Centenary Paris-Roubaix (189601996)

93rd edition, April 14, 263.5km


Report 1
Report 2
Report 3
Report 4
Report 5

Many Thanks to Roger for these Reports. Devotion to duty!

Report 1


(all times Central European Time)

A brief report a few minutes before the start at 10.15 indicates that the weather is sunny.

While we await the first report from the road, here is the result of the first ever Hell of the North....

Paris--Roubaix 1st edition, April 19 1896

Start: 5.05am, Porte Maillot, Paris
Finish: Parc Barbieux velodrome, Roubaix

 1. Josef Fischer (Germany) 280km in 9.17.00 (average 30.162kph)
 2. Charles Meyer (Denmark)  +36 minutes**
 3. Maurice Garin (France)  +38 minutes
 4. Arthur Linton (Great Britain [Wales])  +45 minutes
 5. L. Stein (France)  +1 hour

**[It has to be said that the times given above are open to dispute. I am relying on the absolutely superb special issue no 315 (April 1982) of "Miroir du Cyclisme" which was devoted entirely -- 96 pages -- to the history of the race between 1896 and 1981). "Cycle Sport" this month says Linton (who had been in the lead until he crashed after colliding with a dog) came in 15 minutes down on Fischer. Noel Henderson's book "European Cycling" I would adjudge plainly nonsensical, giving "modern" sorts of time gaps of 26 secs to 2nd, 28 secs to third, and 42 seconds to 4th.

Linton and Fischer were already 6 minutes up on Garin at Amiens - Linton encountered the "chien mechant" on the way out of that town (rather less than halfway to Roubaix). Linton lost time looking for a bike to borrow from a spectator, and Garin was to run out of gas on the last few kilometres, when he was overtaken by Meyer.

Fischer bagged a prize of 1,000 francs (a skilled metal worker in those days earnt 8 francs for a 12-hour day, 208 francs for a 26-day month), Meyer 500 francs, Garin 300 francs, Linton 200 francs and the 5th to 9th finishers 100 francs each


Only 45 minute into the race, a break of three riders (not named) gets away at Noyon (about km23). But the first attack of the day went down to Thierry Marie's brother Denis (Agrigel-La Creuse) just 3km from the start. Assisted by a tailwind the pace is very high and the race is already at the maximum of the official schedule -- over 40kph. The peloton is very stretched out, and the race is very animated, with attacks coming all the time.


The first hour of the race went off at a cracking pace - 46kph. The race has just entered the departement du Nord (about 80km out from the start) and some 50 riders are away with about 40 seconds lead on the peloton. The lead group includes: Olaf Ludwig with a number of his Telekom team-mates supporting him); Gewiss is also well represented (no riders named); Franco Ballerini, Johan Museeuw, Andrea Tafi (Mapei-GB), Mario Scirea (Saeco); Djamolidin Abdujaparov (Ceramiche Refin), Fabio Baldato (MG-Technogym).

With about 20km to go the first sector of cobbles at Troisvilles, this lead group has pre-empted the mass sprint to get to the front of the race and (relatively) out of danger. (Doubtless they'll do their slightly smaller sprint there. though!)

Report 2


The temperature is reported to be a comfortable, if not warm, 12 degrees Celcius. As we rejoin the race, the lead group, now reported to be about 60 riders, has a lead of 50 seconds on the rest of the peloton and is just entering the first sector of cobbles (Troisvilles -- Rue de La Sucrerie, Zone 22, 2200m at km98).

Riders mentioned this time include Museeuw, Ballerini (with four Mapei team-mates, Tafi presumably being one of them); Ludwig (with Telekom team-mates), Andrei Tchmil (with two Lotto team-mates); Baldato (MG-Technogym); GAN Frenchmen Francis Moreau and Laurent Desbiens (but the fancied French riders Moncassin and Magnien are not in the break); Christophe Capeel (ForceSud) and Cyril Saugrain (Aubervilliers).

Plainly with 60 riders up front there are likely to be other big names here, but I can only tell you what I hear!


