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102nd Paris Roubaix Preview
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 4/9/2004
102nd Paris Roubaix Preview

102nd Paris-Roubaix  - April 11, 2004

Started in 1896 as a warm up for Bordeaux - Paris, or alternatively as a promotion for the new Velodrome in Roubaix, Paris-Roubaix has always featured the rough roads of the northern coal mining area. For many years it was the hill at Doullens which brought out huge crowds to watch the first splits in the field at 150 kilometres into the route. The race would then enter the infamous "l'enfer du Nord" - the hell of the North, where the rough cobbled roads (pavé) would cause crashes and severe fatigue amongst the riders.

Paris-Roubaix is known by several names - L'enfer du Nord (the Hell of the North), La Pascale (the Easter Race, for the race is usually held on or around Easter Sunday) and of course, the Queen of the Classics.

L'enfer du Nord - The Hell of the North

The Hell of the North - an apt name for a race of 156 miles, one hundred of it on various cobblestoned stretches that are either dusty and slick or wet and slick, and crowned in the middle after centuries of wear by cart wheels, horse hooves...and bike tires.

The name L'enfer du Nord is thought to have been dubbed in 1918, when the race ran for the first time after World War I through the war-ravaged northern coal mining area of France. A journalist travelling with the race described the city of Lille that year as a dead city, a desert, with skeletons of buildings and rubble where civilization should have been, trenches and holes, devastated forests instead of landscape, broad marshes from seeping water. It was a ghastly scene and though it has vastly changed in the past 95 years, the difficulty of the race has not - so the name still fits.

 Remains of the nearby city of Ypres, Belgium, in 1917. Courtesy The Heritage of the Great War.

Razor's Edge

"The closer one gets to the pavé stretches, the more nervous the race becomes, there are more jostles and more risk of falls...," Mark Madiot (two time winner, 1985 and 1991 and team manager) has said. "If you are frugal on the pavé, you will have strength for the finish. My last Paris-Roubaix, I finished him to the hospital. I asked to see the end of the race on the television. I was stretched out on a bed. But all was well..."

"One always navigates on a razor's edge," says organizer Jean Marie Le Blanc.

"Alone or in a group, that does not change anything. In this race, the best will always win." --Andrea Tafi, 2002.

At the start of the 1921 edition, eventual two time winner Henri Pélissier said, "Just once in my career I have experienced the sort of Paris-Roubaix that you can only normally dream about: Superb weather, a following wind and not a single puncture. On days like that it is all such fun".

Two time P-R winner Franco Ballerini, on his 1998 win, said, "In 1993 I lost this race because I didn't attack on the pavé. This year I made no mistake, I went early. It was a long way to home when I attacked, but I knew my condition was very good, and I felt confident of surviving this long alone."

Jamais un cloche ne gagne la Pascale...

"Jamais un cloche ne gagne la Pascale" - the Easter Race is never won by a tramp. La Pascale is rarely won by any but the true “giants of the road.” Riders such as Roger De Vlaeminck were reknowned for their ability to seemingly glide over the surfaces of the pave, which gives the race its unique atmosphere. However, improved road surfaces in the 1960’s started to threaten the character of the race. So the organisers were forced to move the start position of the race, searching for new cobbled sections as more and more of the old roads were tarmaced over.

In 1968 the route was moved to its present start point at Compiègne. However a further revision was required in 1977 which saw the inclusion for the first time of the infamous Wallers-Arenberg forest, as well as cobbled stretches at Orchies, Landas, Saméon, Aix, Mouchin and Bachy. "Mr. Paris Roubaix," Roger De Vlaeminck, won again that year, his fourth P-R victory in six years, and Eddy Merckx said, "I have never seen that before. Roger slipped over the cobbles as if he knew exactly where each cobblestone was."

In 1999, the Wallers-Arenberg approach was reversed, to avoid the 60 kmh sprint onto the cobbles which was widely blamed for Museeuw's terrible crash in 1998.

It retains strategic bottlenecks where the race can be as easily won or lost - the côte de Doullens (Doullens Hill), Arras, Carvin and the legendary Wattignies bend, were the pivotal stretches of yesteryear; in their place we now have the Wallers-Arenberg, the Mons-en-Pévèle and the famed Le Carrefour de l’Arbre (Tree Crossroads).

The Arrenberg. Courtesy Roubaix Tourism Office.

Weather Forecast

As of Thursday evening before the race, showers are expected Saturday afternoon; race day Sunday is forecast to be sunny. Winds will be from the northeast at 23 km/h (14 mph), and temperatures will be around 10C (50F).

Council members try to clear the mud before the 2001 edition. Photo by Daily Peloton.

The Course

The two sections that make their return on the itinerary of Paris-Roubaix for this 102nd edition, Haveluy and Mons-in-Pévèle, are part of the main difficulties of the day. Mons-en-Pevele (extended by two km for a total of 3000 meters) has been restored by the community of Pevele. The pavé section at Haveluy has also been restored, by horticultural students from Raismes, Douai, Dunkerque and Lomme.

