The Paris–Roubaix, the “Hell of the North” (Updated Profile 2024)

Our Paris–Roubaix profile is one of the favorites in our roster of race rides. It’s certainly one of the more unique profiles you can teach—it’s not like you get to describe riding over cobblestones every day! The race takes place in early April, but you can teach this ride any time of the year—I often pull it out in October or November.

For the original ICA Paris–Roubaix profile back in 2014, we looked to Matt Scheffer, someone who is a fanatic about the Spring Classics bicycle races to create this amazing ride…he is also an exceptional indoor cycling instructor. Put the two together and you have an emotional, challenging, and exciting ride to offer your students, even those who might never have heard of the Paris-Roubaix. This will be a profile that piques their interest as you explain the unique history and layout of this race. 

In 2017, I took Matt’s profile and changed up the music and created an Express Profile (a 1-page spreadsheet profile)—but still relied on Matt’s cueing from his original master profile. I also added some great quotes about this race that you can sprinkle throughout your profile and add to your promotional class flyer if you create one. 

Then in 2021, I created a new version for the inaugural women’s race, changing it up just a bit with some fresh music and it’s my favorite version to date.

Now, in 2024, I realized that I have some different and exciting cues I wanted to add to the original master class profile, so I have a brand new version that you can download below, along with my updated Express Profile. This profile is perfect for the men’s or women’s race. This race is so full of history and drama, you can’t help but have a great time as you visualize the pavé (the rugged cobbled sections of the brutal 160-mile race). Since the weather is sometimes challenging and the course very muddy, you can have some fun with your visuals.

paris roubaix

The Paris–Roubaix route changes somewhat every year. Here is the official route and profile for 2023. It includes all the most famous cobbled sectors of the infamous past races. For this reason, you can always reuse the ICA profile as is since it focuses on the most important cobbled sectors; no need to modify it from year to year (unless you want to change up a few songs). 

As noted above, in 2021, the very first women’s Paris–Roubaix was held. It was delayed until October due to covid. Then in 2022, it was held in the spring, the day before the men’s race, which is when it’s scheduled this year. You can absolutely take this profile and turn it into a description of the women’s race. If you do that, you might even want to sprinkle in some of the great women’s empowerment songs we have in our Women’s Day playlist. Why? BECAUSE FEMALE CYCLISTS ARE BADASSES! You can read about last year’s women’s race results here and this year’s race route here

Every year they have to inspect, trim, and, if necessary, repair the cobbled sectors. One bit of fun trivia I found in Cycling News magazine for this year is the fact that they brought in a herd of goats to trim the most infamous cobbled sector of the Arenberg Forest! From the article:

Every year, the cobblestone roads used in Paris-Roubaix must be unearthed from the mud, grass and weeds that envelop them over the winter. This year, the race organisers hired a new crew to do the hard labor for peanuts: goats.

Not GOATs like Marianne Vos or Eddy Merckx.

Specifically, a herd of goats and sheep who performed the duties in a much more eco-friendly way than humans with gas-powered trimmers. The animals chewed their way across the 2,300 metres of pavé and revealing the Trouée d’ Arenberg sector.

Here is a photo of repairs being made last month on one of the famous cobbled sectors.

Below are a few of the most memorable quotes you’ll find in the 2017 profile.

“Don’t hunt around for other expressions; for the eighty years this race has existed, its chroniclers have used these words and these alone. By necessity. What words, you ask? Beauty, sadness, pain, courage, injustice.”
Yves Berger, 1982

“It’s a circus, and I don’t want to be one of the clowns”
Chris Boardman, on why he never took part

“Paris–Roubaix starts like a party and ends as a bad dream.”
Guy Lagorce, a journalist for l’Equipe

“Paris–Roubaix is bullshit.”
The often unprintable, always entertaining Bernard Hinault

Now you have three options for music—Matt’s rock-and-roll classics, my 2017 version, and my 2021 version (half of which are French tunes). I didn’t change up the profile itself; it still contains six pavé sections and a vicious final drive to the finish in the Vélodrome. 

Here is a fantastic video you can use for your Paris–Roubaix introduction if you have video capabilities. You can also search in YouTube for full race coverage from past years. Sometimes it’s fun to show footage from 20 or 30 years ago. 

This ICA post gives you additional resources and videos to spice up your presentation of your ride.

This year, I have the opportunity to project images on a screen at the front of the room. I am going to combine images of both women and men in the race as well as all the quotes listed in the 2017 version below. I’ll be teaching it on the day after the women’s and men’s races, on April 10. 

Below you will find the Spotify playlists for all three profiles. Matt’s is all rock and roll; both of mine are a combination of rock, alternative, and French tracks. You can mix and match as you see fit.

Please leave your comments below about how you enjoyed this profile or if you have any suggestions for songs you use when you lead this ride.


  1. I have used this the past 3 years. I’m a Cat 1 racing cyclist and I absolutely love when I can bring the real drama of racing into the studio. Of course I watched nearly all of the real race, so when I taught the class last week I would update the class on what actually happened when we were riding the cobbles. I love that the music chosen for cobbles is so jumbled and uncomfortable for some people. (I am a die hard Led Zepplin fan so the more the better for me!). And then AFTER the race, several of the pro men uploaded their real race files to strava and the media captured it – so I posted it all over our facebook pages. Now that my classes know what wattages they are capable of riding, seeing how HIGH the pros hold watts and for HOW LONG they do, it was eye opening for them! Makes me so happy 🙂

  2. I used this profile today and it was great! They loved the history of the race and picturing the cobbles. I really enjoyed talking of the Pave and how when wet,it is slippery and when dry,it is dusty! Thank you for sharing this profile. Everyone seemed to enjoy our “trip to Europe.”

  3. Matt, I did your Profile a week ago using I-Movie with photos of segments and completed it with videos from You Tube, this friday they ask me to present it again tomorrow. Thank you for the inspiration.

  4. I used this profile today and printed out poster-sized pics of this race to hang in the room. The class loved it. It was really out of their comfort zone and mine as a teacher. So glad we did it though. Many of them said they burned less calories than normal but “felt” like the got a better workout. Thanks so much for all the research and work you put into this.

  5. Author

    That’s awesome Stacey. It’s so nice when we can provide some background to our profiles, it brings the riders into our rides and connects with them on a deeper level. I think they are much more likely to give it their all!

  6. I used this for my race day profile this week and it was excellent. I teach at a university and the background/history just made the class come to life.

  7. I just love it! Impressive background info – and the playlist is just fantastic, THANKS Matt
    I will use lots of pictures with my Classbuilder profile 🙂

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