The format of the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Challenge has suffered a series of significant - and unfortunate - alterations.
BikeRadar were invited to test out the route last month, which was due to run 162km from Saint-Quentin to the Roubaix Velodrome, with 147km on closed roads. Held on the same weekend as the professional race (one of the few details that has gone unchanged), it was designed to replicate its atmosphere and intensity.
But just two weeks before race day, event organisers ASO have been forced into a substantial scaling back of the event. There will now be no timing or classification in the challenge, so it is no longer a race. The 162km event - with 147km of closed roads - will now be a more relaxed 138km ride on open roads, with volunteers on hand to direct at major junctions. And the finish in the Roubaix Velodrome has been axed, with riders completing the ride close to the final cobblestone section of Carrefour de l’Arbre.
Services such as the planned four refreshment points, technical assistance from Mavic and a medical service are still in place, but the changes will come as a big blow to anyone who had planned on racing. In an email to those already registered, ASO cited the scheduling of the event as the main reason for the changes.
“An exhaustive study of the safety measures to be implemented on the same weekend as the elite event revealed that we have to change the event form…Indeed, despite the efforts of relevant authorities, we could not validate the private use of roads for the first edition," it said.
Race organiser Laurent Boquillet told Bikeradar ASO were powerless when the police withdrew their planned support at the eleventh hour. "It was an external and extraordinary event that forced the police to withdraw from assuring all the security on the road. We just didn't have enough police to maintain the scheduled closed roads Therefore we did not take the risk to stage a race."
He was optimistic about next year's event, but couldn't confirm it would be held at the same time. "We are extremely motivated to stage a proper race finishing in the velodrome next year," he added. "We will learn from this year’s difficulties to decide about the ideal date for 2012 and a decision will take place before the summer."
ASO have offered people who have registered for event two options; a full refund, or a reduced registration of €40 to take part in the ride in ‘a more relaxed atmosphere.’ For more information, visit the events official website at www.parisroubaixchallenge.com.