Classic French cycle race, first run in 1896, now part of the UCI ProTour series, which helps maintain its status as rather an odd man out by comparison with other major races. The course is pancake-flat, but the race is intensely hard due to the 50-odd kilometres of rough, badly-maintained and usually wet and slippery pavé (cobbles) in its 250 km length, making it (pace former winner Adrie Van der Poel) "the world's longest cyclo-cross". The race has for some time been organised by the Tour de France organisers, ASO. Journalistically referred to as L'enfer du nord (The Hell of the North, originally because it passed through the still shattered lands of the battlefields of northern France, now because of how painful it is to ride) or less frequently "la reine des classiques".

The race is generally run on the second Sunday in April, and because of increasing difficulties finding enough cobbled stretches without making the race distance excessive, it now starts in Compiègne, not Paris at all; originally many fairly major roads in the Nord were cobbled, but in order to prevent the race becoming just another flat sprinters' race as road conditions improved, the current format was adopted in the mid-1960s. For reasons unknown, in English "Paris" is normally pronounced in (roughly) the French manner when the name of the race is spoken.

Heading north from Compiègne, after 100 km or so the riders hit the first of the 27 or so cobbled sections (which are now officially numbered in reverse order down to sector 1, the Espace Charles Crupelandt - named for the only winner to hail from Roubaix itself - a recently-created section of cobbled parking lot just before the finish), somewhere a bit south of Valenciennes. These cobbled roads are mainly little-used lanes, not much more than farm tracks, winding through open beet fields and disused mine workings in a landscape reminiscent of Zola's Germinal; some, by virtue of the race, now have protected national monument status. The pavé takes a considerable toll of riders and machines alike, and particularly in bad weather even the early sections can put a fair proportion of the field in trouble or right out of contention through crashes or punctures or even getting stuck behind crashed race support vehicles; this is a race that has to be ridden from the front, which keeps the pace high. The going gets (more) serious shortly after Valenciennes at the pavé section known as "the trench" through the forest of Wallers-Arenberg, which is usually the scene of complete mayhem including at times some interesting interaction between spectators seeking a good view and riders seeking out a smooth line on the verges of the road.

From here the pattern of the race is normally one of small groups getting smaller, as the course loops around the area south of the Lille conurbation seeking out cobbled lanes with names like the Chemin des Abattoirs to the last really tough section at the Carrefour de l'Arbre and the final run in to the traditional finish on the old concrete velodrome in Roubaix, which has seen some very tight finishes in its time.

The field for Paris-Roubaix tends to be a bit specialist; to cope with the pavé riders need to be on the heavy side, and it has nothing at all for the flyweight climbers, so it is rare to see more than a couple of the world's top 20 ranked riders out there, although there are usually a few chasing World Cup and latterly ProTour points, and ranking does not always equate to popularity or fame. Although the race is in France, it is firmly in the tradition of the Flemish classics and there have been more Belgian winners than French ones over the years, with Peter Van Petegem's win in 2003 making it 50 Belgians in 101 outings.

There are also truncated versions run at different times of year for Under 23s and juniors and a mountain bike version run as a stage race finishing on the same day as the big event. A mass participation randonnée also gives ordinary cyclists the chance to smash their own equipment up over the same course in June.

Winners:

1896 Josef Fischer (Ger)
1897 Maurice Garin (Fra)
1898 Maurice Garin (Fra)
1899 Albert Champion (Fra)
1900 Emile Bouhours (Fra)
1901 Lucien Lesna (Fra)
1902 Lucien Lesna (Fra)
1903 Hippolyte Aucouturier (Fra)
1904 Hippolyte Aucouturier (Fra)
1905 Louis Trousselier (Fra)
1906 Henri Cornet (Fra)
1907 Georges Passerieu (Fra)
1908 Cyrille Van Hauwaert (Bel)
1909 Octave Lapize (Fra)
1910 Octave Lapize (Fra)
1911 Octave Lapize (Fra)
1912 Charles Crupelandt (Fra)
1913 François Faber (Lux)
1914 Charles Crupelandt (Fra)
1915-1918 not run
1919 Henri Pelissier (Fra)
1920 Paul Deman (Bel)
1921 Henri Pelissier (Fra)
1922 Albert DeJonghe (Bel)
1923 Henri Suter (Swi)
1924 Jules Van Hevel (Bel)
1925 Felix Sellier (Bel)
1926 Julien Delbecque (Bel)
1927 Georges Ronsse (Bel)
1928 André Leducq (Fra)
1929 Charles Meunier (Bel)
1930 Julien Vervaecke (Bel)
1931 Gaston Rebry (Bel)
1932 Romain Gijssels (Bel)
1933 Sylvère Maes (Bel)
1934 Gaston Rebry (Bel)
1935 Gaston Rebry (Bel)
1936 Georges Speicher (Fra)
1937 Jules Rossi (Ita)
1938 Lucien Storme (Bel)
1939 Emile Masson (Bel)
1940-1942 not run
1943 Marcel Kint (Bel)
1944 Maurice De Simpelaere (Bel)
1945 Paul Maye (Fra)
1946 Georges Claes (Bel)
1947 Georges Claes (Bel)
1948 Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel)
1949 André Mahe (Fra)
1950 Fausto Coppi (Ita)
1951 Antonio Bevilacqua (Ita)
1952 Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel)
1953 Germain Derycke (Bel)
1954 Raymond Impanis (Bel)
1955 Jean Forestier (Fra)
1956 Louison Bobet (Fra)
1957 Fred De Bruyne (Bel)
1958 Léon Van Daele (Bel)
1959 Noël Foré (Bel)
1960 Pino Cerami (Bel)
1961 Rik Van Looy (Bel)
1962 Rik Van Looy (Bel)
1963 Emile Daems (Bel)
1964 Peter Post (Ned)
1965 Rik Van Looy (Bel)
1966 Felice Gimondi (Ita)
1967 Jan Janssen (Ned)
1968 Eddy Merckx (Bel)
1969 Walter Godefroot (Bel)
1970 Eddy Merckx (Bel)
1971 Roger Rosiers (Bel)
1972 Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel)
1973 Eddy Merckx (Bel)
1974 Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel)
1975 Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel)
1976 Marc De Meyer (Bel)
1977 Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel)
1978 Francesco Moser (Ita)
1979 Francesco Moser (Ita)
1980 Francesco Moser (Ita)
1981 Bernard Hinault (Fra)
1982 Jan Raas (Ned)
1983 Hennie Kuiper (Ned)
1984 Sean Kelly (Ire)
1985 Marc Madiot (Fra)
1986 Sean Kelly (Ire)
1987 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel)
1988 Dirk De Mol (Bel)
1989 Jean-Marie Wampers (Bel)
1990 Eddy Planckaert (Bel)
1991 Marc Madiot (Fra)
1992 Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle (Fra)
1993 Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle (Fra)
1994 Andreï Tchmil (Bel)
1995 Franco Ballerini (Ita)
1996 Johan Museeuw (Bel)
1997 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra)
1998 Franco Ballerini (Ita)
1999 Andrea Tafi (Ita)
2000 Johan Museeuw (Bel)
2001 Servais Knaven (Ned)
2002 Johan Museeuw (Bel)
2003 Peter Van Petegem (Bel)
2004 Magnus Backstedt (Swe)
2005 Tom Boonen (Bel)
2006 Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
2007 Stuart O'Grady (Aus)
2008 Tom Boonen (Bel)
2009 Tom Boonen (Bel)

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