Four riders escaped from the lead group on the second sector of cobbles (Zone 21 about km107) and have a few seconds lead on the 50-plus chasers. They are Johan Museeuw with Mapei team-mate Wilfried Peeters, Olaf Ludwig (Telekom) and Laurent Desbiens (GAN). The quartet are now approaching the first feed at Solesmes (km115.5). The group of 50 or so behind them has increased its lead on the rest of the peloton from about 50 seconds to 1.15.

Report 3


With 96km to go (km167.5) on Zone 12 of the cobbles, there is a lead group of 20 riders. The 20 include Johan Museeuw, Franco Ballerini, Wilfried Peeters (Mapei), Olaf Ludwig, Erik Zabel (Telekom), Marco Serpellini (Ceramica Panaria) and Laurent Desbiens (GAN).

Our dumb radio commentator doesn't list any others. The junction up to the original four leaders was made on the forested cobbles of Wallers Arenberg (Zone 14, km153) which this year are dry. The race has maintained a high pace -- an average of 45kph in the first three hours... (are they going for Peter Post's 1964 record race speed of 45.129kph in 1964?)


As we join the report two Mapeis are in the lead - Andrea Tafi and Gianluca Bortolami. A little while ago there were three, Museeuw was with them, but he has just punctured on Zone 10 (Orchies - Chemins des Prieres - about km188). His two colleagues have slowed for him to catch up under instruction from directeur-sportif Patrick Lefevere.

About a minute back is another Mapei - Franco Ballerini, who has punctured three times - and is now in the company of Viatcheslav Ekimov ((Rabobank), Andrei Tchmil (Lotto) and Stefano Zanini (Gewiss). As we leave the report, Museeuw has rejoined Tafi and Bortolami.

Report 4


Bortolami has punctured since we last reported, but the Bortolami-Tafi-Museeuw engine -- described by commentator Marc Madiot as a team time trial-- is powering along again....


The Mapei trio have just passed the second feed at Merignies (km205) and are heading towards the difficult 2100m of Cobbles Zone 7. They are holding their lead over Ekimov, Tchmil, Zanini and Ballerini at 1.50. And at 2.05 are Francis Moreau, Laurent Desbiens (GAN), Marco Milesi (Brescialat) and Brian Holm (Telekom)....


With 45km to go the Mapei trio has 1.30 something on Ekimov, Tchmil, Zanini and Ballerini. Moreau, Desbiens, Milesi and Holm are at around 2 mins, but by the end of this report hard work by Moreau has brought them up to the Ekimov group. Meanwhile Museeuw punctures, but is soon back to pace...

Report 5


Ballerini decides to attack out of the chase group. Up front Museeuw punctures again but it's no problem. Initially he takes Ekimov, Tchmil and Zanini with him (the gap from Bortolami, Tafi and Museeuw being about 50 seconds (I think), leaving Moreau and Holm trailing. By the end of the report Ballerini is out on his own.

15.50 About 25km to go

Bortolami, Museeuw and Tafi are 1.40 ahead of Ballerini -- and Zanini. Ekimov, Tchmil, Moreau, Holm and Milesi are further back at 2.15. Ballerini and Zanini are working together. As the report ends, the leaders have 1.20 on Ballerini and Zanini and 2.45 on the third group.

16.00 Gruson, about km250 (13km to go)

The "trio" are 1.53 ahead of Ballerini and Zanini and 2.45 on Ekimov, Tchmil, Moreau, Holm and Milesi.


Museeuw punctures in the last cobbled zone (about 5km to go), but soon on the way again. Meanwhile there seems to be a heated discussion going on between Bortolami. Museeuw Tafi and directeur sportif Lefevere in the team car. Are views divided on the strategy to be adopted when the trio gets to the velodrome?


Museeuw comes first into the velodrome with Bortolami in his wake and Tafi third. As far as I can gather from the radio there was no sprint. All three raise their arms in a victory salute. In the sprint about a minute and a half later, Zanini outsprints Ballerini.
 1. Museeuw (Mapei)
 2. Bortolami (Mapei)
 3. Tafi (Mapei)
 4. Zanini (Gewiss)
 5. Ballerini (Mapei)
 6. Tchmil (Lotto)
 7. Holm (Telekom)
 8. Ekimov (Rabobank)
 9. Moreau (GAN)
10. Milesi (Brescialat)