Adam Hansen defends Paris-Roubaix Arenberg chicane amid Mathieu van der Poel's public criticism

'One minute before the Arenberg they’ll all want the chicane' says CPA president as he tries to make racing safer for the pro peloton

Clock11:34, Thursday 4th April 2024
Racing through the Arenberg Forest at Paris-Roubaix

Racing through the Arenberg Forest at Paris-Roubaix

Adam Hansen, the president of the CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels Associés) has defended the new safety measures introduced ahead of Paris-Roubaix after world champion Mathieu van der Poel labelled them 'a joke' on social media.

The CPA advocates for the interests of pro riders and ahead of Paris-Roubaix the organisation looked to improve the safety around the infamous section of road that leads directly into the Arenberg Forest. The peloton typically hits this vicious cobbled sector at over 60kph, and crashes are common.

In the build-up to this year’s race, Hansen approached Paris-Roubaix organisers, ASO, with three possible safety improvement options. The first two involved taking routes parallel to the normal Arenberg approach, which would have meant riders turning either left or right, while slowing down as they entered the forest. However, one of the roads remains incomplete, while the second is too narrow.

The third option was the introduction of a chicane, which has brought mixed reactions from riders on social media after it was announced on Wednesday. The chicane will force the riders to brake and slow down ahead of the Arenberg, and while it may take some of the spectacle away from the weekend's racing, it is designed to reduce the risk of crashes and major injuries.

Read more: Paris-Roubaix: Chicane added to slow entry to Arenberg cobbled sector

However, on Wednesday, Van der Poel, the reigning men's Paris-Roubaix champion, took to X and posted "Is this a joke?" above a video showing the new route adjustment.

According to Hansen, every team on the start list of Paris-Roubaix was approached directly for approval, with the vast majority agreeing to the new measures.

“It’s been a topic since last year and there are a whole bunch of riders who say [the Arenberg] is way too dangerous and should not be part of the race. I’ve had team directors say to me that the section should be taken out and we have been talking about possible ways of slowing down dangerous sections because high-speed crashes aren’t good," Hansen told GCN during a call on Thursday.

“A couple of weeks ago, as the race came up and was back in riders’ minds, they came back saying that it was crazy and were asking if we could create some type of diversion. So first I reached out to ASO and they jumped on it straight away. I gave them three options. They couldn't go with A because there was a massive hole in the road, and option B was too narrow, but there was option C, which is a slightly shorter version of what ASO have gone with. They said it was possible but that I needed to make sure the riders were on board.

“I reached out to one rider on every team, or one of the directors. Some of the riders thought about it for a few days and with all the teams, they were happy with one of the three options. Two teams came back with six of out seven riders in support but the rest were all 100 per cent," Hansen added.

Impossible to please everyone

Some riders, such as Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike) took to social media to support the new measures, with the American wisely pointing out that changes that would potentially improve the safety of riders should be welcomed.

"Is this what fans want to see? Riders completely covered in blood after sliding face-first at 50mph/80kph on sharp rocks in a forest? I’ll take a couple of turns and some guys sliding out on pavement any day…" the American wrote above a photo of an Orica rider covered in blood.

However, while Van der Poel agreed with Hansen in a private chat that riding into the Arenberg at 60kph wasn’t safe, the Dutch rider was obviously less than complimentary with regards to the method of slowing the race down. According to Hansen, the rider's team were canvased for their opinion.

“I spoke to three members of the team and if they can’t organise themselves within their team, then there’s not much more I can do," Hansen said.

"As soon I saw Van der Poel’s Tweet I reached out to one of the guys and asked for his number and I messaged him directly explaining that I wrote to his DS and other riders in his team and that I was sorry it’s gone this way and not one of the better options. Van der Poel's not a fan of that option, that’s for sure, but he does support that there should be a slow entry into the Arenberg. I’ve spoken to him about that.

"We can either leave it or make the change. It’s up to the riders," Hansen added. "It doesn’t mean that everyone is super happy but it does mean the riders aren’t going full gas into the Arenberg. The only thing this changes is the entry speed into the Arenberg but that was the whole goal. We wanted to slow them down because as we’ve seen over the years, if there’s one little issue it’s a mass pile-up."

Read more: The real heroes of Paris-Roubaix? Goats let loose on the cobbles of Arenberg

When asked about the volume of dissatisfied voices, Hansen said: “It was really a small percentage. You could see directly that everyone was very supportive of the idea.”

Hansen also defended the timing of the news, stating that these changes were happening in the background for weeks. Not for the first time, it seems that communication within the teams has been part of the problem, rather than the work of Hansen and the CPA.

"Some of the comments were saying it was insane to make the change three days before the race but the riders knew this well before Flanders," he said.

"The public needs to understand that a lot of riders who want this will not speak up on social media and the riders who don’t want it, will speak up because that’s the bravery, but one minute before the Arenberg they’ll all want the chicane.

"Anyone who has done Roubaix knows that when you go on the Arenberg at 60kph you have no idea what’s going to happen. At least with a chicane, you know what’s going to happen."

For more of the latest updates from the pro peloton, visit our race news page.

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