153km to go
Max Walscheid (Qhubeka) hits the front of the race going into the Viesly to Quiévy section. Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe), by the way, has also lost contact with the leading group and the wind is whipping up a storm. Cannot overemphasise how nasty the conditions are today, these are scenes that have not been seen in the men’s race for 20 years, meaning nobody – not even the veteran Philippe Gilbert – will have ever ridden a wet Paris-Roubaix
155km to go
Imanol Erviti (Movistar) and Florian Maitre (TotalEnergies) have been dropped by the breakaway which is now edging its way towards the next section of cobbles, the 1.8km stretch from Viesly to Quiévy.
158km to go
Large pools of water, streams of thick slippery mud and some of the worst road conditions in the world are making the first of 30 sections of cobbles looking very dangerous. Unsurprisingly, riders are taking any corners in the road rather gingerly, while the leading group has already started to string out with a few struggling to stay upright.
Briton Rowe leads Paris-Roubaix
The Welshman, a real Flandrien of the sport, will be loving this.
Onto the cobbles we go . . .
. . . and it is Luke Rowe or his Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Gianni Moscon who leads the way. Sorry, there’s a lot of water and mist making in the pictures making it difficult to identify the riders.
Küng crashes again
As the riders back in the peloton battled for position up near the front on the approach to the Troisvilles to Inchy section of cobbles, a number of riders lost their wheels on a wet and slippery left-hand turn. Unfortunately for French team Groupama-FDJ, one of their main men for the day, Stefan Küng, crashed for a second time. One imagines his nerves will now be shredded into pieces.
Calm before the storm | 165km to go
Tension is no doubt mounting in the 29-man breakaway that leads the peloton by 1min 45sec now as it approaches the first section of cobbles. For those new to the sport here’s some of idea, or context at least, about the size of the cobbles there warriors today will be riding over.
178km to go | That breakaway in full . . .
As mentioned earlier, there are some seriously strong riders in here, but there is an awful long way to go yet and their advantage on the peloton has not really increased over the last 15 minutes or so.
Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma), Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo), Andre Carvalho (Cofidis), Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange), Nils Eekhoff (DSM), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Marco Haller (Bahrain-Victorious), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), Florian Maitre (TotalEnergies), Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers), Luca Mozzato (B&B Hotels p/b KTM), Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), Timo Roosen (Jumbo-Visma), Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers), Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Robert Stannard (BikeExchange), Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates), Harry Sweeny (Lotto-Soudal), Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel Start-up Nation), Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal), Max Walscheid (Qhubeka) and Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious).
185km to go
Juraj Sagan is doing plenty of work on the front of the peloton, working on behalf of his brother Peter Sagan who won Paris-Roubaix back in 2018. Both, as I’m sure you will know, will be leaving Bora-Hansgrohe at the end of the season to join French team TotalEnergies. The gap between the two groups, by the way, is holding at around 1min 15sec.
190km to go
Stefan Küng has reacquainted himself with the peloton which now trails the breakaway by 1min 20sec. It looks like a rotten day for a bike ride in northern France today, and that’s before they have even reached the first of 30 sections of cobbled roads.
Küng down, but not out . . .
Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), the Swiss time trial specialist and a strong rouleur, has gone down quite heavily while the breakaway navigated its way around a roundabout. Küng, however, was able to remount but lost contact with the breakaway and is currently tapping away in no man’s land with blood rolling down his left leg – his left knee appeared to have taken the brunt of that fall.
200km to go
The 30-man breakaway group has a lead of over a minute on the peloton, which includes Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
204km to go
Ineos Grenadiers has three riders – Owain Doull, Luke Rowe and Gianni Moscon – in the leading group, Lotto-Soudal has two (Tosh Van der Sande and Harry Sweeny), Deceuninck-Quick Step has a pair (Tim Declercq and Davide Ballerini) while there is a smattering of other strong riders including Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) and Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën). As it stand they lead the peloton by around 15sec, with the sort of horsepower in this group some of the pre-race favourites will, you would imagine, be a little concerned. However, Matieu van der Poel, apparently, just stopped for a comfort break so it sounds as if the Alpecin-Fenix rider who is making his Paris-Roubaix debut today is not overly worried by this move. I wonder if he will regret that later?
