Troubled by the effects of climate change after repeated hot, dry and dusty editions of Paris-Roubaix, organisers have guaranteed fans of the race known as the ‘Hell of the North’ a wet and muddy 2014 edition.
It is possible that we may never see another wet and muddy Roubaix, so something must be done to ensure the historical nature of the race.
Cycling Central has learned that the race will use the latest in cloud seeding technology while also employing the use of a sprinkler system to water the course ahead of the peloton, which organisers say will future-proof the event for decades to come.
“This technology has never been used by any other race organiser, and it keeps us at the forefront of delivering the most exciting classics experience for all cycling fans far into the future,” said Jean-François Delugé, the brains behind the idea.
Cloud seeding is an intentional weather modification, which attempts to change or increase the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds.
Delugé said that long range weather forecasts and the latest alarming reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) left organisers with no choice but to employ drastic measures.
“While the ice sheets on Greenland are melting and raising global water levels in many parts of the world, here in Roubaix we get no benefit and are instead becoming a dust bowl,” said Delugé.
“It is possible that we may never see another wet and muddy Roubaix, so something must be done to ensure the historical legacy of the race.
“There are tumbleweeds blowing through the velodrome and nearby streets. So much so that the local council is now thinking of twinning with Abilene, Texas.”
Cycling Central has also learned that the sprinkler system will be strategically placed at the entry or exit of each of the 28 highly anticipated cobbled ‘secteurs’.
“This will make the race even more of a lottery,” said a team manager who did not wish to go on record. “It levels the playing field for our small French team. We welcome a return to these more traditional conditions. I think we can win it.”
In addition to the current five-star difficulty rating, the ‘secteurs’ will also be newly categorised as moist, damp, soggy, wet or inundated.
The legendary Trouée d'Arenberg will receive the most difficult combination rating of 5/inundated while a stage like Pont Thibaut to Ennevelin will be categorised as 3/damp.
“A true classics rider needs to float over the cobbles, literally,” said Delugé. “We expect some teams will now modify their bikes to suit the conditions, or maybe even change bikes ahead of the secteurs. It's an exciting prospect.”
If the experiment is a success, organisers told Cycling Central the same initiative may be employed for the 156km 5th stage from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut of this year’s Tour de France.
A spokesman for the governing body of world cycling, the International Cycling Union (UCI), said it agreed with the measures and approved of them, "this is the kind of revolutionary forward thinking our orgainsation now welcomes as it reaches into all corners of the globe, no sport is more affected by the effects of climate change than cycling."
SBS will broadcast Paris-Roubaix LIVE: 2130-0130 (AEST) Sunday 13 April on SBS ONE and streaming online at Cycling Central.