Paris-Roubaix - The Hell of the North - Retro Peloton

Paris-Roubaix - The Hell of the North

The Paris-Roubaix cycle race, often dubbed as "The Hell of the North," is one of the oldest and most prestigious one-day professional cycling events in the world and one of cycling’s five legendary 'Monuments'. Its rich history, spanning over more than a century, has made it a legendary and iconic fixture in the cycling calendar. From its inception in the late 19th century to its modern-day prominence, Paris-Roubaix has captivated cyclists and fans alike with its often gruelling conditions and unpredictable challenges.

The origins of Paris-Roubaix can be traced back to the late 19th century when cycling was gaining popularity as a sport in France. In 1896, the first edition of the race took place, organized by the newspaper Le Vélo to boost its circulation. The inaugural race covered a distance of 280 kilometres from Paris to Roubaix, a city in northern France, hence its name. Since then, the race has undergone numerous modifications in terms of route and distance, but its essence remains the same – a demanding test of endurance and skill over a mix of flat roads and bone-rattling cobblestone sectors.

The race now starts in Compiègne, around 80km outside of Paris and finishes at the famous Vélodrome André-Pétrieux where the closing metres have taken place since 1943 (with the exception of 1986-88 where the finish was held outside the HQ of race sponsor La Redoute). The riders traditionally complete one and a half laps of the vélodrome before crossing the finish line.

One of the defining features of Paris-Roubaix is its cobblestone sectors, which are notorious for their rough and uneven surface. These sections, totalling over 50 kilometres in length, pose a significant challenge to the riders, testing their bike-handling skills, endurance, and mental fortitude. The cobblestones have become synonymous with the race with many a race ruined on the pavè.

Over the years, Paris-Roubaix has witnessed countless memorable moments and legendary performances. Cyclists such as Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck, and Tom Boonen have left their mark on the race, each adding to its illustrious history with their feats of athleticism and determination. The race has also seen its fair share of dramatic finishes, with victories often decided by mere seconds after hours of gruelling racing.

One of the most iconic depictions of Paris-Roubaix is captured in the documentary film "A Sunday in Hell." Directed by Jørgen Leth and released in 1976, the film offers a mesmerizing glimpse into the world of professional cycling, focusing on the 1976 edition of Paris-Roubaix. Through stunning cinematography and intimate storytelling, "A Sunday in Hell" immerses viewers in the chaos and drama of the race, highlighting the physical and psychological toll it takes on the riders. The film has since attained cult status among cycling enthusiasts, revered for its artistic merit and authentic portrayal of the sport.

In addition to its cultural significance, Paris-Roubaix holds a special place in the hearts of cycling fans worldwide. Its unique blend of tradition, brutality, and unpredictability makes it a must-watch event on the cycling calendar. Whether it's the sight of riders battling through mud and dust, the deafening roar of the crowds, or the jubilation of crossing the finish line, Paris-Roubaix continues to captivate audiences and inspire generations of cyclists to push their limits in pursuit of glory.

As the race continues to evolve and adapt to the changing landscape of professional cycling, one thing remains certain – Paris-Roubaix will always be remembered as a true test of champions.

Check out our range of team jerseys associated with Paris-Roubaix

Back to blog