Next month’s 118th edition of Paris-Roubaix, not held last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, is once again at risk of postponement as northern France enters into a four-week lockdown from midnight tonight.
The race starts in Compiègne, some 85 kilometres north of Paris, and takes place entirely within the Hauts-des-France region, one of those to be placed under lockdown amid fears of a third wave of COVID-19.
France reported 35,000 new cases yesterday, three quarters of those attributable to the particularly virulent British variant of the virus, reports the Guardian.
With hospitals at risk of being overwhelmed and the temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the government has been forced to reintroduce lockdown across much of the north of the country, including Paris, along with the Alpes-Maritimes department where a rise in cases last weekend caused changes to the routes of the final two stages of Paris-Nice.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Jean Castex said: “The epidemic is getting worse. Our responsibility now is to not let it escape our control.”
He said the new lockdown would last for “Four weeks, the time required for the measures to generate a sufficient impact,” which is “the time we need to reach a threshold in the vaccination of the most vulnerable.”
Earlier this month, race director Thierry Gouvenou of ASO confirmed that he had secured the necessary authorisations for the event to go ahead on 11 April as planned.
There has been no response as yet from ASO regarding the impact of yesterday’s government announcement on the race.
Last year’s edition – which was also due to see the debut of the much anticipated women’s race – was postponed from April to October before being cancelled as the second wave struck in the autumn.
It was only the eighth time that Paris-Roubaix had been cancelled since the first edition in 1896.
The race was suspended from 1915-18 due to the First World War – its nickname, the Hell of the North, refers to the devastated landscape of northern France that organisers encountered ahead of it resuming in 1919 – and again from 1940-42 during the Second World War.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.