Mercier-Hutchinson
1944 Belgium Desimpelaere, MauriceMaurice Desimpelaere (BEL) Alcyon
1945 France Maye, PaulPaul Maye (FRA) Alcyon
1946 Belgium Claes, GeorgesGeorges Claes (BEL) Rochet-Dunlop
1947 Belgium Claes, GeorgesGeorges Claes (BEL) Rochet-Dunlop
1948 Belgium Steenbergen, Rik VanRik Van Steenbergen (BEL) Mercier-Hutchinson
1949 France Mahe, AndreAndré Mahé (FRA) (victory shared with Coppi, SerseSerse Coppi) Stella Dunlop
1949 Italy Coppi, SerseSerse Coppi (ITA) (victory shared with Mahe, AndreAndré Mahé) Bianchi-Ursus
1950 Italy Coppi, FaustoFausto Coppi (ITA) Bianchi-Ursus
1951 Italy Bevilacqua, AntonioAntonio Bevilacqua (ITA) Benotto-Ursus
1952 Belgium Steenbergen, Rik VanRik Van Steenbergen (BEL) Mercier-Hutchinson
1953 Belgium Derycke, GermainGermain Derycke (BEL) Alcyon-Dunlop
1954 Belgium Impanis, RaymondRaymond Impanis (BEL) Mercier-Hutchinson
1955 France Forestier, JeanJean Forestier (FRA) Follis-Dunlop
1956 France Bobet, LouisonLouison Bobet (FRA) L.Bobet-BP-Hutchinson
1957 Belgium Bruyne, Fred DeFred De Bruyne (BEL) Carpano-Coppi
1958 Belgium Vandaele, LeonLeon Vandaele (BEL) Faema-Guerra
1959 Belgium Fore, NoelNoël Foré (BEL) Groene Leeuw-SAS
1960 Belgium Cerami, PinoPino Cerami (BEL) Peugeot-BP
1961 Belgium Looy, Rik vanRik van Looy (BEL) Faema
1962 Belgium Looy, Rik vanRik van Looy (BEL) Flandria-Faema
1963 Belgium Daems, EmileEmile Daems (BEL) Peugeot-BP
1964 Netherlands Post, PeterPeter Post (NED) Flandria-Romeo
1965 Belgium Looy, Rik vanRik van Looy (BEL) Solo-Superia
1966 Italy Gimondi, FeliceFelice Gimondi (ITA) Salvarani
1967 Netherlands Janssen, JanJan Janssen (NED) Pelforth Sauvage-Le Jeune
1968 Belgium Merckx, EddyEddy Merckx (BEL) Faema
1969 Belgium Godefroot, WalterWalter Godefroot (BEL) Flandria-De Clerck
1970 Belgium Merckx, EddyEddy Merckx (BEL) Faema
1971 Belgium Rosiers, RogerRoger Rosiers (BEL) Bic
1972 Belgium De Vlaeminck, RogerRoger De Vlaeminck (BEL) Deher
1973 Belgium Merckx, EddyEddy Merckx (BEL) Molteni
1974 Belgium De Vlaeminck, RogerRoger De Vlaeminck (BEL) Brooklyn
1975 Belgium De Vlaeminck, RogerRoger De Vlaeminck (BEL) Brooklyn
1976 Belgium Demeyer, MarcMarc Demeyer (BEL) Flandria-Velda
1977 Belgium De Vlaeminck, RogerRoger De Vlaeminck (BEL) Brooklyn
1978 Italy Moser, FrancescoFrancesco Moser (ITA) Sanson
1979 Italy Moser, FrancescoFrancesco Moser (ITA) Sanson
1980 Italy Moser, FrancescoFrancesco Moser (ITA) Sanson
1981 France Hinault, BernardBernard Hinault (FRA) Renault-Elf-Gitane
1982 Netherlands Raas, JanJan Raas (NED) TI-Raleigh
1983 Netherlands Kuiper, HennieHennie Kuiper (NED) Aernoudt Rossin
1984 Republic of Ireland Kelly, SeanSean Kelly (IRL) Skil-Sem
1985 France Madiot, MarcMarc Madiot (FRA) Renault-Elf-Gitane
1986 Republic of Ireland Kelly, SeanSean Kelly (IRL) Kas
1987 Belgium Vanderaerden, EricEric Vanderaerden (BEL) Panasonic-Isostar
1988 Belgium Demol, DirkDirk Demol (BEL) AD Renting
1989 Belgium Wampers, Jean-MarieJean-Marie Wampers (BEL) Panasonic-Isostar
1990 Belgium Planckaert, EddyEddy Planckaert (BEL) Panasonic-Sportlife
1991 France Madiot, MarcMarc Madiot (FRA) R.M.O.
1992 France Duclos-Lassalle, GilbertGilbert Duclos-Lassalle (FRA) Z
1993 France Duclos-Lassalle, GilbertGilbert Duclos-Lassalle (FRA) GAN
1994 Moldova Tchmil, AndreiAndrei Tchmil (MDA) Lotto
1995 Italy Ballerini, FrancoFranco Ballerini (ITA) Mapei-GB
1996 Belgium Museeuw, JohanJohan Museeuw (BEL) Mapei-GB
1997 France Guesdon, FredericFrédéric Guesdon (FRA) Française des Jeux
1998 Italy Ballerini, FrancoFranco Ballerini (ITA) Mapei-Bricobi
1999 Italy Tafi, AndreaAndrea Tafi (ITA) Mapei-Quick Step
2000 Belgium Museeuw, JohanJohan Museeuw (BEL) Mapei
2001 Netherlands Knaven, ServaisServais Knaven (NED) Domo-Farm Frites
2002 Belgium Museeuw, JohanJohan Museeuw (BEL) Domo-Farm Frites
2003 Belgium Van Petegem, PeterPeter Van Petegem (BEL) Lotto–Domo
2004 Sweden Backstedt, MagnusMagnus Bäckstedt (SWE) Alessio-Bianchi
2005 Belgium Boonen, TomTom Boonen (BEL) Quick-Step–Innergetic
2006 Switzerland Cancellara, FabianFabian Cancellara (SUI) Team CSC
2007 Australia O'Grady, StuartStuart O'Grady (AUS) Team CSC
2008 Belgium Boonen, TomTom Boonen (BEL) Quick-Step
2009 Belgium Boonen, TomTom Boonen (BEL) Quick-Step
2010 Switzerland Cancellara, FabianFabian Cancellara (SUI) Team Saxo Bank
2011 Belgium Vansummeren, JohanJohan Vansummeren (BEL) Garmin–Cervélo
2012 Belgium Boonen, TomTom Boonen (BEL) Omega Pharma–Quick-Step
2013 Switzerland Cancellara, FabianFabian Cancellara (SUI) RadioShack–Leopard
2014 Netherlands Terpstra, NikiNiki Terpstra (NED) Omega Pharma–Quick-Step
2015 Germany Degenkolb, JohnJohn Degenkolb (GER) Team Giant–Alpecin

