Posted by Editoress on 04/1/21
With the just instituted three week school lockdown and domestic travel restrictions in France, race owner ASO has announced that the famed Paris-Roubaix classic - already under cancellation threat - will take place, but in a new location .... Turkmenistan.
The event will be moved to the west Asian nation, which is already the site of this year's UCI Track World Championships, in part due to the fact that the coronavirus pandemic does not exist within the borders of the country - see Coronavirus: Why has Turkmenistan reported no cases?.
The other reason is that Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow (also known as The Great Protector and Father Protector) is a huge fan of cycling and well acquainted with UCI President David Lappartient, who awarded him the highest UCI award, the UCI Order, last year. Couple that with the fact that Russian billionaire and UCI Steering Committee member Sergei Makarov - who was born in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan - is also involved, and it came together quickly. [See The UCI Just Gave Its Highest Award to This Dictator]
But what about the famed cobbles that are an essential element of Paris-Roubaix? No worries, says an ASO spokesperson. "President Berdimuhamedow has assured us that a volunteer crew of 10,000 cycling enthusiasts are building the pavé sections as we speak. We have provided them with the specifications - length and width of each section, samples of cobblestones, etc. - and the volunteer team has tackled the job with great enthusiasm." [Editor's Note: we assume 'volunteer' is meant in the Chinese definition ...]
Turkmenistan is one of a limited number of nations - including North Korea, Tanzania and Belarus - that have no reported cases of the coronavirus, so we may see the UCI sanctioning more events there in the coming months. Indeed, the UEC [European Cycling Union] has just confirmed that the European Track Championships will take place in Belarus this year, despite some minor concerns regarding election fraud. See the UEC Calendar.
Sadly, we will not be attending this unique edition of Paris-Roubaix, mainly because Turkmenistan was declared the worst country in the world for press freedom in 2019, worse even then North Korea. For 2020, it has moved one step up, so there is that going for it.
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