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Paris-Roubaix cancelled after COVID-19 cases rise in northern France

ROUBAIX, FRANCE - APRIL 08: Peter Sagan of Slovakia and Team Bora - Hansgrohe / Silvan Dillier of Switzerland and Team AG2R La Mondiale / Carrefour de l'Arbre during the 116th Paris - Roubaix 2018 a 257km race from Compiegne to Roubaix on April 8, 2018 in Roubaix, France. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The 118th edition of Paris-Roubaix and the inaugural edition of the women’s Paris-Roubaix scheduled for Sunday October 25 have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 cases have been rising in France, especially in the Nord department, with the finish town of Roubaix situated in an area that has been assigned the highest threat level.

Despite organiser ASO’s attempts to provide local authorities with assurances they could run restricted events, they were forced to announce the cancellations on Friday morning.

The men’s Paris-Roubaix had already been rescheduled from its usual spring slot due to the global pandemic, with a first ever women’s race set up for the same rescheduled date of October 25.

ASO now hope the 2021 edition of the race will go ahead as planned on April 11.

“At the request of the Préfet du Nord, Préfet des Hauts de France and following the Health Minister Olivier Véran's announcement yesterday, that placed the Lille Metropolitan area on maximum alert, the 118th edition of Paris-Roubaix (UCI WorldTour) and the 1st edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes (UCI Women's WorldTour), originally scheduled to take place on the 25th October, will not be organised," a statement from ASO announced on Friday morning.

"Paris-Roubaix, an incredibly popular event and one that is met with great enthusiasm every year, had already been postponed from its original 12th of April date following the containment measures put in place in spring to fight against the spread of COVID-19.

"We would like to warmly thank the communities and event partners who supported us in this postponement as well as those who were, like us, delighted to see the Queen of the Classics even in the autumn.

"We will see you on the cobblestones on the 11th April 2021 to celebrate one of the greatest monuments in world cycling."

Paris-Roubaix was first held in 1896 and, until now, only World Wars have brought it down, with four editions cancelled during World War I and three during World War II.

The loss of the event follows that of Amstel Gold Race and deprives the redesigned autumn Classics campaign of another race, not to mention women’s cycling of a major milestone.

Despite the success of the Tour de France, which safely arrived in Paris three weeks after setting off from Nice, passing various coronavirus ‘red zones’ on the way, Paris-Roubaix has been deemed untenable.

COVID-19 cases in France have continued to rise since the Tour de France, and the deciding factor was the decision on Thursday evening to turn the Lille metropolitan area from a red zone to a ‘scarlet’ zone, the new and highest level of alert.

Cases had already passed the 250 per 10,000 inhabitants per week threshold, but French authorities had initially granted Lille a 10-day period of grace before stricter measures were introduced. However, on Thursday, health minister Olivier Véran decided no more time could be wasted and the heaviest restrictions, which include the complete closure of bars, have been imposed.

Last week, ASO held meetings with local mayors and councillors, reportedly outlining the measures they’d implemented at the Tour de France along with proposals for limiting the number of spectators on the iconic cobblestone sectors of Paris-Roubaix and in the outdoor velodrome that hosts the finish.

Despite assertions from the mayor of Roubaix that the race would go ahead, the fears expressed by the head of the Hauts-de-France region and the mayor of Lille were eventually borne out.

The rearranged spring Classics continue with Gent-Wevelgem this Sunday, followed by Scheldeprijs on Wednesday and the Tour of Flanders the following Sunday. All three, along with Drieedaagse De Panne the following Wednesday, take place in Belgium and are expected to go ahead.

The cancellation of Paris-Roubaix equally means there’s no ‘Super Sunday’ on October 25, a date when, in this bizarre rescheduled season, the Hell of the North was due to clash with key stages at both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.