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Paris-Roubaix: why the chicane at the entrance to the Trouée d’Arenberg is not unanimous

The initiative, on paper, appears interesting.

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Paris-Roubaix: why the chicane at the entrance to the Trouée d’Arenberg is not unanimous

The initiative, on paper, appears interesting. But it could well prove counterproductive. At the request of the riders' union, the Paris-Roubaix organization installed a chicane just before the entrance to the Trouée d'Arenberg, one of the most difficult cobbled sectors in the Hell of the North. The goal ? Slow down the peloton - which generally arrives at more than 60 km/h in this emblematic place of the "Queen of Classics" - in order to reduce the risk of falling at full speed. Thus, just after passing the railway line, the runners will have to “go around the island to approach the gap at a speed of around 25 km/h”, race director Thierry Gouvenou explained to AFP.

However, the implementation of such a system could produce the opposite effect to that hoped for. At least that's what several players in the world of cycling believe, like Thierry Gouvenou: "I wrote to them (to the riders' union, editor's note) that it (the chicane, editor's note) could pose problems, particularly because there would be a greater brake. They told me: we prefer to brake hard at the risk of falling on tarmac rather than entering the Arenberg gap at 65 km/h,” he told AFP. The Paris-Roubaix race director is not the only one to think that installing such a chicane is not a good idea. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), winner last year and huge favorite in the race this year, was very surprised. “Is this a joke?” he asked on X (formerly Twitter), after viewing the images of the device.

For Marc Madiot, one of the legends of the Hell of the North (winner in 1985 and 1991 among professionals), it is obvious that the chicane will cause a fall. “As it is fucked up there, it makes a U-turn on the road. So instead of it falling on the cobblestones, it will fall before, the manager of Groupama-FDJ told L’Équipe. We are on a hairpin where the guys will arrive at 50 per hour, the first will try to pass, if there is one who misses, there will be 80 in the same situation. It can’t pass without falling, for me.” In addition, if it were to rain or if the road were to be wet, braking hard on the level crossing would undoubtedly be very dangerous, especially for a peloton of several dozen riders.

In addition to a fall at the chicane, the installation of such a device could increase the risk of an incident upstream. Indeed, by approaching the Trouée d'Arenberg at a slower pace, the best runners will, in fact, have more chances of making big differences. Therefore, it becomes absolutely essential - even more than usual - for all leaders to be placed in the very first positions at the entrance to the chicane. The peloton could thus be (even) more excited than usual...With all the risks that this entails.

Also readParis-Roubaix: at what time and on which channel to follow the “Queen of the Classics”?

Despite everything, the installation of this “speed bump” is appreciated by some runners. Like Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike), recent winner of Paris-Nice and À Travers les Flanders: “Is this what the fans want to see? Runners completely covered in blood after sliding headfirst at 80 km/h on sharp cobblestones in a forest? I still prefer a few turns and guys sliding on the road...", published on the Australian Mitchell Docker, his face covered in blood following a fall.

In the coming years, another initiative could be taken to reduce the speed of runners before the Trouée d'Arenberg: "In the long term we will think about a more fluid system but given the time limit it was the best solution", indicated Thierry Gouvenou. One thing is certain, the chicane gets people talking. Let's hope she doesn't do the same this Sunday.

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