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

Organisers heed riders' request for a tight chicane ahead of the mythical cobblestone segment, in a bid to improve safety

Clock18:27, Wednesday 3rd April 2024
The Arenberg Forest is a feared sector of Paris-Roubaix because of the severity of the cobblestone and the likelihood of crashes on the bone-rattling stones that run through the forest

© Getty Images

The Arenberg Forest is a feared sector of Paris-Roubaix because of the severity of the cobblestone and the likelihood of crashes on the bone-rattling stones that run through the forest

The organisers of Paris-Roubaix have dramatically altered the entry into the crucial Arenberg Forest cobbled sector, implementing a tight chicane to reduce the speed into the sector.

The Arenberg Forest, also known as the 'Trouée d'Arenberg' (Trench of Arenberg), is notorious for its difficulty and the fight for position into the sector is the first major pinch point of the race, where the first selections are made.

The entry into the sector is also the site of frequent crashes as the riders typically hit the harsh cobblestones in excess of 60kph.

The chicane, which is reminiscent of a criterium feature, will undoubtedly bring the speeds way down before the sector and could make the race break apart even more on the 2.4km stretch of cobblestones itself.

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"For safety reasons and following a request from the CPA, the Paris Roubaix organisation is modifying the approach to the Trouée d'Arenberg,” the race organisers said in a statement. “The route will take a chicane just before the entrance to the sector to slow the speed at which the riders enter the sector and limit the risk of crashes on the cobbles.”

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The involvement of the CPA, the association of pro riders, in encouraging the change was confirmed by the president of the organisation, Adam Hansen.

“Riders reached [out], and we acted on their behalf. Now, with a slower entrance to Arenberg, riders won't hit it with speed and momentum. It's going to make this sector even harder than before,” Hansen said in a response to the announcement on X.

While details of the chicane remained sparse at first, it appears that the new addition uses the highway interchange that sits right before the entrance to the sector. The chicane would include two 90-degree turns and a full 180-degree turn, which should reduce the pace of the peloton to a crawl.

Furthermore, any crashes in the chicane would be away from the rock-hard cobblestones of the Arenberg Forest and would be around 25 to 40 kph instead of 50 to 60 kph.

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From a racing perspective, the chicane should also produce a massive accordion effect from the bottleneck. With the chicane leading directly to the harsh cobblestone of the sector, the peloton will begin the sector in a long line, which will increase the possibility of splits, and those splits will likely lead to bigger time gaps coming out of the sector.

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