Hell's pavé strikes its rhythm

By Gregor Brown The 'Hell of the North' arrives this Sunday, April 13, with a pavé-thumping rhythm...

Hard-men line-up this Sunday for the 106th 'Hell of the North'

By Gregor Brown

The 'Hell of the North' arrives this Sunday, April 13, with a pavé-thumping rhythm that will draw in cycling enthusiasts by the thousands. Riders will line-up in Compiègne (north of Paris), cheered in the Place du Palais as they start their 259.5-kilometre march to Roubaix. A journey of tight and precarious roads – including 52.8 kilometres in 28 leg-snapping pavé sectors – will comprise the 106th edition of the Paris-Roubaix.

Paris-Roubaix draws its Monument status from over 100 years of hosting the race over the treacherous roads that are rarely seen in modern-day cycling. Past cycling heroes like Roger De Vlaeminck, Rik van Looy, Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser and Johan Museeuw, and modern day warriors like Magnus Backstedt, Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, have fought back the pain of the pavé to conquer this 'Queen of the Classics' and etch their names in the annals of cycling history.

Paris-Roubaix is one of cycling's five 'Monuments' in a list that also includes Milano-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro di Lombardia.

The road conditions are such that only the specialists even bother showing up to contest the event, organised by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO). There are sectors of pavé rutted so deep and that present so many hazards that they risk ruining a rider's season or even career – just ask Museeuw about his run through the Trouée d'Arenberg in 1998.

And with so many dangers it is not only skill, but luck that comes into play to reach the finale in Roubaix – case in point is USA's George Hincapie, who has battled the roads so many times only to be thrown off into the ditch while his team-mates zoom ahead (2002) or have his bike crumble under the pavé's pressure in the key moment (2006).

A full break-down of the pavé sectors will appear shortly.

Continue to the full preview.

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