France’s Paris-Roubaix risks losing one of its key cobbled sectors, Carrefour de l’Arbre, because of unruly fans and a bylaw passed by the local mayor.
“Every year there is an invasion of buses, a commercial explosion worthy of a huge public exhibition,” Baisieux Mayor Francis Delrue told La Voix des Sports.
“And the true problem is alcohol, which flows like a river and doesn’t permit proper control of the situation.”
Last year, fans left large amounts of rubbish in the adjacent fields and trenches, and interfered with the race. The situation prompted Delrue to pass a bylaw prohibiting riders to ride the last 500 metres of the 2,100-metre sector. Nine months later the bylaw is still in place.
Italian Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) felt the crowd’s aggression as he chased Belgian Tom Boonen (Quick Step) for the win. According to Pozzato, he was spit on and punched by fans in the sector.
“It was not beautiful for the sport,” he told Cycling Weekly. “What happened last year was stupid, but you can’t say this decides who wins Paris-Roubaix.
“It bothered me, but this is not a problem and I think that the fans will be smarter this year.”
Carrefour de l’Arbre looks as if it will again be in Paris-Roubaix, though, because Delrue is willing to budge, “I will lift the ban after receiving all the guarantees in this area.”
The local government, working with Belgian police, plans to ban the sell and consumption of alcohol. In addition, they will prohibit camper vans arriving more than four days before the race.
Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), organiser of the Tour de France, has scheduled this year’s race for April 11, its usual slot one week after the Tour of Flanders.