Work has begun on the pavé in the Trouée d'Arenberg raced on during Paris-Roubaix, with the grass and earth between the ancient cobblestones being replaced by a special cement mortar.
The Les Amis des Paris-Roubaix group of volunteers who help maintain the cobblestone tracks tweeted photos of the work being done on the famous cobbled section.
Work started this week, with Les Amis calling it “impressive”. They posted a photo of the work underway, with the grass and dirt between the stones being blasted out by high-pressure washers. Chemical weed-killers are not permitted in the area, and the mud and grass were getting out of control, often sparking crashes.
Once clean and dry, mortar is laid between the stones. About five hundred metres of the Trouée d'Arenberg will be renovated before this year's edition of Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, April 14, with the rest done before next year's race.
“Like the Koppenberg, the joints will be filled with concrete. The sector is likely to be harder but less dangerous,” they tweeted.
The decision to clean up the cobblestones was not a popular one with fans when it was announced last November and Les Amis pointed out: “Work in Arenberg : For the most angry, here is the cobble with concrete ! The grass has disappeared and the sector is harder !”
2015 Roubaix winner John Degenkolb endorsed the idea, despite his early doubts. “When I read it, at first, I thought it's holy and you can't change anything there,” he said in December.
"I think, riding over it, you won't notice the difference but it just makes it safer. If there is a lot of rain before, the grass grows before the race. If we have a rainy edition and all the grass is on the cobbles it's basically impossible to ride. I'd prefer to have the mortar in between and have the possibility to go to the Arenberg even if it's raining rather than skipping it because it's too dangerous.”
Degenkolb is also an Ambassador for Les Friends. Last week, when it was announced that the U19 Paris-Roubaix may not be held due to a lack of funding, he created a GoFundMe campaign. It raised the required 10,000 Euros within 24 hours and continues to grow.