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The chase group powers through the Arenberg forest
One of cycling's most iconic stretches of cobbles kept for Classic
The Tranchée d'Arenberg, the most famous sector of cobbles in Paris-Roubaix, will remain in the route of the French Flanders Classic in 2011, despite hesitations from organisers, ASO.
"In our mind there was no way of removing Arenberg in 2011", Jean-François Pescheux, Competitions Director at ASO, told La Voix du Nord, after a crucial recce last Wednesday.
However the local newspaper reveals ASO planned a draft version of the 2011 course without the Arenberg. In October another ASO manager confirmed that information during the press conference of the new Paris-Roubaix cyclosportive event. Today Pescheux confirmed that the section isn't untouchable: "Even if we always say [that sector] is like the Alpe d'Huez in the Tour de France, there's no rule to go to there every year."
The Tranchée de Wallers-Arenberg, a 2.400m long route through a forest, is positioned far away from the finish (at 95 kilometres according to the 2010 route), but remains the main symbol of Paris-Roubaix.
Eddy Merckx, who captured Paris-Roubaix in 1968, the first time the Arenberg's track was added in the route, said: "That's not a place where you can win the race but you can lost it".
Arenberg's dangers are well known since 1967 when the organisers decided to change the course and avoid another bunch sprint like that one Jan Janssen won that year. When he saw pictures of the trench, Tour de France Director Jacques Goddet said: "I asked you to find cobblestones, not a bog!" Arenberg's addition had been suggested by 1962 World Champion, Jean Stablinski, born in the area and worker in the mines of Wallers-Arenberg when he was 14.
The organisers changed the direction in 1999 and 2000 after multiple Roubaix winner Johan Museeuw seriously crashed in 1998. Since then the riders have used the traditional descending direction which reaches the speed around 70kmph in the first meters.