The wind is blowing up | 212km to go
Lotto-Soudal and Deceuninck-Quick Step have riders on the front of a decent-sized group that has gained some road on the peloton that appears to have been caught out by some strong winds. Eurosport are reporting that Michael Valgren (EF Education-Nippo) may have been caught short while talking a comfort break.
220km to go
Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën), the 2017 Paris-Roubaix winner, and Sven Erik Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates) briefly clipped off the front, but the pair were soon reined back in. Shortly afterwards another small group attempted to make a move but the entire peloton appears wise to any move and everything is being watched closely by the likes of Tim Declercq who, I am assuming, will be acting as road captain for Deceuninck-Quick Step here today.
Two men off up the road | 230km to go
The racing is under way and as it stands there are two riders – Max Kanter (DSM) and Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) – leading the way, the pair holding an advantage of around 10sec on the peloton.
After rolling through the neutralised section in Compiègne there was a crash involving Jonas van Genechten (B&B Hotels p/b KTM ) and Mitch Docker (EF Education-Nippo), the latter of whom will be retiring from racing after today’s race.
Weather-wise it is wet and windy in northern France. As we saw in the women’s race on Saturday, the wet conditions will cause plenty of problems for the riders once they reach the cobbles. One suspects there will be a battle royal for position ahead of the first section, the 2.2km long three-star Troisvilles to Inchy secteur.
‘To win you need to be powerful – a sprinter, time trialist or rouleur’
Sean Kelly sat down with Telegraph Sport a few years back to discuss what it takes to win the race he won twice during an illustrious racing career.
The world No 1 between 1984 and 1989 remains one of the greatest all-rounders in the history of cycle sport and with a palmarès that boasts 21 stage wins at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España as well as nine monuments – the Tour of Flanders was the only one the Irishman failed to conquer – and it is easy to see why. Of the modern-day peloton, the rider that most mirrors Kelly would be Wout van Aert who today is hoping to put behind him the disappointment of last weekend’s world championships, but does he have within his armoury what it takes to win the ‘Queen of the Classics’?
“I think Paris-Roubaix has to be the toughest race because you have the terrain – there are anything between 52 and 55 kilometres of cobbles over the course of around 260 kilometres,” Kelly explains.
“It’s just one of those races that takes a lot from you, not just physically but mentally too,” the 1984 and 1986 winner says. “All of the time you are turning left and right, not only on the cobbled sections but also when you’re off on the normal asphalt road. When you get to the final 100 kilometres it is just left and right all the time, then those cobbles. Of the classics, Paris-Roubaix is the toughest.
“To win at Paris-Roubaix you need to be powerful, you have to have big power on the flat. The guys who have big power on the flat are generally big riders, they’re big men, so you know they are 75kg.
“They can be sprinters, they can be time trialists or, as they say, rouleurs, either way they are big strong guys. Those are the qualities that you need to have to win at Paris-Roubaix and the qualities you need to be a classics rider.”
What does the men’s startlist look like?
As with all WorldTour races, each of the 19 teams that make up the top-flight of professional cycling receive an invite and in the case of Paris-Roubaix each of them are contractually obliged to race.
In addition to the WorldTeams, Alpecin-Fenix qualified as the No 1 ranked ProTeam from 2020 while Arkéa-Samsic, B&B Hotels p/b KTM, Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB, Delko and TotalEnergies were handed wild card entries. In total 25 teams of seven will compete in a field of 175 riders.
Ag2r-Citroën (Fra): Stan Dewulf (Bel), Lawrence Naesen (Bel), Oliver Naesen (Bel), Michael Schär (Swi), Damien Touzé (Fra), Greg Van Avermaet (Bel), Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel).
