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Hell of the North: 10 Spectacular Vintage Photos of the Paris-Roubaix

By Monica Buck

“Paris-Roubaix is a horrible race to ride but the most beautiful one to win,” Sean Kelly said of the Sunday in Hell and we’re not going to argue with him. Who has never been grateful for watching this classic on TV instead of riding out there in the mud and rain? The race has such a unique mix of breath-taking action and unpredictability that it feels like it belongs to an entirely different era of cycling. And with its long heritage going as far back as 1896, it may very well be true. That is the thing that makes it so interesting though and the photos below prove it.

“Paris–Roubaix is bullshit,” said Bernard Hinault after the 1981 edition. The photo shows him after one of the seven crashes that day.
Jacques Anquetil (1953)
Sean Kelly – “Paris–Roubaix without rain is not a true Paris–Roubaix. Throw in a little snow as well, it’s not serious.”
Serse and Fausto Coppi (1949)
Old-school racing (1985)
In 1987, only 47 out of the 192 starters would make it to the finish, with a 25-year-old Eric Vanderaerden crossing the finish line first.
Francesco Moser in 1978
For the love of mud (1960)