Paris–Roubaix is a one-day professional bicycle road race in northern France, starting north of Paris and finishing on the Belgian frontier. From its beginning in 1896 until 1967 it started in Paris and ended in Roubaix; since 1968 the start has been in Compiègne (about 85 kilometres (53 mi) north-east from Paris centre). The finish is still in Roubaix. Famous for rough terrain and cobblestones (setts),[n 1] it is one of the ‘Monuments‘ or classics of the European calendar, and contributes points towards the UCI World Ranking. It has been called the Hell of the North, a Sunday in Hell (also the title of a film about the 1976 race), the Queen of the Classics or la Pascale: the Easter race. The race is organised by the media group Amaury Sport Organisation annually in mid-April.
Paris–Roubaix is one of cycling’s oldest races. It is known for its many ‘cobbled sectors’, being, with the Tour of Flanders and Gent–Wevelgem, one of the cobbled classics. Since 1977, the winner of Paris–Roubaix has received a sett (cobble stone) as part of his prize. The terrain has led to the development of specialised frames, wheels and tyres. Punctures and other mechanical problems are common and often influence the result.
Despite the esteem of the race, some cyclists dismiss it because of its difficult conditions. The race has also seen several controversies, with winners disqualified.
The course is maintained by Les Amis de Paris–Roubaix, a group of fans of the race formed in 1983. The forçats du pavé seek to keep the course safe for riders while maintaining its difficulty.