Hello, and welcome to our live rolling blog from the 119th edition of Paris-Roubaix, one of the toughest, most brutal and unforgiving one-day race on the calendar.
When Telegraph Sport caught up with Fabian Cancellara in the countdown to today’s monument, the retired Swiss cobbled classics specialist described Paris-Roubaix a ‘unique’ event, while adding that despite winning three editions of the race during his career, he initially ‘hated’ the cobbles of northern France.
“It’s unique, it’s different – you will not find any other bike race like it in the world,” Cancellara said. “Paris-Roubaix is the most watched one-day race in the world. It probably gets more attention than even the world championships.” And he’s not wrong. The eyes of the cycling – and sporting – world today will be focused on the peloton as it weaves its way north from Compiègne, the town the race has departed from since 1968, towards the down-at-heel post-industrial town of Roubaix. But it is not the towns that make this race, it is the unique nature of the course that features 54.8 kilometres of bone-rattling pavé, or cobblestones, that pepper the 257.2km route.
“At first I hated racing on the cobbles – I was not mentally prepared for my first Paris-Roubaix in 2003 and I failed,” added Cancellara. “I had no experience and thought it would be easy, but I was very wrong and was unable to finish the race. I returned the next year and finished fourth.”
Whether or not Paris-Roubaix is the toughest one-day race in cycling is debatable, but is is certainly one of the most evocative in the men’s – and now women’s – calendar. Nicknamed ‘The Hell of the North’, the race can be decided as much by luck and bravery as tactical acumen, though according to Cancellara mental resilience is key to winning. “Of course you need other skills, physical strength, good bike handling and so on, but being mentally strong is very important,” he says.
“If you are not good enough, then riding the Roubaix cobbles can be painful, but the better you are the more you will enjoy riding over the cobbles. If you have energy you can push; if you have the right equipment, the right tyre size, the right positioning the right day, the form, the mental strength then you are able to – I’m not going to say easy – compete on the cobbles in a different way.”
“Of course you also have to ride at the proper speed – not too fast, not too slow – have the right cadence. You need to perfect the right balance. There are many, many small things that all need to be right on the day to succeed on the Roubaix cobbles.”
Today’s race is scheduled to get under way at 10.15am (BST) and will finish between 4.05pm and 4.40pm. The leading rider, or riders, should arrive at the first section of cobbles – the 2.2km-long three-star section from Troisvilles to Inchy – at around 12.30pm. Our live coverage will start at midday to ensure all of the thrills and spills are covered.
For those who like these things, here’s a map of the route . . .
. . . and a look at where the cobbles are, how long each section is and their respective difficulty rating (one star the easiest, five the cruellest).
Longo Borghini goes big to land women’s race
Elisa Longo Borghini won the second edition of the women’s Paris-Roubaix on Saturday following a solo raid of more than 30 kilometres.
Longo Borghini attacked in a cobbled sector after catching a breakaway group of three and never looked back as her Trek-Segafredo team-mate Elisa Balsamo was disqualified for taking an illegal tow from her team car while chasing back after a puncture.
Looking barely troubled by the cobblestones, Longo Borghini, twice a bronze medallist at the Olympics and also in the world championships road race, had victory virtually in the bag after the Carrefour de l’Arbre – the last demanding cobbled section.
The 30-year-old crossed the line on the Vélodrome André-Pétrieux 23 seconds ahead of Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx), who had blown the race open with a brutal acceleration with 52km to go.
Kopecky, winner of the Tour of Flanders two weeks ago, headed a six-woman sprint behind Longo Borghini to finish second ahead of the Italian’s team-mate Lucinda Brand.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Longo Borghini. “I had been feeling unwell for a month and could not perform the way I wanted. But the team trusted me and told me I could do it.”
Marianne Vos, cycling’s most decorated woman, did not start the 124.7km classic after testing positive for Covid. Last year’s winner Lizzie Deignan, also a Trek-Segafredo rider, was not competing as she is expecting her second child. Reuters
What does the startlist look like?
As with all WorldTour races, each of the 18 teams that make up the top-flight of cycling receive an invite and in the case of Paris-Roubaix all of them are contracted to race in northern France. In addition to the WorldTeams, Pro-Continental teams Alpecin-Fenix and Arkéa-Samsic also qualified to race courtesy of last year’s rankings, while race organisers ASO handed wildcard spots to B&B Hotels p/b KTM, Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces WB, Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, TotalEnergies and Uno-X.
In total 25 teams of seven will compete in a field of a maximum of 175 riders, however due to illnesses a few squads are starting with smaller teams and so just 170 will line-up outside Château de Compiègne to start today’s race later on this morning.
Stan Dewulf (Bel), Oliver Naesen (Bel), Antoine Raugel (Fra, neo-pro), Michael Schär (Swi), Damien Touzé (Fra), Greg Van Avermaet (Bel), Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel).
Astana Qazaqstan (Kaz)
Leonardo Basso (Ita), Manuele Boaro (Ita), Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz, neo-pro), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz), Davide Martinelli (Ita), Antonio Nibali (Ita), Alexandr Riabushenko (Blr).
Bahrain Victorious (Brn)
Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn), Feng Chun-kai (Twn), Matej Mohoric (Slo), Johan Price-Pejtersen (Den, neo-pro), Jasha Sütterlin (Ger), Dylan Teuns (Bel), Fred Wright (GB).