The two most notorious sections, the forêt d'Arenberg (2.400 mètres) and Carrefour de l'Arbre (2.100 mètres), are aptly rated below. L'Equipe has a gallery of these two pave sections from 2002 here. It is slow to load but worth a look.

The Council General du Nord preserves the pave. Courtesy Roubaix Tourism Office.

There is a long run from Compiègne through St. Quentin and toward the cobblestone sections - at 100 kilometers into the race, the riders meet the cobbles. This map shows the second section of the course where the cobbled (cobblestone road/farm track) sections are - they are listed below in countdown order to the vélodrome in Roubaix.

The Amaury Sports Organization has again assigned degrees of difficulty to each of the 26 pavé sectors of the race, according to their length, the irregularity of pavé, the general state of the section and its location.

Climb - Name - Kilometer and Length - Difficulty Rating
(1 - least difficult, 5 - most difficult)

26. Troisvilles (km 99,8 - 2200 m)  - 3
25. Viesly (km 106,3 - 1800 m)  - 3
24. Quievy – rue de Valkenciennes (km 108,5 - 3700 m)  - 4
23. Quievy – Saint-Python (km 113,7 - 1500 m)  - 2
22. Haussy (km 121,9 - 900 m)  - 2
21. Saulzoir (km 128 - 1200 m)  - 2
20. Verchain-Maugre (km 132,9 - 1600 m)  - 2
19. Maing (km 136, 2500 m)  - 3
18. Monchaux-sur-Ecaillon (km 139,2 - 1600 m)  - 3
17. Haspres (km 145,8 - 1700 m)  - 4
16. Haveluy (km 158,3 - 2500 m)  - 4
15. Forêt d’Arenberg (km 166,5 – 2400 m)  - 5
14. Wallers (km 173,2 – 1000 m)  - 3
13. Hornaing (km 179,5 – 3700 m)  - 3
12. Warlaing (km 186,9 – 2400 m)  - 3
      Tilloy (190,4 – 2400 m)  - 3
11. Orchies (km 201,5 – 1700 m)  - 3
10. Auchy-lez-Orchies (km 207,6 – 2600 m)  - 3
9. Mons-en-Pévèle (km 213,2 – 3000 m)  - 5
8. Merignies (km 219,8 – 700 m)  - 2
7. Pont-Thibaut (km 223 – 1400 m)  - 3
6. Le Moulin de Vertain (km 229,1 – 500 m)  - 3
5. Cysoing (km 235,8 – 100 m)  - 4
    Bourghelles (km 237,1 – 400 m)
4. Campain-en-Pévèle (km 242 – 1800 m)  - 4
3. Le Carrefour de l’Arbre (km 244,8 – 2100 m)  - 5
    Gruson (km 247 – 1100 m)  - 2
2. Hem (km 253,6 – 1400 m)  - 1
1. Roubaix (km 260 – 300 m)  - 1

Some Paris-Roubaix Numbers

1 cm: the smallest margin of victory (Planckaert in front of Bauer in 1990)

12 hours (and 15 minutes): Henri Pélissier's winning time in 1919, on the roads devastated by World World I

16: Paris-Roubaixs completed by the Belgian Raymond Impanis between 1947 and 1963 (15 for Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle)

38 years and 8 months: the age of " Duclos", the most senior of winners (1993)

45,129 km/h: the average speed record for the race on a different course (Peter Post, 1964)

222 km: the distance of the victorious long break for the Belgian Dirk De Mol (1988)

1000 francs: the prize for the winner of the 1st edition in 1896, the German Josef Fischer (seven times the monthly wages of the time)

Winning Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix in same year:

1977 Roger De Vlaeminck BEL
1962 Rik Van Looy BEL
1957 Fred De Bruyne BEL
1954 Raymond Impanis BEL
1934 Gaston Rebry BEL
1932 Romain Gijssels BEL
1923 Heiri Suter SUI

A Famous Paris-Roubaix Finish

The year 1921 saw perhaps the most amazing Paris-Roubaix result - a one-two win by the brothers Pélissier (four Pélissier brothers were riders). Read an account of this edition at Tom James' great Velo Archive site here.

Paris-Roubaix a prelude for the Tour de France?

This Paris-Roubaix has a particular significance this year. The pavés of the"Enfer du Nord" will also be used in this year's Tour de France.

The 3,700 metre section of cobbles at Hornaing-Wandignies-Hamage will also be ridden on the third stage of the Tour de France 2004, on the 6th July, when the peloton race from Waterloo to Wasquehal. Above, the organizers have given this patch a medium difficulty rating for Paris-Roubaix.

"The peloton of the Tour de France have not ridden the pavés of Paris-Roubaix since the 1980’s," the ASO organisers reminded everyone in February.

