Arenberg: cobbled with great ambitions (4/7)


CYCLISME - 2012 - boonen (tom) - (bel) - - hunt (jeremy) - (bel) - - steegmans (gert) - (bel) - - chavanel (sylvain) - (fra) - - dans arenberg ©

On the world cycling map, some places appear in capital letters. Alpe d'Huez and Mont Ventoux are among them, as is the Stelvio in Italy, the Angliru in Spain and the Cauberg in The Netherlands. The review of these sites steeped in the history and soul of cycling inevitably stops at the Trouée d'Arenberg, which the peloton will take on this year at km 161.5. But 2.4km further, only some elite riders will still believe in their chances.

On the tracks of the cobbles…
Each week, will be taking a detailed look at a place that has marked the history of Paris-Roubaix. The series continues at the Trouée d'Arenberg, which is a decisive sector in the quest for the victory: no one has won Paris-Roubaix at this sector, but many have lost all hope in this bit of hell.

Here is a bit of suffering in which they ride into headlong! When the time comes to lunge into the Trouée d'Arenberg, the peloton will be at more than 70kph. Once a year, the peaceful Drève des Boules d'Hérin, frequented by strollers, becomes the “Trench”, as it was renamed by Jacques Goddet, who borrowed WWI terminology to underline the severity of the challenge. Before heading in, the race runs along the Wallers-Arenberg mining site, which is also a symbol of extreme conditions, where coal miners plunged into the galleries during most of the 20th Century. It was precisely one of these hard-working labourers, Jean Stablinski, who suggested the idea of using this cobblestone sector, which was still unknown to the organizers, for the 1968 edition.

The winner of the 1958 Tour of Spain and 1962 World Champion didn't have a bigger dream than to win Paris-Roubaix, where he was more frequently unlucky than rewarded for his efforts (best result, 7th in 1964). However, Stablinski indeed made history as the only rider who suffered and sweated underground, then rode on the Trouée cobblestones. A monument bearing his name was inaugurated in honour of the "discoverer" of the spot following his death in 2007.

Over nearly 50 years, the Trouée d'Arenberg has been the theatre of glorious feats and twists of fate, until becoming something the favourites fear. While the most experienced teams try to anticipate it, the threat persists and the cobblestones do their damage. 1999 favourite, Johan Museeuw injured his kneecap and lost hope of victory on the cobblestones. Philippe Gaumont broke his femur while in contention for the podium in 2001. The punishment was not as harsh for Tom Boonen in 2011, but it was perhaps a puncture in the middle of this straight run cutting through the Raismes forest that saw his opportunity to become the record holder for victories slip away. The Belgian champion still has a chance to claim his 5th Paris-Roubaix success!

The race in pictures


CYCLISME - 2012 - boonen (tom) - (bel) - - hunt (jeremy) - (bel) - - steegmans (gert) - (bel) - - chavanel (sylvain) - (fra) - - dans arenberg ©

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