As soon as the first reconnaissance of the course, the organisation teams noticed the state of damages of the Wallers cobbled sector at Hélesmes, also known as the ''Pont Gibus''. 1.6 km long, the path is precisely dangerous and impassable on the first 400 metres. The decision to remove the sector from the course was therefore taken with the hope to have it back on the race soon. Situated at a strategic place, immediately after the Trouée d'Arenberg, this former 4 stars sector (on a difficulty scale going up to 5) indeed has an obvious impact on the race. The City Hall of Wallers has announced that it would take care of the works on this part of the sector so that it can have its place again for the 2010 edition.
From the Trouée d'Arenberg to the Roubaix Velodrome, going through the Carrefour de l'Arbre, the queen of Classics has numerous places filled with history for the cycling amateurs. The finest connoisseurs also have their habits at Troisvilles, in the common where the pack hits the first cobbled sectors. In the heart of the village, many meet at Chez Françoise, a place for those who have a passion for both omelettes and Paris-Roubaix. This year, the owners have decided to pay homage to Jean Stablinski who passed away on the 22nd of July 2007. The former minor who became a cycling World Champion was one of the guardians of the spirit of Paris-Roubaix, and often had a part in the evolution of the course thanks to his knowledge of the area. A picture of the champion has been set in front of the restaurant. "I have made it to the paradise of cycling", reassures Stablinski. If there is such a place, one probably enjoys a nice omelette every morning.
This week, Jean-François Pescheux went on the course of Paris-Roubaix to witness the advancement of works on the cobbled sector of Bersée that will be back on the course after a two-year absence. The works that consist of adding cobbled stones on a 600 metre long portion were done by the Communauté de communes du Pays de Pévèle, where the race traditionally remains for over an hour. The president, Luc Monet, Mayor of Templeuve, is especially devoted to the heritage that represents the cobbled stones of Paris-Roubaix.
Luc Monet, how was the renovation of the Bersée sector decided?
We already have a strong history in that domain because indeed we maintain the cobbled sectors of the race since 2002. But this time, the damages were so important that we were forced to call a company and no longer the gardening schools of the area. The bill was therefore a lot bigger, 230 000 €, and the Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais therefore granted us funds to start the works.
What was the works calendar?
Three teams of around ten people worked from the beginning of January in weather conditions that were sometimes difficult on the Bersée sector. We had to start by getting rid of the cobbled stones, then had to dig 60 cm to start new foundations, put sand and then the cobbled stones. All these operations are obviously manual which makes the work long. On average, the workers take care of ten metres per day. Now we are sure of being able to deliver the sector for the 31st of March. And we have the guarantee that it will be safeguarded from future damages; especially because the ditches dug on the sides allow the water to go by.
What are the stakes of your implication on this type of work?
For us, it is mainly the preservation of a heritage. We are naturally devoted to Paris-Roubaix and we precisely want the race to carry on going through the Pays de Pévèle. So it is natural to do what is necessary to welcome the race. We are on a strategic place of the race, the Communauté spreading all the way to the Carrefour de l'Arbre sector: that's were it all happens! Of course we sell our image on the day of Paris-Roubaix. The elected people have actually easily granted us their approval. We also expect consequences concerning tourism based on our investment. The renovated sectors are indeed also used for mountain-bike circuits or walking paths.
Here is the list of 24 teams selected to take part in Paris-Roubaix on the 12th of April.
After having been informed of the situation concerning the Amica Chips - Knauf team that is not included in the biological passport programme, the organisers have decided to take the team off the invitation list for the 107th edition.
Team Milram (MRM)
Landbouwkrediet - Colnago (LAN)
Silence - Lotto (SIL)
Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator (TSV)
Team Saxo Bank (SAX)
Caisse d’Epargne (GCE)
Euskaltel - Euskadi (EUS)
BMC Racing Team (BMC) Garmin - Slipstream (GRM)
Team Columbia - High Road (THR)
AG2R - La Mondiale (ALM)
BBox Bouygues Telecom (BTL)
Cofidis, Le Crédit en Ligne (COF)
Française des Jeux (FDJ)
Lampre - N.G.C. (LAM)
Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team (VAC)
Team Katusha (KAT)
Cervélo Test Team (CTT)
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The preparation continues on the course of Paris-Roubaix, more specifically concerning one of the strategic places of the race where a selection between possible winners on the Roubaix Velodrome starts. Just before the decisive sector of Mons-en-Pévèle, the cobbled portion leading to Auchy-lez-Orchies had been reduced to 1200 metres during the last two editions, due to the bad state of the cobbled stones on the last part. The renovation project, taken care of by the Communauté de Communes de Pévèle, the Conseil Général du Nord and the Région Nord-Pas de Calais, will allow the pack to go through this sector again in its completeness, 2500 metres. The riders will then be about 50 kilometres away from the finish.
