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Paris-Roubaix reconnaissance ride – Gallery

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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Matt Hayman (Orica-Scott) takes the best line on a cobbled corner

Matt Hayman (Orica-Scott) takes the best line on a cobbled corner (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Matt Hayman (Orica-Scott) takes a corner at speed

Matt Hayman (Orica-Scott) takes a corner at speed (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The Bahrain-Merida team are using disc brakes

The Bahrain-Merida team are using disc brakes (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The bleak landscape that makes Paris-Roubaix unique

The bleak landscape that makes Paris-Roubaix unique (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Cannondale-Drapac on the pave

Cannondale-Drapac on the pave (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Could Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott) be an outsider for Paris-Roubaix?

Could Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott) be an outsider for Paris-Roubaix? (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Check out Matt Hayman's special Paris-Roubaix Scott bike

Check out Matt Hayman's special Paris-Roubaix Scott bike (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) close up in the Forest of Arenberg

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) close up in the Forest of Arenberg (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) gets a taste of the cobbles

Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) gets a taste of the cobbles (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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John Degenkolb's bar and brake set-up for Paris-Roubaix

John Degenkolb's bar and brake set-up for Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Here comes Trek-Segafredo

Here comes Trek-Segafredo (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The Trek-Segafredo team on the pave

The Trek-Segafredo team on the pave (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo) checks out the pave in the Forest of Arenberg

Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo) checks out the pave in the Forest of Arenberg (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) in the Forest of Arenberg

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) in the Forest of Arenberg (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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2016 Paris-Roubaix winner Matt Hayman (Orica-Scott)

2016 Paris-Roubaix winner Matt Hayman (Orica-Scott) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Carrefour de l'Arbre

The Carrefour de l'Arbre (Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Carrefour de l'Arbre

The Carrefour de l'Arbre (Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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A Team Sky fan tries out the cobbles

A Team Sky fan tries out the cobbles (Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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A young Quick-Step fan shows his talents

A young Quick-Step fan shows his talents (Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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A Wanty Groupe-Gobert rider on the pavé

A Wanty Groupe-Gobert rider on the pavé (Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Carrefour de l'Arbre

The Carrefour de l'Arbre (Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Carrefour de l'Arbre

The Carrefour de l'Arbre (Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Fans gathered at Carrefour de l'Arbre to see the riders come through

Fans gathered at Carrefour de l'Arbre to see the riders come through (Image credit: Sadhbh O'Shea)
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Riders were fully supported in their Paris-Roubaix reconnaissance

Riders were fully supported in their Paris-Roubaix reconnaissance (Image credit: Sadhbh O'Shea)
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Peter Sagan takes time to pop a wheelie

Peter Sagan takes time to pop a wheelie (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Peter Sagan still avoiding cobbles

Peter Sagan still avoiding cobbles (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) poses for photos

Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) poses for photos (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data)

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)

Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Trek-Segafredo

Trek-Segafredo (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo)

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNl-Jumbo)

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNl-Jumbo) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Peter Sagan and his teammates pass a dog walker along the pavé

Peter Sagan and his teammates pass a dog walker along the pavé (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Andre Greipel checks out the route with his Lotto Soudal team

Andre Greipel checks out the route with his Lotto Soudal team (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Peter Sagan seems to be feeling better

Peter Sagan seems to be feeling better (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Wanty Groupe-Gobert on the pavé

Wanty Groupe-Gobert on the pavé (Image credit: Sadhbh O'Shea)
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Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cofidis on the Carrefour de l'Arbre

Cofidis on the Carrefour de l'Arbre (Image credit: Sadhbh O'Shea)
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Andre Greipel checks out the Paris-Roubaix cobbles

Andre Greipel checks out the Paris-Roubaix cobbles (Image credit: Sadhbh O'Shea)
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Wanty Groupe-Gobert on the pavé

Wanty Groupe-Gobert on the pavé (Image credit: Sadhbh O'Shea)
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Wanty Groupe-Gobert on the pavé

Wanty Groupe-Gobert on the pavé (Image credit: Sadhbh O'Shea)
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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) plans his sprint on the Roubaix velodrome

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) plans his sprint on the Roubaix velodrome (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Peter Sagan and brother Juraj

Peter Sagan and brother Juraj (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Bahrain Merida recon the Paris-Roubaix route

Bahrain Merida recon the Paris-Roubaix route (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Topsport Vlaanderen in the Arenberg forest

Topsport Vlaanderen in the Arenberg forest (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Lars Boom (LottoNl-Jumbo) in the Arenberg Forest

Lars Boom (LottoNl-Jumbo) in the Arenberg Forest (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Trek-Segafredo joined by a Lotto Soudal rider for the recon

Trek-Segafredo joined by a Lotto Soudal rider for the recon (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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BMC recons the Paris-Roubaix cobbles

