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Paris-Roubaix postponement? Better late than never, say top riders

Teams and riders take rescheduling in stride, and embrace one-off scenario of seeing world championships and Roubaix stacked up in the fall.

Thursday’s announcement that Paris-Roubaix is postponed until October didn’t come as a big surprise to riders and sport directors in the peloton. The decision was expected in light of rising COVID-19 infections in France.

The calendar change, however, has big implications for many in the bunch. Some riders who were targeting a peak at Roubaix have already tweaked their calendar. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) already confirmed he will add Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race to his schedule.

Also read: Paris-Roubaix rescheduled for October 

For others, the rescheduling comes as a relief, and will allow teams and riders to adjust their training and racing calendars accordingly.

And the new dates in early October — October 2 for the women’s race and October 3 for the men’s — creates a new “super-week” with the new Roubaix dates coming a week following the road world championships in nearby Flanders.

Here’s what some of the top riders and sport directors had to say following Thursday’s big news:

Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo)

The Italian star has been on a tear this spring, but expressed satisfaction that both the race has been rescheduled and how enticing the second half of 2021 is stacking up.

“It’s really sad that we can’t race next week but we are glad that the event has been saved with a new date. Now, it will be two days of Roubaix with the women’s race on the Saturday and men’s on Sunday, so it’s even more exciting. We will be ready to race. Eventually it will be a very interesting October with Roubaix, then the Women’s Tour and the Italian classics going on. It’s going to be interesting to race it just after the world championships in Belgium. I have to admit that I didn’t mind racing the classics last year in October. I had fun and I think in terms of weather conditions it could be similar to April as they are both transitional months, you never know how the weather will be. It could be super good or super bad. I hope for dry weather so everyone can reach the finish line safely, personally I would like it to be cold and dry.”

Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)

The Milano-Sanremo winner lives in Leuven, base for the 2021 worlds, so the new dates create a special opportunity to build for a one-off worlds-Roubaix double.

“It’s not such of a big surprise, and the disappointment is not too big, as I think they have found a good time for the new date. Rumor has it that it would be on October 24, making it difficult to get in one month after the worlds to be in top form. Now we get two nice races in two weeks. I was already racing Amstel anyway. Maybe I will also do Brabantse Pijl, but that remains to be seen because that race is not yet on the team’s program. And for Sunday’s Flanders? Everyone is doing well. All tests are negative, so that’s good news. Hopefully we are all ready.”

Jolien d’Hoore (SD Worx)

The Belgian sprinter was planning on retiring after the Tokyo Games, so it’s likely she will miss her only chance to race in Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

“For me, it is a personal pity that Paris-Roubaix is ​​canceled. This spring it was my only chance to ever ride that race in my career. It’s a race that fits my body, a flat race with a lot of cobblestones. I think it’s a shame. We have to accept it, because safety and health come first. That does not mean that I am very sorry that Paris-Roubaix will not take place in April. If I can believe the social media, a lot of women would have set their sights on Paris-Roubaix. The disappointment will therefore be great.”

Matt White, sport director Team BikeExchange

The ex-pro and sport director believes the call to postpone the race was the right one, and added that it sets up an intriguing scenario with the worlds and Roubaix stacked up in the fall.

“It was an expected change of date, and with things being in a pretty bad state in northern France, it was the most sensible decision to make. Now teams can focus on this weekend, and logistically getting ready for the Ardennes. 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. 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, and we can move forward with our planning, and put our heads down, and finish off the spring.”

Oliver Naesen (Ag2r-Citroën)

The Belgian star is part of a bolstered classics program at Ag2r-Citroën. Following promising results all spring, the team was hoping for big things at Roubaix.

“It is, of course, a shame, but it is understandable. Things are going even worse in France than in Belgium. The hospitals there are actually full. It was already in the air, especially after the four-week quarantine was announced. It’s not like last year when all of the spring was suddenly swept away. It does hurt because Paris-Roubaix is ​​the king of the classics. But then I think of the man in the street who has more to complain than us cyclists. It could be a beautiful classic autumn with, for example, Paris-Tours, certain Belgian competitions and then Paris-Roubaix. Riders going to the worlds will have an advantage for Paris-Roubaix. For me, my season ends on Sunday. Van Avermaet continues until the Amstel Gold Race and with us, for example, Cosnefroy will join us for the Walloon classics. There is no room for everyone. It is a short spring for me, but it will be a long late season.”

Tom Steels, sport director at Deceuninck-Quick-Step

The ex-pro and sport director at the Belgian powerhouse said the decision comes with a mix of relief and frustration.

“The most important thing is that the race continues. Monuments like Roubaix determine the history of a cycling year. There is a lot of pressure on the organizations to continue their course. It may not be ideal, but there is also relief. October 3 is also a good date, because it is close to the worlds. They have something to work towards. They must certainly be good enough to be able to ride a tough race in top condition.”