This coming Sunday, the roads of northeastern France will once again play host to the biggest one-day bike race in the world, Paris-Roubaix. But these are no ordinary roads, as Cyclingnews' resident pavé basher Ben Atkins finds out.
Unlike Flanders, the secteurs (the French word for sectors) count you down to the finish, which in one way is good as it lets you know where you are in relation to the finish - but it also lets you know exactly how many more times your body is going to have to be put through this torment!
Secteur 28 - Troisvilles à Inchy
Length: 2.2 km
Km from start: 98
Km from finish: 161.5
The route turns off the main road out of the picturesque village of Troisville on to a narrow track and first timers get a nice rude awakening as to why this race is so special. Sadly for the many riders here under sufferance, the feed zone is another 47km away - the Euskaltel team springs to mind here, now forced to ride under ProTour regulations, but teams like this have always taken part in order to curry favour with the organisers ASO, so that they could get a Tour de France invitation.
Mercifully, this secteur is one of the more rideable ones, it has a gentle slope in the riders' favour and isn't too badly surfaced. Only when it takes a right angle left hander towards the village of Inchy does it start to rise gradually, but it's soon over and the course rejoins the modern world again.
Click here to read the full feature on the cobbles that make up the 'Hell of the North'.