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Anyone hoping for a wet edition of Paris-Roubaix will be cursing this weekend’s forecast.
Wednesday’s windy and wintry Scheldeprijs provided a preview of what weather maps are predicting for Sunday across northern France.
Forecasters are calling for a 70 percent chance of rain, temperatures in the low 40s and northerly winds gusting up to 15mph in the area around the Roubaix velodrome and the nearby sectors of pavé.
The only problem — at least for anyone wanting to see brutal race conditions at the “Hell of the North” — is that Paris-Roubaix is rescheduled for October.
One can imagine that more than a few riders in the peloton, however, are quietly breathing a sigh of relief.
Also read: Paris-Roubaix rescheduled for October
A generation of fans and racers have yet to witness or race cycling’s most difficult race in truly adverse conditions. The last editions of Paris-Roubaix contested on wet and muddy cobblestones were all the way back in 2001 and 2002.
Ineos Grenadiers sport director Servais Knaven won the 2001 race as part of a Domo-Farm Frites podium sweep, and his muddy bike was never washed or cleaned. Knaven has guarded the dirty bike as the ultimate souvenir of his career highlight.
“Winning Roubaix, that was the highlight of my career, of course,” Knaven told VeloNews in an earlier interview. “It was raining from the start. It was really muddy, and there were many crashes on the first sectors. The group kept getting smaller and smaller, and in the end, I think there were 30 of us left. It was a huge day.”
No rider who raced the 2002 Roubaix remains active in the peloton today. Defending Roubaix champion Philippe Gilbert was a stagiaire that year, but did not race Roubaix for the first time until 2007.
Paris-Roubaix fans will have to wait at least six months for the next edition.
Last week, worsening health conditions across northern France forced organizers’ hands, and Paris-Roubaix was moved from its traditional Sunday date to October 2-3. Last year, Paris-Roubaix was canceled outright after its rescheduled date was also closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials are hopeful the new date, slotted just one week after the UCI world championships in Flanders, will create a big buzz around the storied monument.
“Potentially — especially with a worlds in Belgium and the attention on cycling in that part of the world — I think Roubaix will be as big, if not bigger, as a stand-alone event on those dates,” said Team Bike Exchange sport director Matt White. “At the end of the day, the same riders will be peaking for it, just in the autumn instead of the spring. I think it’s a great move.”
Some classics riders have adjusted their calendars due to Roubaix’s postponement. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) added Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race to his schedule, while Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), second at Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday, will take a break before transitioning into mountain biking for the next few months. Van der Poel will race Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France before heading to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games in mountain biking.
After fair weather at Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, both the men’s and women’s peloton raced Wednesday under cold and windy conditions at Scheldeprijs. Organizers canceled pre-race protocols due to the adverse weather conditions.
Racing continues next week with Brabantse Pijl as the peloton transitions into the hillier spring classics.