As the dust settles from the recent Tour de France, race organizers are satisfied and relieved to have brought the world’s greatest cycling race back to Paris. But they are also worried about the races to come, in particular Paris-Roubaix. Because while the Tour de France was making its annual loop across the country, the coronavirus crisis has only worsened in France, while the country continues to record daily highs in the number of new cases.
The French government this week announced new decrees, imposing curfews in bars and limiting social gatherings. And Paris-Roubaix could be one of its next victims since the race takes place in the north of France and crosses many high-risk areas.
According to the new government measure announced on September 23, bars will close at 10 p.m., organized public events are canceled, gymnasiums and training centers will be closed, and groups of more than 10 people are prohibited in public parks. And if such measures mainly concern large French cities, Paris-Roubaix starts outside Paris in Compiègne, while Roubaix is in the shadow of the northern city of Lille.
And as the government increases restrictions, it will be increasingly difficult for race organizers to host the cobblestone classic as most large-scale public events are canceled.
Tour de France race director Thierry Gouvenou admits that the deterioration in health considerably complicates things for Paris-Roubaix, scheduled for October 25. “For now, we must follow the instructions of the state,” Gouvenou told VeloNews on Friday. “We have a meeting with the prefecture next week and we will know more. But the situation is not improving. ”
Gouvenou says ASO will come up with a series of measures like they did for the Tour. And maybe their Tour record – which is widely regarded as a success – will convince the authorities to make an exception for Roubaix. But he admits that nothing is taken for granted.
“At best, Paris-Roubaix will take place like the Tour de France, with different bubbles.” But Gouvenou admits the Tour de France model is the best-case scenario, and if he doesn’t want to jump to conclusions, he admits the race could well be called off altogether.
“We will come up with a series of measures,” he said. “And it is certain that the Roubaix velodrome will not be crowded with people. It just won’t happen this year. But we have to be flexible in this area. We have to adapt. ”
But if the operation of Roubaix this year could well be called into question, Gouvenou remains hopeful, at least until the next meeting with the French authorities.