A survivors guide to the Paris Roubaix weekend

Paris Roubaix Sportive

Its the biggest cycling weekend of the year with the most famous one day race in world cycling and a massive sportive to boot. If you have ever thought about going, here is everything you need to know.

Paris Roubaix Sportive

The day before the pro race is your chance to ride the famous pave. The sportive is an homage to the hell of the north. The cobbled sections are rarely opened to cyclists so this is a unique opportunity to ride in such famous tracks. There is almost no elevation on the route at all so the challenge is entirely in getting through the punishing pave. The sectors are given stars based on their difficulty with 5 being the hardest. Each sector is also numbered with sector 1 being the last stretch of cobbles and sector 27 being the fist on the long route. The difficulty is determined by length (the longest sector is 3.7km) and unevenness of the cobbles. As these are old farm tracks and not smoothed by cars, the cobbles can be incredibly brutal and the camber on the track can be a real challenge. Finding the smoothest part of the track is key, this is sometimes right in the middle and sometimes in the gutter – if you see any cycle clubs from Flanders or more local, we suggest you follow their lines.
You can enter the sportive here or book with your hotel here. After registering, you will receive your race number from the organisers approx one week before the sportive. Print this out to collect your registration kit in Roubaix. This can be done either on the Friday (between 2.30pm and 6.30pm) or at the start of the sportive.

Route Options:

Short – 70km | 7 cobbled sections | 8.8km of pave | 1 x 5 star sector | Start & Finish at the velodrome

Medium – 139km | 18 cobbled sections | 30.2km of pave | 3 x 5 star sectors | Start & Finish at the velodrome

Long – 163km | 27 cobbled sections | 52.5km of pave | 3 x 5 star sectors | Start in Busigny* Finish at the velodrome

* for long route, all our entries include a transfer from the velodrome to the start.

The Key Sectors

Forest of Arenberg – Sector 18. 2.4km, 5 Stars

This is probably the most famous stretch of cobbles in the world and features on the long and medium routes. The pros hit this like a sprint to get good position and carry their speed into the pave. The cobbles here are horrible. If you lose your speed it is very hard to get it back so make sure you hit it at a good tempo and then be prepared to put in 5-10 minutes of work to keep the power high until you exit the sector.

Carrefour de l’Arbre – Sector 3. 2.1km, 5 Stars

The final tough sector in the race which you will hit without the benefit of fresh legs. The pro race is often decided on this sector due to its proximity to the finish. You will notice from the video that this sector differs from Arenberg as it has many more corners so bike handling becomes more important. The cobbles are as difficult as you would expect for a five star sector so judging the lines to ride especially for the corners becomes crucial.

The Velodrome

The finale of an epic sportive. Finishing in the legendary velodrome at Roubaix is a fitting place and a real once in a lifetime experience. You will be tired at this point but allow yourself some recovery after Carrefour de l’Arbre so you can really enjoy the final few kms and your lap of the velodrome. Luckily, our hotel in Roubaix is just a few minutes away so you can be back for a shower and a beer in no time.

Watching Paris Roubaix live

If you have driven to Roubaix, you have some options for watching the race. As it is fairly linear route there are some big distances to cover if you want to see the riders on a number of occasions. The options are:
At the start in Compiegne – a good place to get up close to the riders but a long drive (160km from Roubaix)
Arenberg – very popular place to watch with huge crowds. There is a big screen showing the action and a car park. This is 50km from Roubaix so if you can get out quickly it is possible to get back to the velodrome in time
Carrefour de l’Arbre – another very popular spot with huge crowds. Here you may see the decisive break but you will need to go to a nearby bar to catch the rest of the action.
Roubaix – a great option is to spend the day in Roubaix. The town is buzzing with excitement. You can walk the last cobbled sector in town and then head to the velodrome (free admission) and see the action on a big screen before cheering the winners home live.

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