Tom Boonen, without a big classic win since his Tour of Flanders victory in 2006, set the record straight when he won Paris-Roubaix for the second time at the end of a brilliant 106th edition.
The Queen of Classics could not have dreamt of a grander finale as the three leading favourites at the start were left to battle it out for victory in the last 35 kilometres.
Each of the 28 cobbled section had broken the hopes of the other contenders and 2006 winner Cancellara was the one to bear the fatal blow in Templeuve, followed his predecessor on the winners list, Boonen, and Italy’s Alessandro Ballan, the 2007 Tour of Flanders champion.
The big three remained together until the velodrome and former world champion Boonen was far too strong for his two rivals in the final sprint. He surged 200 metres from the line to collect the laurels and give his Quick Step team their second classic win in succession after the Tour of Flanders won by Stijn Devolder last week.
It looks like the suit of the big race favourite is especially hard to wear on Paris-Roubaix where the title holders are often in trouble. What will be Stuart O’Grady’s fate, the winner in style of last year’s edition after breaking away in the final part making the best of the tense battle between the cobbled stones specialists? The first Australian winner of the queen of classics, who witnessed a fairly tougher summer after a heavy fall during the Tour de France, will certainly be a key rider in the CSC team plans, but what role will he really play? His leader Fabian Cancellara, who has shown his impressive shape ever since his victory in Milan-San Remo, could like last year and like recently on the Tour of Flanders pay his supposed superiority and be slightly too watched by his main rivals. Tom Boonen, also often troubled by that status of “man to beat” will show up with a slimmer record of victories this season for the end of his classics campaign. He however remains one of the men to follow when it comes to tips, unless his team mate and compatriot Stijn Devolder manages a prestigious double: “Ronde” - Roubaix.
Around all these champions who have struggled to gain their role as possible winners, one should also add the likes of Alessandro Ballan. Several other contenders should also be battling it out at the entry of the famous Trouée d’Arenberg, traditional theatre for a first selection. The Belgians will try to play their part with for example Nuyens (COF), Hoste and Van Avermaet (SIL). One should also not forget the appetite of regulars in the front positions who have even more belief for this year’s edition: Flecha (RAB), Hincapie (THR), Wesemann (COS) or Pozzato (LIQ) will without doubt be eager to triumph.
|The main favourites from the 25 teams|
Gerolsteiner: Haussler, Lang (All)
Topsport Vlaanderen: Eeckhout (Bel)
Cycle Collstrop: Wesemann (Sui)
Quick Step: Boonen, Devolder, Steegmans (Bel)
Landbouwkrediet - Tonissteiner: A.Capelle, Steels (Bel)
Silence - Lotto: Hoste, Van Avermaet (Bel)
Team CSC: Cancellara (Sui), O'Grady (Aus)
Euskaltel - Euskadi: Albizuri (Esp)
Caisse d'Epargne: Gutierrez (Esp), Portal (Fra)
Saunier Duval - Scott: Flahaut (Fra), Pagliarini (Bre)
Slipstream Chipotle: Backstedt (Sue), Dean (Nzl)
Team High Road: Hammond (Gbr), Hincapie (Usa)
AG2R - La Mondiale: Krivtsov (Ukr), J-P.Nazon (Fra)
Agritubel: Casper, Lequatre (Fra)
Bouygues Telecom: Martias (Fra), Pütsep (Est)
Credit Agricole: Hushovd (Nor), Renshaw (Aus)
Cofidis Le crédit par téléphone: Brard (Fra), Nuyens (Bel)
Française des Jeux: Guesdon, Mengin (Fra)
Barloworld: Cooke (Aus), Hunter (Afs)
Lampre: Ballan, Napolitano (Ita)
Liquigas: Chicchi, Pozzato, Quinziato (Ita)
Tinkoff Credit Systems: Loddo (Ita)
Rabobank: Flecha (Esp), Langeveld (Hol)
Skil - Shimano: Lhôtellerie (Fra), Siedler (All)
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Based on the reconnaissance of the course carried out on April 7 by Christian Prudhomme and Jean-François Pescheux, the organisers have attributed the degree of difficulty for each of the 28 cobblestone sectors of the race, evaluated by length, irregularity and the general state of each section and its location. After the work carried out last year on the Troisville sector and the addition of the new, le Chemin du Moulin sector, situated between Beuvry-la-forêt and Orchies, the course for the 106th edition will be identical to that of 2007.
