The North has always fired the imagination. If many have only recently discovered on the silver screen the charms of this little corner of France, the world of cycling has thrilled to its magic every year for more than 110 years. The history of the region and the people who live there invites the champions to excel on the bracing routes that characterise them so accordingly. Beyond the acquisition of a prize, top riders eagerly seek out the simple prestige associated with the fundamental nature of this region where, as in cycling, the values of effort and humility prevail. In Roubaix, there are no sequins or spangles: victory is earned in the mud and the dust, the traces of which are proudly exhibited in the legendary velodrome at the finish
Perceptibly more significant on Paris-Roubaix than anywhere else, this « classic spirit », is shared by the most hard-line, the most consistent and often, quite simply, the finest sprinters in the world. A gruelling preparation, a will of iron, and occasionally a little luck are the prerequisites to winning Paris-Roubaix. Whether the scenario is played out from a long way off, on the toughest sections of the route, or only as the velodrome looms into view, talent and audacity always determine final victory. These characteristics render the race open to all « heavyweights », provided they possess the requisite touch of folly. The last three winners of the queen of the classics, Boonen, Cancellara and O’Grady, all capable of winning fame at the very highest level in other seasons and on different ground, perfectly illustrate this alchemy. They know the price to be paid on the Roubaix cobblestones.
Director of the Tour de France