Franco Ballerini in 1995 © Presse Sports
There are races to suit all tastes.
In cycling mythology, Easter Sunday is regarded above all as a day for road racers. With a route of "just" 280 km in 1896, the youngest born of the great French classics paled into insignificance alongside Bordeaux-Paris and Paris-Brest-Paris. However, this race, from Porte Maillot in Paris to the Velodrome in Park Barbieux in the French town of Roubaix, has now taken on legendary status.
Over the years, it has become an annual pilgrimage for devotees of hard graft. With guaranteed thrills and spills, obstacles and twists of fate, all efforts are focused on staying in the race. Paris-Roubaix is still, as in pre-war days, a contest of strength, reserved for acrobats on two wheels. It's the ultimate cycling race for surpassing your own limits.
The Trouée d'Arenberg and the Carrefour de l'Arbre have resisted the lure of tarmac. The pack's annual pilgrimage is an action-packed, hair raising affair. With a series of punctured tyres, broken forks, and even wrists. Visions of men, champions, emerge from overwhelming mud and dust. At the heart of this arduous test, these misshapen and unforgiving cobbles make or break individual fates. It has become a priceless symbol, which riders struggle to capture with contorted features and grim determination. On certain blessed days, the lead rider may even feel a guiding hand: "I was walking on water, just like Jesus", said the late Franco Ballerini in 1995, after his first victory at Roubaix. As long as we have cobbles…
Director of the Tour de France