There have been 118 editions of the ‘Hell of the North’ dating back to 1896. Florian Vermeersch was inches away from becoming the 58th Belgian winner of ParisRouba­ix, as he was beaten into second by Sonny Colbrelli. An astonishin­g 48.3 per cent of the 118 editions have been won by Belgians, with 43.6 per cent of second places coming from the same country, and 42.9 per cent of thirds. That’s 45 per cent of all podium places going to Belgium. Which is incredible, considerin­g that it is a French race. It might go close to the country north of the border, but it goes from the French town of Compiègne to the French town of Roubaix. France can only claim 29 winners of the only monument within its borders, even given that 17 of the first 20 editions were won by Frenchmen. The drought of French Tour de France winners is famous, but there has not been a home win at Roubaix since Frédéric Guesdon in 1997, meaning 25 years when the peloton next rattles over the pavé in April. At the same time, the Belgians have been stamping their authority all over the race, with 10 victories in the same time frame. No other monumentho­sting country has suffered such a drought in ‘home wins’, so maybe it is time for a Frenchman to step up.

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