The inclusion of a “dangerous section” of road has not really happened so early in the Tour since the start of Lance Armstrong’s winning run in 1999. On Stage 2, Challans - Saint-Nazaire, the peloton crossed the infamous Gois causeway, a cobbled road across a tidal estuary which is submerged daily by the sea. Only when it is low tide is the road open for about 4 hours. Seaweed and bicycles do not get on.

As the peloton started to cross there was a huge crash. About 70 riders made it clear of the carnage and started to drive hard, Lance Armstrong (the US Postal team were notably to the front as the peloton approached the causeway) amongst them.

Alex Zülle, who finished second to Armstrong, lost over 6 minutes on that second stage. It was in fact pivotal to the race's outcome.

If the weather is poor for the Tour, the paves of Hornaing-Wandignies-Hamage could affect the times of the contenders far more than the simple matter of a time trial up Alpe d’Heuz.

Hincapie on the pave. Photo by Daily Peloton.

Paris-Roubaix Palmares
(Information courtesy


1896 Josef Fischer
1897 Maurice Garin
1898 Maurice Garin
1899 Albert Champion
1900 Emile Bouhours
1901 Lucien Lesna
1902 Lucien Lesna
1903 Hyppolyte Aucouturier
1904 Hyppolyte Aucouturier
1905 Louis Trousselier
1906 Henri Cornet
1907 Georges Passerieu
1908 Cyrille Van Hauwaert
1909 Octave Lapize

The pacing was by bicycle (1896, 1897), by car (1898 - 1900) and by bicycle again until 1909. Initially the pacing was for the whole race; for 1908 and 1909 it was as far as Beauvais, thereafter the race was run without pacing.


1910 Octave Lapize
1911 Octave Lapize
1912 Charles Crupelandt
1913 François Faber
1914 Charles Crupelandt
1915 Not held
1916 Not held
1917 Not held
1918 Not held
1919 Henri Pélissier
1920 Paul Deman
1921 Henri Pélissier
1922 Albert Dejonghe
1923 Henri Suter
1924 Jules Van Hevel
1925 Félix Sellier
1926 Julien Delbeque
1927 Georges Ronsse
1928 André Leducq
1929 Charles Meunier
1930 Julien Vervaecke
1931 Gaston Rebry
1932 Romain Gijssels
1933 Sylvère Maes
1934 Gaston Rebry
1935 Gaston Rebry
1936 Georges Speicher
1937 Jules Rossi
1938 Lucien Storme
1939 Emile Masson Jr.

Paris - Roubaix during the WWII occupation - called the "Trophée Duralumin"

1940 Joseph Sofietti (Le Mans - Paris)
1941 Jules Rossi (Paris - Rheims)
1942 Emile Idée (Paris - Rheims)

Paris - Roubaix, unpaced

1943 Marcel Kint
1944 Maurice De Simpelaere
1945 Paul Mayé
1946 Georges Claes
1947 Georges Claes
1948 Rik Van Steenbergen
1949 André Mahé & Serse Coppi, tied
1950 Fausto Coppi
1951 Antonio Bevilacqua
1952 Rik Van Steenbergen
1953 Germain Derycke
1954 Raymond Impanis
1955 Jean Forestier
1956 Louison Bobet
1957 Fred De Bruyne
1958 Léon Van Daele
1959 Noël Foré
1960 Pino Cerami
1961 Rik Van Looy
1962 Rik Van Looy
1963 Emile Daems
1964 Peter Post
1965 Rik Van Looy
1966 Felice Gimondi
1967 Jan Janssen
1968 Eddy Merckx
1969 Walter Godefroot
1970 Eddy Merckx
1971 Roger Rosiers
1972 Roger De Vlaeminck
1973 Eddy Merckx
1974 Roger De Vlaeminck
1975 Roger De Vlaeminck
1976 Marc De Meyer
1977 Roger De Vlaeminck
1978 Francesco Moser
1979 Francesco Moser
1980 Francesco Moser
1981 Bernard Hinault
1982 Jan Raas
1983 Hennie Kuiper
1984 Sean Kelly
1985 Marc Madiot
1986 Sean Kelly
1987 Eric Vanderaeden
1988 Dirk Demol
1989 Jean Marie Wampers
1990 Eddy Planckaert
1991 Marc Madiot
1992 Gilbert Duclos Lasalle
1993 Gilbert Duclos Lasalle
1994 Andrei Tchmil
1995 Franco Ballerini
1996 Johan Museeuw
1997 Frédéric Guesedon
1998 Franco Ballerini
1999 Andrea Tafi
2000 Johan Museeuw
2001 Servais Knaven
2002 Johan Museeuw
2003 Peter Van Petegem

Thanks to podofdonny, Velo Archive, Infostrada,, L'Equipe, Roubaix Tourism Office, Heritage of the Great War.

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