By Maurice Garin
Major race organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has stumbled upon a major hurdle for this month's Paris-Roubaix, with the famed Roubaix velodrome unavailable for the historic Spring Classic. ASO, which also organises the Tour de France, is currently trying to negotiate an alternative with the velodrome's owners who have double booked the venue with a local Easter carnival, the Roubaix Poisson d'Avril, on April 12.
This year's event is the first time Paris-Roubaix has clashed with Easter weekend since the 2004 edition, when Magnus Backstedt claimed victory. Over the past five years a local Easter festival has grown to such a degree, that in 2007 it started using the velodrome site in order to cater for increased attendance.
"It's an embarrassing oversight by the velodrome owners," an ASO insider told Cyclingnews. "They simply didn't realise that our event fell on Easter Sunday this year. It only happens every once in a while, so it's an understandable mistake to make."
ASO hopes to have a resolution to the issue by week's end. Several options are being considered, with negotiations between it and the Easter carnival organisers underway which would see the festival moved to the neighbouring football grounds.
Should a deal between the two organisations fail to materialise, ASO will consider asphalting the old running track that surrounds the football field next door and erecting a temporary grand stand for the event. While it's considered an extreme measure, ASO wants to ensure the event stays close to its roots.
"We are working with both organisers and the velodrome owners," said a local council member. "If ASO must resort to its back-up measure, the local government will offer its resources to help lay the asphalt in time. Roubaix is proud of this event and doesn't want to see the finish moved to another province, not even as a one off."
An ASO official admitted that while paving the running track next door wasn't ideal, it was the most attractive alternative. It wishes to stay close to the site where race founders Théodore Vienne and Maurice Perez held the first event in 1886, ruling out a one-off move to a nearby city.
The organisation had also considered postponing the event for one week, but has since decided that's not an option. With a temporary alternative in place, the organiser didn't want to upset fans or teams who have all booked accommodation and travel for the existing date, in addition to athletes timing their condition specifically to that date.