The 108th edition of Paris-Roubaix, scheduled for April 10th, promises to be another epic one. Race director Jean-François Pescheux and his assistant Thierry Gouvenou, who finished seventh in the event in 2002, are in the process of finalising this year's race route after reconnoitring the northern region's pavés this week.
As L'Equipe reported on Friday, the two have decided to change the event's parcours from 2010, including five new cobblestone sectors, three of which were already part of the race in the 1980s and in 2005: Préseau, Aulnoy and Famars. The three sectors will directly precede the famous Arenberg Forest section and should therefore add further difficulty.
"[Aulnoy] is a tough one," commented Pescheux. "And six years ago, it was in Famars that the strongest launched their attack."
Furthermore, two completely new sectors have been found that will immediately follow the Arenberg: the sector of Millonfosse (1.4 km) and another 1.1km-long stretch between Brillon and Tilloy. Pescheux was happy to include Millonfosse, a straight line whose pavés are said to be in a good state. "It will be ridden very fast," he said.
The inclusion of the three hard sectors before the Arenberg and the insertion of Millonfosse after it means that the riders will have to change their approach to the key sector which has often been so decisive. Millonfosse will be added just four kilometres after Arenberg, when in the past the next sector was ten kilometres away.
"This distance favoured regrouping," explained Gouvenou. "This time, there will be only four kilometres to race before jumping on to another sector. A leader that has lost his team-mates may not be seeing them again."
To accommodate the new sectors into a race route that should not exceed 259 kilometres, three cobbled roads that were raced in 2010 will have to be scrapped. The revamping of the parcours also means that Arenberg will be placed with 80 kilometres to go before the finish in the Roubaix velodrome, when in the past it was 92 kilometres away.