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LILLE, France (VN) – The long wait for Paris-Roubaix, and the even longer wait for a wet men’s “Hell of the North,” will come to a close Sunday.
Rain poured heavy over northern eastern France from Saturday afternoon all the way through Sunday morning, meaning the 2021 men’s Paris-Roubaix will be the first truly wet edition since 2002.
The promise of a long-awaited “Muddy Roubaix” adds further hype-factor to the return of the cobblestone monument, which has not been raced since April 2019.
Overnight downpours through the Nord départment of France eased in the hours before the peloton rolled out of Campiègne early Sunday. However, forecasts are calling for further rain through the morning before skies turn brighter as the race rumbles toward Roubaix.
— George Poole (@GeorgePuddle) October 3, 2021
Although the peloton may be afforded the “luxury” of a dry ride around the Roubaix velodrome come Sunday afternoon, the damage will likely have already been done to the 55 kilometers of gnarled cobbled tracks they have to negotiate in order to get there.
Accuweather forecast website indicated rain was falling as deep as 3-4mm per hour through the night, which will have left deep pools of standing water and mud-logged pavé for the men to plow through Sunday.
The inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes on Saturday saw riders struggle to stay upright on the mudslicked pavé after rain fell earlier through the week. Annemiek van Vleuten was left out of action with a broken pubic bone and only 61 of the 129 starters finished within the time cut as rain fell through the final hours of the women’s race, worsening the already damp and slimey stones.
The dozens of tire tracks traced by the women’s peloton Saturday will have churned the already wet ground and spread mud from the adjacent farmer’s fields across the cobblestones ahead of the men’s race.
“A missed opportunity… the Ethias Cyclocross in Meulebeke would have just been the perfect preparation for tomorrow,” Wout van Aert joked on Twitter, referring to Saturday’s Belgian CX event.
Just like Paris-Roubaix Femmes made history Saturday, the men’s race will make an altogether different type of history Sunday. Bring your rubber dinghies, it’s going to be a wet one.