Additionally, this reconnaissance day was an occasion to pay tribute to Jean Stablinski, who past away this past July 22nd. The once miner, turned world cycling champion was one of the guardians of the Paris-Roubaix esprit. As a resident of Aulnoy-les-Valenciennes, Stablinski regularly took part, thanks to his vast knowledge of the region, in the evolution of the route. He was, for example, at the origins of the introduction of the Arenberg trench and more recently discovered the uphill Buat sector, which has been part of the race for the past two years. A pillar was inaugurated in “Stab’s” honour at the beginning of the famous Trouée de Wallers-Arenberg: “He was the only person to have worked in the hole as a miner and ridden over it”, declared Alain Bocquet, president of the commune of Porte du Hainaut, who was on hand for the ceremonies among with numerous personalities.
|The 28 cobblestone sectors of the Paris-Roubaix|
28. Troisvilles (km 98 - 2200 m) +++
27. Viesly (km 104,5 - 1800 m) +++
26. Quievy (km 107 - 3700 m) ++++
25. Saint-Python (km 112 - 1500 m) ++
24. Vertain (km 119,5 - 2000 m) +++
23. Capelle-sur-Ecaillon - Le Buat (km 126,5 - 1700 m) +++
22. Verchain-Maugré - Quérénaing (km 138 - 1600 m) +++
21. Querenaing - Maing (km 141 - 2500 m) +++
20. Monchaux-sur-Ecaillon (km 144 - 1600 m) +++
19. Haveluy (km 155,5 - 2500 m) ++++
18. Trouée d’Arenberg (km 163,5 - 2400 m) +++++
17. Wallers - Hélesmes (km 170 - 1600 m) ++++
16. Hornaing - Wandignies (km 176,5 - 3700 m) +++
15. Warlaing - Brillon (km 184 - 2400 m) +++
14. Tilloy - Sars-et-Rosières (187,5 - 2400 m) +++
13. Beuvry-la-Forêt à Orchies (km 194 - 1400m) +++
12. Orchies (km 198,5 - 1700 m) +++
11. Auchy-lez-Orchies - Bersée (km 205 - 1200 m) +++
10. Mons-en-Pévèle (km 210,5 - 3000 m) +++++
9. Mérignies - Pont-à-Marcq (km 216,5 - 700 m) ++
8. Pont-Thibaut (km 219,5 - 1400 m) +++
7. Templeuve l’Epinette (km 225 - 200 m) +
7. Le Moulin de Vertain (km 225,5 - 500 m) ++
6. Cysoing - Bourghelles (km 232 - 1300 m) ++++
6. Bourghelles - Wannehain (km 234,5 - 1100 m) ++++
5. Camphin-en-Pévèle (km 239 - 1800 m) ++++
4. Le Carrefour de l’Arbre (km 242 - 2100 m) +++++
3. Gruson (km 244 - 1100 m) ++
2. Hem (km 251 - 1400 m) +
1. Roubaix (km 257 - 300 m) +
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The organisers of Paris Roubaix (13 avril), Flèche Wallonne (23 avril) and Liège Bastogne Liège (27 avril) have selected teams :
Team Milram (MRM)
Silence - Lotto (SIL)
Topsport Vlaanderen (TSV)
Team CSC (CSC)
Caisse d’Epargne (GCE)
Euskaltel - Euskadi (EUS)
Saunier Duval - Scott (SDV)
High Road (THR)
Slipstream Chipotle (TSL)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM)
Bouygues Telecom (BTL)
Cofidis Le crédit par téléphone (COF)
Credit Agricole (C.A)
Française Des Jeux (FDJ)
Tinkoff Credit Systems (TCS)
Rabobank (RAB) Skil-Shimano (SKS)
Cycle Collstrop (COS)
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Stuart O’Grady outwitted the favourites to become the first Australian to win the Queen of classics, Paris-Roubaix. Taking over from team leader and title-holder Fabian Cancellara, the 33-year-old rider from Adelaide surged 25 kms from the line to finish on his own on the Roubaix cycling track.
Hampered by injury for most of last season, the CSC rider took the sweetest revenge with the best of the 46 victories in his career, which included a couple of Tour de France stages and an Olympic gold medal for the Madison in Athens.
O’Grady beat Spain’s Juan-Antonio Flecha, who reacted too late in a sunny and dusty 105th edition to do better than second after finishing 4th and third in the past. Germany’s Steffen Wesemann (Sizenhof) was third.