12 April 2015 113th Paris - Roubaix WYNANTS Maarten (BEL) Lotto NL - Jumbo Photo : Yuzuru SUNADAWhere: France
When: Sunday, April 9 2017
Rank: UCI WorldTour

There’s no other race quite like Paris-Roubaix in professional cycling.

There are plenty of other long classics that exceed 250km, plenty of other big races held in France, and plenty of other races that feature cobblestones, but none are as difficult nor unique in character as the so-called ‘Queen of the Classics’

For one thing, the cobblestones here are on another level of difficulty to those found in the Flandrian classics like the Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem. The most difficult sectors are very unevenly paved, and take real skill, power and a heavy dose of fortune to negotiate.

There are also an awful lot of them. In total there are 29 sectors of pavé, amounting to around 55km – roughly a fifth of the entire race. That far exceeds the ratio of any cobbled classic held in Flanders, and makes Paris-Roubaix something of a test of endurance, with riders generally reaching the finish in dribs and drabs.

The race can be even more gruelling if the weather turns foul. Epic editions involving slippery cobbles and mud-caked jerseys have gone down in folklore and helped earn the race its nickname of ‘Hell of the North’.

>>> 12 pictures that show just how tough the Paris-Roubaix cobbles are

Each sector of cobblestones is rated between one star (the most straightforward) and five stars (the most difficult), and it’s on the three five star stretches that regularly sees the most spectacular racing.

Paris-Roubaix 2017 route map. Click to enlarge

First is the Arenberg Forest at 94km, a long stretch of road rendered dark by the overstretching trees either side of the road, where the race’s first major sort-out usually takes place. Then at 47km to go is the Mons-en-Pevele, which, if a rider is on the form of their life, can provide the launchpad for a race-winning attack (as Fabian Cancellara managed in 2010 and 2012 respectively). But more often than not it’s the Carrefour de l’Arbre at 15km to go that has the final say.

Even the finish of the race is unusual and iconic. When finally arriving in Roubaix (these days the race might start in Compiegne rather than Paris, but the finish has always been in Roubaix), the riders head to the town’s velodrome to complete one and a half laps laps of the track, in front of a cheering crowd. Whether the arena plays host to a sprint between a leading group or a lap of honour for a sole leader, it’s invariably a perfect spectacle to end a perfect race.

Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge) became only the second Australian to win Paris-Roubaix, edging out four-time winner Tom Boonen in a chaotic 2016 edition of the race.

The 37-year-old, starting his 16th Paris-Roubaix, made his way into the day’s breakaway and clung on to Boonen’s group after it swept them up in the final 100km.

Leading into the Roubaix velodrome, Hayman and Boonen fought it out for the line, with the Australian coming out on top. Team Sky‘s Ian Stannard finished third, equalling the best British performance in race history.

Tour of Flanders champion Peter Sagan finished 11th after being caught behind several crashes, one of which involved Fabian Cancellara in his last Paris-Roubaix before retiring.

Paris-Roubaix: Recent winners
2016: Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
2015: John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
2014: Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx-QuickStep
2013: Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack
2012: Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
2011: Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Cervelo
2010: Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank
2009: Tom Boonen (Bel) QuickStep
2008: Tom Boonen (Bel) QuickStep
2007: Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC

Paris-Roubaix 2016 top 10
1. Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, 5-51-53
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx-QuickStep, st
3. Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky, st
4. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo), st
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, at 3s
6. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling, at 1-00
7. Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto-Soudal, st
8. Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) IAM Cycling, st
9. Imanol Erviti (Esp) Movistar, at 1-07
10. Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie, 2-20

Key info: Start list | Live TV guide

Key riders: Peter Sagan | Alexander Kristoff | Luke Rowe | Ian Stannard | Tom Boonen

Previous editions: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

External links: Official website | Official twitter feed

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