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French federation official: ‘Paris-Roubaix postponement 99 percent certain’

On or off? French cycling expert explains confusion behind imminent Paris-Roubaix decision.

Paris-Roubaix looks “99 percent” to be postponed for the second year a row.

That’s according to a top French cycling federation official, who told VeloNews on Thursday that worsening health conditions have prompted government officials to insist that famous cobblestone classic — slated for April 11 — be rescheduled for October.

“Paris-Roubaix will most certainly be postponed until October,” Pascal Sergent, northern regional director of the French cycling federation, told VeloNews. “It is 99 percent certain.”

Also read: French media reports Paris-Roubaix to be postponed

Following a flood of media French reports Wednesday, it appears that a decision to postpone the race has already been taken by regional government officials.

Belgian sources told VeloNews that upcoming races in Belgium, including Friday’s E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem, will continue as scheduled despite worsening conditions in Belgium as well.

Sergent told VeloNews that race organizers ASO were caught off-guard by media leaks.

ASO was not available for comment, but team sources told VeloNews on Thursday they have not been notified by ASO that Paris-Roubaix might be rescheduled.

“The main problem is that ASO was completely unaware and was completely off-guard,” Sergent said. “There was a leak that came out, and that really threw off ASO. They didn’t appreciate that at all. But they will make an official press release at the end of this week or next.

“It is just a matter of time,” he said. “Now the only question is whether the race will be held on October 10 or another date in October.”

While bike racing continues as scheduled in Spain and Belgium this week, confusion reigns in France as the mythic cobblestone classic Paris-Roubaix seems certain to once again be postponed.

If true, it will see Paris-Roubaix and its highly anticipated inaugural women’s edition postponed for the second year in a row.

Also read: Everyone wants to win first edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes

Last spring, officials moved Roubaix to October, but unlike other rescheduled classics, the October dates were also nullified, resulting in the first edition of Roubaix being canceled since World War II.

In light of a growing wave of new infections across France, officials are introducing stricter restrictions.

On Monday, the préfet of the Hauts-de-France announced on France Bleu TV that he was opposed to the running of Paris-Roubaix considering the current sanitary restrictions, news that was only reinforced on Wednesday when Le Parisien daily newspaper confirmed that the race would be postponed.

While Sergent says that there is still a slight chance the race will be held on April 11, he admits that it is virtually impossible.

“It’s frustrating because the season has been running relatively smoothly,” Sergent said in a telephone interview. “There was Paris-Nice and Milano-Sanremo, and this week there is the Volta a Catalunya in addition to all of the races in Belgium. It is incomprehensible.”

Pascal Sergent, a FFC official and historian, told VeloNews that Paris-Roubaix will be “99 percent” postponed. Photo: James Startt

Sergent is also one of the country’s leading cycling historians, who has written numerous books on Roubaix and owns countless jerseys as well as several bikes raced over the famous cobbles.

For him, like many fans of the unique race, the decision by the regional officials is maddening.

“We know that there are no COVID clusters at the races themselves,” Sergent said. “A study in Belgium actually showed just that, because the riders are controlled regularly and there is very little public, the risk of transmission of the disease at a bike race is very, very minimal.

“And it is even more maddening because there are all kinds of professional sporting events being held all around France and here in the north, all of the professional soccer matches,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

For Sergent, the move to postpone the race was an executive decision by the regional préfet, one that may well not even be entirely legal, but nevertheless difficult to reverse.

“To be honest, I don’t even think this decision is legal,” he said. “The [French cycling federation] developed very strict guidelines with the Minister of Sport in the French government at the national level so that the professional and top-level amateur races to be held, something which has really been respected.

“The préfet has just vetoed this,” he said. “The préfet here is very, very cautious, to the point of being anti-sport. I have no idea what political party he is in, but he is certainly stupid. In that category, we really came up against a world champion.”