Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

Guide to viewing the Paris Roubaix race and recap of my viewing of the Paris Roubaix 2011

May 2, 2011 2 comments

While in Europe recently I realized that I would be in Paris on April 10th and have nothing to do!  A quick glance at the racing calendar revealed that the Paris Roubaix is on that day..WOW, sometimes things just work out. The only cost to see this race is your travel to and from the locations. So I picked up a rental car and planned my day.

I struggled with finding out how to view the Paris Roubaix race and didn’t find a lot on line so here it is. The guide to visiting the Paris Roubaix race (or at least some of the most important parts) is thus revealed!

One word, I didn’t have time to get to the velodrome in Roubaix so can’t give guidance there. I focused on the start and the Arenberg Forest.


The Start (in Compiegne about an hour north of Paris) starts around 10am so I planned to be there by 9am. Not a lot happens until the buses arrive around 930 so I wouldn’t show up sooner.

It’s pretty simple to get there, take the A1 north of Paris then exit onto the E46 and head East!  Follow signs to Compiegne. You end up on the N31 and before you cross the bridge there is a parking area just ahead. Parking is Free on Sunday so just lock things up (however it’s a sleepy town, I doubt that was needed) then walk over the bridge to the Chateau. Start is in the courtyard of the Chateau de Compiegne and parking is tight around there so a short walk was fine. There is lots to see and do so the time passes quickly.

Here is the link to the city on google maps and a quick view below.


compiegne pr start

Buses, cars and motorcycles start to show up around 9:30am and play a delicate ballet to get settled in. Then the bikes get set up and and riders will pop out of the buses from time to time. I tend to like the Garmin-Cervelo team, not for my love as a proud Canadian of Cervelo the company per say (come on guys, bicycling is fun, not just a business), but their bikes are awesome and I have a Garmin 500 that I love. Also I like a number of their riders, especially Thor and Ryder. So I camped out right next to the bus. There was a bit of police tape keeping us back but basically you are right there. I watched the team get ready and gather themselves. Good stuff. Even got 6 seconds of Van Summeren who I didn’t know before the race but glad I got a quick view of him.

Van Summeren before his big day


I also hung out at the Leopard-Trek bus and then took in the atmosphere.

After a lot of presentations, the riders sign in and the ride out begins. This is when the riders still don’t know what the day will hold for them, and there are a lot of riders and teams, many of whom were not evident at the Arenburg forest later in the day! Takes a while for the whole gang to pass by.

Riders out on a day that will end badly for most! And King Fabian Waves!

The riders pass quickly and then it’s all over. Now these guys are fast, but cars are still much much faster so you have the opportunity to leap frog the peloton and see them many times. I wasn’t interested in chasing them to every cobble stretch and I was warned that getting to the Arenberg trench can be tricky, so I headed there.

Arenberg Forest

It was harder to work out where the Arenberg forest was but I knew in general it was near Valenciennes and I was able to cajole the amazingly confusing navigation system in my rented Citroen C5  to point itself towards there.  That got me back on the A1 heading north then on to the A2.

Warning, the A1 and A2 are toll roads, overall for the whole day it cost me about 30 euros! So the French get their money off of you one way or another!

As I got closer based on the view on the GPS it made sense to turn North onto the A23. In the end I somehow found the perfect place. Take the exit to the Rue Des Wallers and find a parking spot right around the highway entrance (but not on the ramps, they ticket you there)! Link to map is here.

arenberg park

Park right off the highway then follow the crowds to the trench! You should be heading west along the forest paths!

I would not recommend trying to park close to the trench itself, it’s a parking lot after and takes a long time to get out. I parked right near the highway exit and was able to get back on the road right away. It’s about a thirty minute walk through some nice forests.


Finally at the trench!

The trench is even more amazing in real life. It’s about 2.5 kms long and you can walk it (and even ride it) up to about 15 minutes before the pack arrives. The cobbles are huge! The atmosphere is very festive. If you stick to the entrances or the mid way it’s packed, but amazingly work your way in a few hundred meters and you can grab lots of real estate to yourself.

I got there about an hour and a half before the race arrived. There is a video screen at the entrance so you can keep up with the race then everyone starts to be settled. The race announces itself through the helicopters. I followed the race online with some live tickers and soon enough it was time for the show to arrive.

I wanted to watch as much as I could so decided only to film the first group through, here is that video.

The trench awakens!

The peloton is very broken up by this time, so it takes about 15-20 minutes for everyone to get through which means you actually get to see a lot of the dynamics and mechanics of how a race is run. Wait until you see the van that says "Fin de Course” because until then there are stragglers still coming by!

Clearly a lot of people were going on to the velodrome, but my flight was out of Orly at 7pm so back to Paris I went. Simple task of A2 to A1, pay the toll and you are back in Paris about 2 hours later.

Sometimes things just work out, and for me Paris Roubaix did. I doubt I will watch the race live again but I am glad I did and I hope this guide helps you one day as well!

Finally, just to show you how nice a day it was, I filmed our climb out of Paris, what a view and a fantastic weekend in the city and area!

Flying out of Paris after a fantastic weekend cycle wise