Alexandre Balmer (Swi, neo-pro), Jack Bauer (NZ), Luke Durbridge (Aus), Jan Maas (Ned), Luka Mezgec (Slo).
Marco Haller (Aut), Jonas Koch (Ger), Martin Laas (Est), Jordi Meeus (Bel, neo-pro), Nils Politt (Ger), Ide Schelling (Ned).
Piet Allegaert (Bel), Davide Cimolai (Ita), Alexandre Delettre (Fra, neo-pro), Eddy Finé (Fra), Alexis Renard (Fra), Szymon Sajnok (Pol), Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel).
Nikias Arndt (Ger), John Degenkolb (Ger), Nico Denz (Ger), Marius Mayrhofer (Ger, neo-pro), Tim Naberman (Ned, neo-pro), Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned), Casper Pedersen (Den).
EF Education-EasyPost (US)
Stefan Bissegger (Swi, neo-pro), Owain Doull (GB), Jens Keukeleire (Bel), Sebastian Langeveld (Ned), Jonas Rutsch (Ger), Tom Scully (NZ), Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol).
Lewis Askey (GB, neo-pro), Clément Davy (Fra, neo-pro), Stefan Küng (Swi), Olivier Le Gac (Fra), Fabian Lienhard (Swi), Valentin Madouas (Fra), Bram Welten (Ned).
Ineos Grenadiers (GB)
Filippo Ganna (Ita), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Luke Rowe (GB), Magnus Sheffield (US, neo-pro), Ben Turner (GB, neo-pro), Dylan van Baarle (Ned), Cameron Wurf (Aus).
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux (Bel)
Tom Devriendt (Bel), Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Andrea Pasqualon (Ita), Adrien Petit (Fra), Baptiste Planckaert (Bel), Taco van der Hoorn (Ned), Kevin Van Melsen (Bel).
Israel-Premier Tech (Isr)
Rudy Barbier (Fra), Jenthe Biermans (Bel), Guillaume Boivin (Can), Reto Hollenstein (Swi), Taj Jones (Aus, neo-pro), Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Den).
Edoardo Affini (Ita), Christophe Laporte (Fra), Timo Roosen (Ned), Mike Teunissen (Ned), Wout van Aert (Bel), Mick van Dijke (Ned, neo-pro), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel).
Cedric Beullens (Bel), Victor Campenaerts (Bel), Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Sébastien Grignard (Bel, neo-pro), Roger Kluge (Ger), Brent Van Moer (Bel), Florian Vermeersch (Bel).
Iñigo Elosegui (Spa), Imanol Erviti (Spa), Iván García Cortina (Spa), Johan Jacobs (Swi), Oier Lazkano (Spa), Mathias Norsgaard (Den), Albert Torres (Spa).
Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl (Bel)
Kasper Asgreen (Den), Davide Ballerini (Ita), Tim Declercq (Bel), Yves Lampaert (Bel), Florian Sénéchal (Fra), Jannik Steimle (Ger, neo-pro), Zdenek Stybar (Cze).
Daan Hoole (Ned, neo-pro), Alex Kirsch (Lux), Mads Pedersen (Den), Toms Skujins (Lat), Jasper Stuyven (Bel), Edward Theuns (Bel), Otto Vergaerde (Bel).
UAE Team Emirates (UAE)
Pascal Ackermann (Ger), Alexys Brunel (Fra), Felix Gross (Ger, neo-pro), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Juan Sebastián Molano (Col), Matteo Trentin (Ita), Oliviero Troia (Ita).
Silvan Dillier (Swi), Senne Leysen (Bel), Tim Merlier (Bel), Mathieu van der Poel (Ned), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel), Gianni Vermeersch (Bel), Julien Vermote (Bel).
Amaury Capiot (Bel), Benjamin Declercq (Bel), Matis Louvel (Fra), Christophe Noppe (Bel), Laurent Pichon (Fra), Clément Russo (Fra), Connor Swift (GB).
B&B Hotels-KTM (Fra)
Pierre Barbier (Fra), Alexis Gougeard (Fra), Quentin Jauregui (Fra), Jérémy Lecroq (Fra), Cyril Lemoine (Fra), Julien Morice (Fra), Luca Mozzato (Fra).
Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces WB (Bel)
Stanislaw Aniolkowski (Pol), Timothy Dupont (Bel), Karl Patrick Lauk (Est), Arjen Livyns (Bel), Milan Menten (Bel), Ludovic Robeet (Bel), Bas Tietema (Ned).
Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise (Bel)
Vito Braet (Bel), Sander De Pestel (Bel), Arne Marit (Bel), Jens Reynders (Bel), Aaron Van Poucke (Bel), Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel), Ward Vanhoof (Bel).
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor), Maciej Bodnar (Pol), Daniel Oss (Ita), Geoffrey Soupe (Fra), Niki Terpstra (Ned), Anthony Turgis (Fra), Dries Van Gestel (Bel).
Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor), Lasse Norman Hansen (Den), William Blume Levy (Den), Erik Resell (Nor), Anders Skaarseth (Nor), Rasmus Tiller (Nor), Soren Waeenskjold (Nor).