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'The sky is looking less blue' as Paris-Roubaix 2021 increasingly uncertain

Joe Robinson
22 Mar 2021

'Third wave' of coronavirus infections could see the Hell of the North cancelled for the second year running

The chances of the men's and women's Paris-Roubaix taking place next month are beginning to look slimmer by the day.

A 'third wave' of coronavirus cases has gripped much of northern France in the past month seeing the North and Hauts-de-France regions – the areas which the Cobbled Classic races through – placed back into new, strict lockdown measures.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the new four-week long measures on Thursday, commenting that 'the situation is deteriorating' as further concerns arose around a variant of the virus detected in Britanny that is said to evade PCR detection protocols currently in place by professional cycling.

While the announcements by Castex painted a bleak picture, a glimmer of hope remained for the one-day Classic event as it was confirmed that professional sport could continue to take place in regions under lockdown if able to adhere to restrictions.

However, on Monday morning, the chances of the men's and the inaugural women's Roubaix taking place were dealt another blow.

Talking to France Bleu television, Prefect of the Hauts-de-France region Michel Lalande stated that things were not looking good for the race.

'I'll give you an answer when the time is right, but you can guess it,' Lalande said when asked about Roubaix taking place. 'But the sky is looking less blue.'

According to Lalande, the big deciding factor for Paris-Roubaix is that of fans and whether the region can prevent groups of people gathering roadside to spectate the race. Unlike a football or rugby game taking place in a stadium, making sure all 268km of the route is clear of spectators will require the time and resources that are otherwise not available at this time. 

Races across the border in Belgium have taken place recently without fans, notably last autumn's rescheduled Tour of Flanders, but it seems Lalande is less convinced he can 'reconcile with safety regulators' that empty roadsides would be guaranteed.

If this year's Paris-Roubaix does fall foul to Covid, it will join the 2020 edition of the race which was postponed from its usual April date before being cancelled altogether in the autumn. It will also mean a second postponement of the long-awaited inaugural edition of the women's race.

The question now is when we can expect a definitive decision and whether, if cancelled, the Hell of the North will be able to be held later in the year.