BMC recons the Paris-Roubaix cobbles (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Greg Van Avermaet got his punctures out of the day during Paris-Roubaix recon

Greg Van Avermaet got his punctures out of the day during Paris-Roubaix recon (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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BMC rode all the way to the Roubaix velodrome

BMC rode all the way to the Roubaix velodrome (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Daniel Oss (BMC) recons the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix

Daniel Oss (BMC) recons the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix with BMC

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix with BMC (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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BMC during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix

BMC during a training - reconnaisance of the cobblestones sections of Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cannondale-Drapac test their equipment over the pavé

Cannondale-Drapac test their equipment over the pavé (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

Thursday is an important day in the countdown to Paris-Roubaix, with many teams carrying out a final reconnaissance ride of the key sectors of the pavé.

Some riders know the race route by heart after years of experience and other teams have made trips to test equipment during the winter. However a final reconnaissance ride is vital to understand the conditions riders will face on race day and so decide final tyre choices and tyre pressures. A final look at the pavé reminds everyone just how harsh they are, it hardens the muscles one last time to the impact of the rough surface and offers a chance to study the best line on the crown of the road or in the more risky slither of dirt at the edge of the cobbles.

Today's ride confirmed that this year's Paris-Roubaix is set to be a dry race, with every part of the unpaved sections dry and dusty rather than wet and muddy. It will make for a fast race, with bike handling skills and positioning as important as ever.

Cyclingnews spotted several teams out on the race route including Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe squad, FDJ – who stopped to pose for a photo at the monument remembering team manager Marc Madiot's two victories, Cannondale-Drapac, Lotto Soudal, Orica-Scott, Dimension Data, Trek-Segafredo, Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Fortuneo-Vital Concept. BMC opted to study the cobbles on Wednesday, while most of the rivals were in action at Scheldeprijs. Quick-Step Floors will have a final look on Friday before travelling to Compiegne for the start on Sunday.

Most teams started their recon ride in Denain, just before the Forest of Arenberg sector of pavé, covering the final 100km of the race route and seeing the final 20 of the 29 sectors of pave in this year's 257km route.

Trek-Segafredo rode on towards the Roubaix velodrome but most teams ended their ride after the Carrefour de l'Arbre sector, with team buses parked at the exposed road junction, allowing riders to take a shower and debrief with directeur sportifs and mechanics before returning to their hotels.

Not surprisingly, die-hard cycling fans also hang out along the Carrefour de l'Arbre cobbles and wait at the end near the L'Arbre restaurant for a chance to secure a team bidon, an autograph or simply see the riders and soak up the pre-race atmosphere that Paris-Roubaix evokes. A few fans enjoyed lunch in the restaurant but most stood by the roadside or sheltered from the northern wind behind the team buses.

Johan Museeuw got a cheer as he rode by, as do the young American riders who will compete in the Junior race on Sunday morning. The biggest cheers and excitement is reserved for the professional riders, with fans trying to identify them and put a name to a face and riding style.

Huge tractors pass by as they returned from sowing the fields, amused by the sudden mass of cars, fans and cyclists. Every year, for just a few days in the spring, the area comes alive as cycling makes an annual pilgrimage to the pave. On Saturday the many sportif riders will emulate the professional riders who will race on the pavé on Sunday.

The secrets of the Carrefour de l'Arbre

The Carrefour de l'Arbre sector is number 4 in the 29-sector countdown to the Roubaix velodrome. It is often the most decisive sector of the race, with its rough surface, tight turns and exposure to the wind making it ideal for final attacks. It is neither the longest nor the most technical of the three five-star classed in this year's route but it is the last one, coming after 240km of racing, and so often the most important.

It was first covered in 1958 and in has been raced in the current direction since 1961. Legend has it that the rider who leads under the banner signaling the end of the Carrefour de l'Arbre is the rider who will go on to win in the Roubaix velodrome.

The area is rich in history of famous battles; from that of French king Philippe Auguste's defeat of a German, English and Flemish coalition, to the two world wars that have left concrete pill boxes and military cemetery dotted across the exposed fields.

The Carrefour de l'Arbre has inspired some of the most famous attacks at Paris-Roubaix, with two-time champion Marc Madiot, making his moves there when he won in 1985 and 1991.

"It's the last place to see who has got the best legs for the win. If you aren't shaken off here, you're unlikely to be shaken off afterwards… unless you're not smart enough," Madiot said in an interview published on the official race website.

Francesco Moser and Tom Boonen have used the Carrefour de l'Arbre as a springboard to their victories. But it has also ended some riders' dreams. Thor Hushovd crashed in the Carrefour de l'Arbre on a late corner, allowing Boonen to power on alone and win.

The Carrefour de l'Arbre can be decisive but it can also be very cruel.