Other cobbled races

Paris–Roubaix is sometimes compared to the other famous cobbled race, the Tour of Flanders in Belgium. Paris–Roubaix is flatter and has more difficult cobbles while the Tour of Flanders contains a series of hills, many on cobbles, like the Koppenberg or Kapelmuur.

In addition to Paris–Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, called the cobbled classics, other spring races like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Gent–Wevelgem feature extensive cobbles.

Winners of Paris–Roubaix and
Tour of Flanders
Rider Year
 Heiri Suter (SUI) 1923
 Romain Gijssels (BEL) 1932
 Gaston Rebry (BEL) 1934
 Raymond Impanis (BEL) 1954
 Fred De Bruyne (BEL) 1957
 Rik van Looy (BEL) 1962
 Roger De Vlaeminck (BEL) 1977
 Peter Van Petegem (BEL) 2003
 Tom Boonen (BEL) 2005
 Fabian Cancellara (SUI) 2010
 Tom Boonen (BEL) 2012
 Fabian Cancellara (SUI) 2013

Related events

The U23 Paris–Roubaix or Paris–Roubaix Espoirs is raced in the early summer.

The Paris–Roubaix Cyclo is organised by the Velo Club de Roubaix every other June. This allows amateurs to experience the cobbles, the finishing laps in the vélodrome, and the showers. There is a choice of three levels: 120 km, most of the cobbled sectors; 190 km all the cobbles; or the full 261 km. All finishers receive a small cobblestone on a wooden plinth.[72] The Paris–Roubaix Skoda Classic Challenge is organised the day before the pro race in April.


  1. Paris–Roubaix is popularly known throughout the English-speaking world for its 'cobbled sectors', but this is a misnomer as the sectors are actually paved with granite setts, roughly hewn blocks, which are smoother and safer than true cobblestones (prominent rounded pebbles often used on inner city streets). This article maintains the misnomer 'Cobblestones' but attempts to clarify the misnomer where relevant.
  2. The Roman Catholic Church objected to the race being run on Easter Sunday, though who and at what level within the Church the objection was made has been lost to history.
  3. In 2004 Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix marked Garin's victories in the Paris-Roubaix event by placing a cobblestone — traditional trophy for winners of the race, on his grave. See "Hommage à Maurice Garin" (in French). Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix. 3 March 2004.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The Bordeaux–Paris race stayed with pacers until 1985.
  5. Francesco Moser (1978, 1979, 1980) and Sean Kelly (1984, 1986) won by attacking Mons-en-Pévèle. The winner is likely to be in the first three to leave the cobbles at Mons
  6. The regional and local councils are — The Conseil Général du Nord and the Communauté de la Porte du Hainaut
  7. Jean-François Pescheux is now the organiser of Paris–Roubaix
  8. La Maison is a combination of chamber of commerce, lobbying organisation and tourist office.
  9. 'Les forçats du pavé' is a reference to a newspaper article and book by Albert Londres which described the toiling riders of the Tour de France as the forçats or forced labourers de la route.


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  • Philippe Bouvet, Pierre Callewaert, Jean-Luc Gatellier, Laget Serge: Paris–Roubaix: A Journey Through Hell (ISBN 1934030090), VeloPress. The inside story of the race, its great riders, its traditions, and its secrets

Further reading

External links