COMPIGNE: Defending champion Mathieu van der Poel goes into Sunday’s muddy, cobbled Paris-Roubaix bike race sceptical over new safety measures in a week when several of the sport’s biggest stars were hospitalised.

Miles of mud and millions of cobbles have lent the race the name of ‘the Hell of the North’ and a reputation of the most gruelling one-day race in cycling.

In 2018, one competitor the Belgian Michael Goolaerts was found slumped dead by the roadside after heart failure, and the peloton will pass a memorial to him along the route.

First run in 1896, broken wheels and broken bones have been part of the history of the annual race due to the hefty hunks of cobble that surface around 57km of the 260km route.

Organisers this week introduced a u-turn to slow the riders ahead of their entry into the legendary section outside the 650m deep Arenberg coal-mine.

World champion and one day racing’s hottest star van der Poel asked on X: “Is this a joke”.

But as cycling fans tune in Sunday, their thoughts will be with Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglic, who were among those hospitalised after crashing at the Tour of the Basque Country on Thursday.

Of road cycling’s five huge one-day races known as the Monuments due to their epic length Paris-Roubaix, which now starts in Compiegne 80km from the French capital, is known as ‘Queen of the classics’ because it is the toughest.

The 25 teams select seven of their sturdiest riders on the cobbles to cope with the repeated punctures and frequent falls.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

First steps
Updated 29 May, 2024

First steps

One hopes that this small change will pave the way for bigger things.
Rafah inferno
29 May, 2024

Rafah inferno

THE level of barbarity witnessed in Sunday’s Israeli air strike targeting a refugee camp in Rafah is shocking even...
On a whim
29 May, 2024

On a whim

THE sudden declaration of May 28 as a public holiday to observe Youm-i-Takbeer — the anniversary of Pakistan’s...
Afghan puzzle
Updated 28 May, 2024

Afghan puzzle

Unless these elements are neutralised, it will not be possible to have the upper hand over terrorist groups.
Attacking minorities
28 May, 2024

Attacking minorities

Mobs turn into executioners due to the authorities’ helplessness before these elements.
Persistent scourge
Updated 29 May, 2024

Persistent scourge

THE challenge of polio in Pakistan has reached a new nadir, drawing grave concerns from the Technical Advisory Group...