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100th Paris-Roubaix - CDM

France, April 14, 2002

Paris - Roubaix News - April 13, 2002

Paris-Roubaix: "Hell of the riders"

Click for larger image
Museeuw & Domo on the pavé
Photo: © AFP

Former world champion Jean Stablinski says Paris-Roubaix's nickname - 'the Hell of the North' - should be recast as 'the Hell of the riders' to reflect who really suffers in Sunday's pavé-fest. Stablinski, who rode Paris-Roubaix eleven times, memorably told historian Pierre Chany that each section of pavé "constitutes a trench."

"Stab" was one of the people responsible for shaping the modern Paris-Roubaix. In 1968 "[race organiser] Jacques Goddet had asked Albert Bouvet to unearth pavé," he remembers. "I immediately thought of the Arenberg, and Goddet responded 'I am talking about pavé, not quagmires'."

Now 69, Stablinksi appreciates the trenches of the Arenberg pavé with a gourmet's relish.

"This section is very straight and very hard. You enter it on a descent, very fast, then arrive at a pinch. It's a little for from the finish so that not just one man can benefit from it. Paris-Roubaix is not won in Arenberg, but from there the group with the winners is selected."

Arenberg remains a 'secret garden' of Northern France because the area is cordoned off around a disused mine. As well as the pave, riders may have to contend with the wild boar that inhabit the area, a hazard that has caused the race to skip the Arenburg in previous tears.

As the for the unseasonably good weather, Stab says it's not an advantage: "You roll more quickly under the sun and the falls are only more painful," he said.

Paris-Roubaix's secret

Why does Paris-Roubaix have such a hold over riders like Stablinksi and modern heroes like Franco Ballerini and Johan Museeuw? At the time of the event's centenary in 1996, former race director Jacques goddett summed it up:

"It's because the cyclist's most terrible adversary is the wind, the air, the atmosphere," he said. "The rider who is well-protected in a paceline or group expends much less energy than one who is leading the race. However, in Paris-Roubaix, with the paving stones, it is impossible to stick to a wheel. It is necessary to avoid the large holes and the great shocks." In Paris-Roubaix, there is nowhere to hide.

Stablinski's tips for this year's race? Andrea Tafi, Johan Museeuw, Peter Van Petegem American George Hincapie are the riders he sees as fitting the template for a Paris-Roubaix winner: "A big, strapping man who knows how to 'roul' in the wind because, even in fifth position, you take the gusts."

But he doesn't give much for French chances. "I think that the Belgians will still beat the French," he insists. "Why do the the Belgians wait until Monday? To make sure the French finish, of course…"

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Cyclingnews' Live coverage of the 100th Paris-Roubaix will start at 11:00 local time (5:00am USA eastern time, 2:00am USA west, 7:00pm Australian east).

Paris-Roubaix by numbers

1cm - the smallest winning margin (Plankaert ahead of Bauer, 1990)
2 - Wins by Johan Museeuw, 1996 and 2000, hot favourite this year
3 - Number of times teams run by Patrick Lefevere have occupied the whole podium
4 - Most victories by one rider, Roger De Vlaeminck
5:21 - Greatest winning margin - Eddy Merckx over Roger De Vlaeminck in 1970
8 bar - Typical tyre pressure at the start of the race
11:00 - Start time at the Palais àCompiègne
12:15 - Henri Pélissier's winningtime in 1919 on roads wrecked by the Great War
16 - greatest number of Paris-Roubaix finishes, Raymond Impanis between 1947 and 1963 (15 for Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle)
25 - teams scheduled to start
26 - sectors of pavé
30 - victories by French riders
34 seconds - gap between winner Servais Knaven and Johan Museeuw last year
37.704km/h - Knaven's 2001 winning average speed
38 years (and eight months) - age of the oldest winner, Gilbert Duclos-lasalle
45.129 km/h: record average speed, peter Post, 1964 (the course has changed a bit since then... )
48 - victories by Belgian riders
49.1km - total length of pavé in 2001
55 - finishers last year from 190 starters
99 - number of editions of Paris-Roubaix to date
100 - number of winners - Andre Mahé and Serse Coppi were equal first in 1949
222km - the length of Dirk De Mol's successful solo escape
261km - from Compiegne to Roubaix velodrome
385 Euros - the prize for 15th place
1000 francs - the prize for the winner of the first edition. Equivalent to seven times the monthly wage of a miner at the time.
1968 - the year of the introduction new route and start at Compeigne
2400m - length of the Arenberg pavé
30,000 Euro - the winner's prize money


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