The 118th edition of Paris-Roubaix finally takes place on Sunday 3rd October.
After the Covid forced cancellation in 2020, to this year’s edition upping sticks to the autumn, the Hell of the North’s back. And it looks like it’ll be an absolute belter.
The 2021 men’s route measures 259km and features 30 sections of brutal pave that stretches to 55km. That, of course, is followed by the finish upon the smooth track of the Roubaix velodrome.
The major change from the 2019 edition’s the addition of the Hameau du Buat sector, which has been reintroduced for the first time since 2016. But the primary focus will be around the three major sections of pave that often decides the outcome of the race.
We’re talking Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and the Carrefour de l’Arbre. Trouée d’Arenberg is a 2.3km-long cobbled road and is better known as the Forest of Arenberg.
Its distinct tree-lined character’s captured by Francois Doulcier, president of Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix, an association set up 40 years ago to preserve the heritage of the cobbles.
“It’s a magnificent and majestic place,” Doulcier said. “It gives the impression that you’re standing in a cathedral.”
It comes with 100km still to go but can still prove pivotal.
The 3km section of cobbled at Mons-en-Pévèle comes just 50kmm from the finish and hammers home who are the contenders and who’ll have to dust themselves off, train hard and come again another day.
Then there’s arguably the toughest stretch of all – Carrefour de l’Arbre. The 2.1km section comes with fewer than 20km to go. If that’s not debilitating enough, the road rises 30cm higher in the middle than either side.
It’s hard enough for the support cars, just think how hard it is for the riders!
To challenge at Roubaix, you need to be mentally tough, strong as an ox and have a degree of luck on your side to remain vertical.
At Campagnolo, there’ll be many world-class riders in the mix.
Here’s a breakdown of the teams who use our wheels and groupsets.
Belgian superstar Philippe Gilbert is 39 years old and in his 19th year as a professional. Earlier in 2021, he announced his intention to retire at the end of 2022. All the signs are that the multiple-classic winner’s best years are behind him.
But never ever write Gilbert off. Incredibly, he won the last edition of Paris-Roubaix in 2019, outsprinting Nils Politt to win his fifth Monument. He finished fifth at Omloop Het Nieuwsbald earlier this season and, more recently, came fourth at the Brussels Cycling Classic.
Gilbert will be joined in the Lotto-Soudal team by another Paris-Roubaix winner – John Degenkolb. The 32-year-old won back in 2015 to not only become the first German to win the race since Josef Fischer in 1896, but also the first rider to win Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix in the same year since Sean Kelly in 1986. His form’s looking good after finishing second at Eschborn-Frankfurt.
AG2R CITROEN TEAM
AG2R Citroen Team will be looking for a strong showing on home soil, though their best chance for victory could come from Belgian Greg Van Avermaet.
The 36-year-old might be known as the King of Flanders but he won Paris-Roubaix in 2017, despite suffering a mechanical that saw him chase hard for 22km to regain position. Come the velodrome, it was a three-way match-up between Zdenek Stybar, Sebastian Langeveld and Van Avermaet, but it was Van Avermaet who had the extra kick to win his first and only Monument.
He’s looked strong in northern Europe this season, his palmares including third at Tour of Flanders and eighth at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.Then again, it could be compatriot Oliver Naesen who grabs the glory.
Despite a mixed 2021, the 31-year-old’s an experienced campaigner and has finished top-15 at Paris-Roubaix three times. The likes of Stan Dewulf and Michael Schar will provide invaluable support.
UAE TEAM EMIRATES
UAE Team Emirates, home to two-time Tour de France champion, will rely on Alexander Kristoff and Matteo Trentin to lead their charge.
Thirty-four-year-old Kristoff is a tough rider and will look to sign off in style before his move to Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux next season. He won the Tour of Flanders in 2015, so has the fortitude to challenge at the highest level on the cobbles.
The Norwegian won the points classification at the recent Arctic Race of Norway, showing there’s still speed in his powerful limbs.
Italian Trentin’s also known as one of the strongmen of the peloton and has enjoyed a consistent 2021, winning Trofeo Matteotti in mid-September. The 32-year-old’s record on the cobbles is great, so don’t discount him if he’s there or thereabouts come the final 20km.
COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS
The French team’s best bet is in the form of 28-year-old French rider Christophe Laporte. Laporte’s enjoyed a strong 2021 with seven top-10 finishes including second at Dwars door Vlaanderen and, just a few weeks ago, victory at the Grand Prix de Wallonie where he won via an uphill sprint against Warren Barguil and Lotto-Soudal’s Tosh Van der Sande.
Piet Allegaert and Jelle Wallays are two strong riders who’ll support Laporte.
Campagnolo wishes all the best to the teams and riders, plus all the female riders who are taking part in the inaugural edition of Paris-Roubaix Femme that takes place on Saturday 2nd October.
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