Astana-Premier Tech (Kaz): Gleb Brussenskiy (Kaz, neo-pro), Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz, neo-pro), Yevgeniy Gidich (Kaz), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz), Hugo Houle (Can), Davide Martinelli (Ita), Ben Perry (Can).
Bahrain Victorious (Brn): Sonny Colbrelli (Ita), Marco Haller (Aut), Heinrich Haussler (Aus), Jonathan Milan (Ita, neo-pro), Matej Mohoric (Slo), Marcel Sieberg (Ger), Fred Wright (GB, neo-pro).
BikeExchange (Aus): Jack Bauer (NZ), Sam Bewley (NZ), Luke Durbridge (Aus), Amund Grondahl Jansen (Nor), Barnabas Peak (Hun, neo-pro), Robert Stannard (Aus).
Bora-Hansgrohe (Ger): Maciej Bodnar (Pol), Jordi Meeus (Bel, neo-pro), Daniel Oss (Ita), Nils Politt (Ger), Juraj Sagan (Svk), Peter Sagan (Svk), Maximilian Schachmann (Ger).
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (Fra): Piet Allegaert (Bel), Tom Bohli (Swi), Andre Carvalho (Por), Jempy Drucker (Lux), Eddy Finé (Fra, neo-pro), Christophe Laporte (Fra), Szymon Sajnok (Pol).
Deceuninck-Quick Step (Bel): Kasper Asgreen (Den), Davide Ballerini (Ita), Tim Declercq (Bel), Yves Lampaert (Bel), Florian Sénéchal (Fra), Zdenek Stybar (Cze), Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel).
DSM (Ger): Nikias Arndt (Ger), Cees Bol (Hol), Nils Eekhoff (Hol, neo-pro), Max Kanter (Ger), Soren Kragh Andersen (Den), Casper Pedersen (Den), Jasha Sütterlin (Ger).
EF Education-Nippo (US): Stefan Bissegger (Swi, neo-pro), Mitchell Docker (Aus), Sebastian Langeveld (Hol), Jonas Rutsch (Ger, neo-pro), Tom Scully (NZ), Michael Valgren (Den), Julius van den Berg (Hol).
Groupama-FDJ (Fra): Clément Davy (Fra), Arnaud Démare (Fra), Stefan Küng (Swi), Olivier Le Gac (Fra), Fabian Lienhard (Swi), Ramon Sinkeldam (Hol), Jake Stewart (GB, neo-pro).
Ineos Grenadiers (GB): Leonardo Basso (Ita), Owain Doull (GB), Michal Golas (Pol), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Gianni Moscon (Ita), Luke Rowe (GB), Dylan van Baarle (Hol).
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux (Bel): Aimé De Gendt (Bel), Tom Devriendt (Bel), Wesley Kreder (Hol), Baptiste Planckaert (Bel), Taco van der Hoorn (Hol), Kevin Van Melsen (Bel), Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel).
Israel Start-up Nation (Isr): Rudy Barbier (Fra), Jenthe Biermans (Bel), Guillaume Boivin (Can), Hugo Hofstetter (Fra), Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Den), Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel), Sep Vanmarcke (Bel).
Jumbo-Visma (Hol): Edoardo Affini (Ita), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Hol), Dylan Groenewegen (Hol), Timo Roosen (Hol), Mike Teunissen (Hol), Wout van Aert (Bel), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel).
Lotto-Soudal (Bel): John Degenkolb (Ger), Frederik Frison (Bel), Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Sébastien Grignard (Bel, neo-pro), Harry Sweeny (Aus, neo-pro), Tosh Van der Sande (Bel), Florian Vermeersch (Bel, neo-pro).
Movistar (Spa): Gabriel Cullaigh (GB, neo-pro), Imanol Erviti (Spa), Iván García Cortina (Spa), Juri Hollmann (Ger, neo-pro), Matteo Jorgenson (US, neo-pro), Lluís Mas (Spa), Mathias Norsgaard (Den).
