Peter Sagan at the 2019 Paris-Roubaix
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Where: France
When: Sunday, October 3, 2021
Rank: UCI WorldTour
Distance: 257km

Paris-Roubaix is arguably the most famous of the one-day events in world cycling as the professional riders take on the unique challenge of the brutal cobbles of Northern France.

The race returns to the calendar after a year out due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The race was also pushed back from it's usual April slot to early October due to the pandemic.

This year also see the first ever women's Paris-Roubaix after the first edition was due to happen in 2020.

Classics exceeding 250km are quite common in the world of cycling, especially in France and multiple other races feature cobbled sections but there are no others quite as difficult as this race described as the 'Queen of the Classics'.

The cobblestones featured in this race are the most difficult sections ridden in any bike race, even those used in the cobbled Classics of Belgium in races such as the  Tour of Flanders and the E3 Saxo Bank Classic. 

The toughest of sectors are known for their jagged and uneven nature which takes a huge amount of skill to ride on at speed but it also requires an immense amount of luck.

In the men's race there is a huge amount of these sectors to deal with with 30 sections of pavé making a total of 54.5km of cobbles that makes up a fifth of the race that also far more than in the Flandrien Classics meaning that even finishing Paris-Roubaix is an achievement.

With the race usually being held in April bad weather would be expected to generally be bad, however, there has not been a wet running of the race since 2002. But, with the race taking place in October there is a chance the riders could be seen caked in mud with previous wet races giving the 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.

First is the Arenberg Forest at 94km, a long stretch of road rendered dark by the over-stretching 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-Pévèlè, 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). 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 Compiègne 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.

Women's Paris-Roubaix

For the first time ever, there will be a women's Paris-Roubaix, running just before the men's.

This has been campaigned for over many years and ASO have finally decided that it will happen.

We're expecting the route to be very similar to the one they were meant to race last year, so here is the information from that.

As usual with women's races, it is substantially shorter than the men's event at 116km compared to the men's which is over 250km, which is frustrating for some.

More frustrating is that the course joins the men's route just after the famous Trouée d'Arenburg, which many fans were looking forward to seeing the women's peloton tackle.

They will be taking in less cobbled than the men with just 25.9km of cobbles around 17 sectors of jagged pavé, whereas the men take on 30 sectors and 55km on cobbles.

Joining the men's course in Hornaing, the riders will take on the Hornaing to Wandignies sector at 3.7km it is the longest sector in the race.

The race is set to finish on the velodrome in Roubaix, where history will be made with the first winner of the women's 'Hell of the North'.

Paris-Roubaix pavé sectors

29: Troisvilles to Inchy (km 97.5 — 0.9 km) **

28: Briastre to Viesly (km 108.5 — 3 km) ****

27: Viesly to Quiévy (km 101.5 — 1.8 km) ***

26: Quiévy to Saint-Python (km 116 - 3.7 km) ****

25: Saint-Python (km 118.5 — 1.5 km) **

24: Vertain to Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon (km 127.5 — 2.3 km) ***

23: Verchain-Maugré to Quérénaing (km 136.5 — 1.6 km) ***

22: Quérénaing to Maing (km 140.5 — 2.5 km) ***

21: Maing to Monchaux-sur-Ecaillon (km 142.5 — 1.6 km) ***

20: Haveluy to Wallers (km 156.5 — 2.5 km) ****

19: Trouée d'Arenberg (km 164.5 — 2.3 km) *****

18: Wallers to Hélesmes (km 170 - 1.6 km) ***

17: Hornaing to Wandignies (km 179 - 3.7 km) ****

16: Warlaing to Brillon (km 185 - 2.4 km) ***

15: Tilloy to Sars-et-Rosières (km 188.5 — 2.4 km) ****

14: Beuvry to Orchies (km 194 — 1.4 km) ***

13: Orchies (km 199 — 1.7 km) ***

12: Auchy to Bersée (km 206.5 — 2.7 km) ****

11: Mons-en-Pévèle (km 212 - 3 km) *****

10: Mérignies to Avelin (km 215.5 - 0.7 km) **

9: Pont-Thibault to Ennevelin (km 220 - 1.4 km) ***

8: Templeuve — L'Épinette (km 224 - 0.2 km) *

8: Templeuve — Moulin-de-Vertain (km 225 - 0.5 km) **

7: Cysoing to Bourghelles (km 232 - 1.3 km) ***

6: Bourghelles to Wannehain (km 234.5 - 1.1 km) ***

5: Camphin-en-Pévèle (km 239.5 - 1.8 km) ****

4: Carrefour de l'Arbre (km 242.5 - 2.1 km) *****

3: Gruson (km 244 — 1.1 km) **

2: Willems to Hem (km 251 — 1.4 km) ***

1: Roubaix (km 256 — 0.3 km) *

Paris-Roubaix: Recent winners

2020: No race due to Covid-19
2019: Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
2018: Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
2017: Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
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

Key info: Start list 

Previous editions:  2019 | 20182017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

External links: Official website | Official Twitter feed