The second best one day bike race (after the Ronde) takes place this weekend for the first time since 2019.
The 2020 Paris Roubaix, or Hell of the North, was cancelled in the April of that year as the Covid pandemic raged. It was provisionally re-scheduled for the end of that year but a surge in cases around the races finish area in Lille saw no race and much sadness for fans.
April 2021 saw more challenges in that area of Northern France and whilst the Flemish classics just over the border in Belgium took place, the Roubaix velodrome was again left silent.
But we do now have an event with a firm date for this Sunday, 3rd October 2021 and what’s more both the men’s and inaugural female events will both be hitting the cobbles.
This feels like a massive moment for cycling and a real sign that things are coming back to some level of normality and we will have a full set of one day monuments to look back on (unless something terrible happens in Italy to affect Il Lombardia).
My favourite memory of Roubaix was the 1994 edition where Andrei Tchmil survived the rain, mud and snowy blizzards the best. He was able to make the velodrome finish and take home the coveted cobble as his prize.
I remember a classic shot from the tv motorbike as Tchmil got away and the back drop was some old mining pulleys and towers with the cloud behind them the likes of which I’d never seen before.
The snow followed soon after and it was clear this would be a race we would talk about for years. I know I still am!
Since 1994 we have only seen one truly wet event, in 2002.
The forecast for this Sunday isn’t great with showers and 24kph winds anticipated on the exposed roads north of Paris.
If that doesn’t whet your appetite for this great event then nothing will.
Enjoy the race.