Qhubeka-NextHash (SA): Victor Campenaerts (Bel), Dimitri Claeys (Bel), Simon Clarke (Aus), Michael Gogl (Aut), Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (SA), Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita), Max Walscheid (Ger).
Trek-Segafredo (US): Alex Kirsch (Lux), Emils Liepins (Lat), Mads Pedersen (Den), Quinn Simmons (US, neo-pro), Toms Skujins (Lat), Jasper Stuyven (Bel), Edward Theuns (Bel).
UAE Team Emirates (UAE): Mikkel Bjerg (Den), Sven Erik Bystrom (Nor), Fernando Gaviria (Col), Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Rui Oliveira (Por), Matteo Trentin (Ita).
Alpecin-Fenix (Bel): Silvan Dillier (Swi), Senne Leysen (Bel), Tim Merlier (Bel), Jasper Philipsen (Bel), Jonas Rickaert (Bel), Mathieu van der Poel (Hol), Gianni Vermeersch (Bel).
Arkéa-Samsic (Fra): Amaury Capiot (Bel), Benjamin Declercq (Bel), Dan McLay (GB), Christophe Noppe (Bel), Clément Russo (Fra), Connor Swift (GB), Bram Welten (Hol).
B&B Hotels p/b KTM (Fra): Bert De Backer (Bel), Jens Debusschere (Bel), Quentin Jauregui (Fra), Jérémy Lecroq (Fra), Cyril Lemoine (Fra), Luca Mozzato (Fra), Jonas van Genechten (Bel).
Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB (Bel): Jonas Castrique (Bel), Timothy Dupont (Bel), Arjen Livyns (Bel), Tom Paquot (Bel), Laurenz Rex (Bel), Ludovic Robeet (Bel), Tom Wirtgen (Lux).
Delko (Fra): Pierre Barbier (Fra), Clément Carisey (Fra), Alexandre Delettre (Fra), August Jensen (Nor), Dusan Rajovic (Srb), Evaldas Siskevicius (Ltu), Julien Trarieux (Fra).
TotalEnergies (Fra): Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor), Florian Maitre (Fra), Adrien Petit (Fra), Geoffrey Soupe (Fra), Niki Terpstra (Hol), Anthony Turgis (Fra), Dries Van Gestel (Bel).
And welcome to our live rolling blog from the 118th edition of Paris-Roubaix which is making its return to the WorldTour calendar after 902 days of inaction on the cobbled lanes of northern France following the cancellation of last year’s race due to you know what.
Setting off from Compiègne, a town around 60km north of Paris where the race has started since 1967, at 10.15am (BST) and finishing in the Vélodrome André-Pétrieux in Roubaix around six hours later, the course covers 257.7 kilometres, of which 55 are on bone-rattling cobbles. Spread over 30 sections – or secteurs if you want to sound local – all of the cobbled stretches are crammed into the final 160km of the race, each featuring a star rating depending upon how difficult they are. A one star section is the least treacherous, five the toughest.
Numbered in reverse order, the riders reach the first secteur (No 30, Troisvilles to Inchy) after 96km, while the final stretch of cobbles start just 1km from the finishing line. Once all of the cobbled sectors have been navigated, the riders enter the open-air stadium where they will be welcomed like returning heroes before riding one-and-a-half laps of the 500 metre concrete velodrome.
The first rider over the line will trouser a cheque for €30,000, receive a cobble taken from the roads around Roubaix mounted on a plinth and have his named etched onto a brass plaque that will later be attached to the famous showers behind the old velodrome. Most importantly of all, though, he will have his name inscribed into cycling folklore in perpetuity alongside Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck, Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara and all of the others who have won this unique race.
Paris-Roubaix had been dominated by the Belgians who have won 57 of the 117 editions, including Philippe Gilbert who triumphed the last time the race took place in 2019. France has had 28 victories. No Briton has won the race, though three have stood on the third step of the podium – Barry Hoban (1972), Roger Hammond (2004) and Ian Stannard (2016).
Today’s live blog will kick off in earnest at around 11am (BST).