Paris-Roubaix is a one-day professional bicycle road race in France, starting north of Paris (in Compiègne about 85 kilometres north-east of the centre of Paris) and finishing on the Belgian border. First run in 1896, Paris–Roubaix is one of cycling’s oldest races. It is also notorious for it’s difficult conditions.
The race, which is a ‘Monument’ or classics of the European calendar get’s it’s nickname ‘Hell of the North’ for it’s rough terrain and cobblestones (setts). Since 1977, the winner of Paris–Roubaix has received a sett (cobble stone) as part of his prize. The terrain has led to the development of specialised frames, wheels and tyres, yet punctures and other mechanical problems still often influence the results.
Despite the esteem of the race, some cyclists dismiss it because of its difficult conditions.
The course is maintained by Les Amis de Paris–Roubaix, a group of fans of the race formed in 1983. The forçats du pavé seek to keep the course safe for riders while maintaining its difficulty.
Enduring this Sunday in Hell, contributes points towards the UCI World Ranking.
In 1976 Danish documentary filmmaker Jørgen Leth directed a film called A Sunday in Hell and features riders of the time such as Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck (the previous year’s winner), Freddy Maertens, and Francesco Moser.
“You can see every bead of sweat on the cyclists and every smashed-up ankle. It really makes you never want to get on a bike again. But it is an amazing film.” – Nick Fraser, BBC commissioning editor