Paris–Roubaix is a one-day professional bicycle race in northern France, starting north of Paris and finishing in Roubaix, at the border with Belgium. It is one of cycling's oldest races, it is one of the “five Monuments”. Of the Classics, Paris-Roubaix is easily the Tour de France, with several documentary films made about it and a variety of books telling its story in many different languages. L’enfer du Nord, The Hell of the North – the many nicknames of Paris-Roubaix reflect its reputation as probably the hardest one-day race in the world, probably one of toughest competition is sport. The cobbles, the dirt, the mud, the crashes; it’s a race that captures the attention like few others.
Of the 257km route, 53km are on cobbles, over 29 sections. The sectors are given a number, counting down from 29 to 1, and are rated by difficulty. Every sector has a banner at its start and finish giving its number between 29 and 1. As the sectors count down, the glory of Roubaix gets closer. Three sectors are traditionally awarded the maximum five-star rating: the Trench of Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de L’Arbre.
The most famous and recognized cobbled sectors are Trouée d'Arenberg and Carrefour de l'Arbre. The Trouée d'Arenberg, has become the symbol of Paris–Roubaix. Officially 'La Drève des Boules d'Herin', the 2400m of cobbles were laid in the time of Napoleon. The road was proposed for Paris–Roubaix by former professional Jean Stablinski, who had worked in the mine under the woods of Arenberg. The mine closed in 1990 and the passage is now preserved. Although almost 100 km from Roubaix, the sector usually proves decisive and as Stablinski said, Paris–Roubaix is not won in Arenberg, but from there the group with the winners is selected. Le Carrefour de l'Arbre instead is the last section of pavé of the hardest level of difficulty, five stars. The crossroads is on open land between Gruson and Camphin-en-Pévèle. The first half is a series of corners, then along irregular pave. The second half finishes at the Café de l'Arbre restaurant and has more even pavé. This 2.1 km sector has often proved decisive due to its proximity to Roubaix, only 15 km, and cumulative difficulty.