The long wait for Paris-Roubaix, and the even longer wait for a wet men’s “Hell of the North,” will come to a close Sunday.
Rain poured heavy over northern eastern France from Saturday afternoon all the way through Sunday morning, meaning the 2021 men’s Paris-Roubaix will be the first truly wet edition since 2002.
The promise of a long-awaited “Muddy Roubaix” adds further hype-factor to the return of the cobblestone monument, which has not been raced since April 2019.
Overnight downpours through the Nord départment of France eased in the hours before the peloton rolled out of Campiègne early Sunday. However, forecasts are calling for further rain through the morning before skies turn brighter as the race rumbles toward Roubaix.
The inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes on Saturday saw riders struggle to stay upright on the mudslicked pavé after rain fell earlier through the week. Annemiek van Vleuten was left out of action with a broken pubic bone and only 61 of the 129 starters finished within the time cut as rain fell through the final hours of the women’s race, worsening the already damp and slimey stones.
The dozens of tire tracks traced by the women’s peloton Saturday will have churned the already wet ground and spread mud from the adjacent farmer’s fields across the cobblestones ahead of the men’s race.
“A missed opportunity… the Ethias Cyclocross in Meulebeke would have just been the perfect preparation for tomorrow,” Wout van Aert joked on Twitter, referring to Saturday’s Belgian CX event.
Just like Paris-Roubaix Femmes made history Saturday, the men’s race will make an altogether different type of history Sunday. Bring your rubber dinghies, it’s going to be a wet one.
Now the dust mud has settled on the first Paris-Roubaix Femmes, we can reflect on a race that delivered on all the anticipation and then some. A race for the ages, a barnstorming solo breakaway win, and enough tech to have my head in a spin.
Earlier this week, we followed Trek-Segafredo’s Paris-Roubaix recon and their Project One Trek Domane. Three days later, Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini navigated the cobbled roads of northern France aboard the very same bikes to take first and third in the Roubaix velodrome.
Marianne Vos stood on the second step of that podium, separating the two Trek teammates. Vos was aboard a Cervelo Caledonia that we had the pleasure of shooting just an hour before the start in Denain.
The next we saw of those bikes was moments after the finish, caked in mud and literally draped in blood, sweat and tears. If bikes could talk, these three would have one heck of a story to tell. Enjoy this gallery of the Roubaix podium bikes.