In a rash burst of enthusiasm last year, I decided to challenge myself and ride the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix in a 172Km sportive, covering all 29 cobbled sections of the famous Monument event of the Spring Classics. It was a certainly a challenge!
With a total of 54kms of cobbles in the event, there was, on average, only 3kms between each section to recover and briefly enjoy the smooth tarmac before the next section jarred the front wheel, vibrated through the handlebars like a jackhammer and demanded I ride as hard as possible into this maelstrom to keep the bike on top of the cobbles and me on top of the bike. It was a recurring contrast of the brutal, bone-jarring agony of the violence on the cobbles to ecstasy and relief on the smooth, tarmac sections before the sequence was repeated, again and again.
The utter joy of entering the Roubaix velodrome and descending off the banking of the final turn on to the finishing line of this most infamous of events was awesome. The opportunity to experience the route and ride the same cobbles on the day before the race was fantastic. The hordes of Belgian supporters had already begun to assemble in their campervans along the route and cheered us on as we rode by, spurred on by many beers!
The atmosphere built into a frenzy by the Pro race on Sunday and it was fun being part of that too. It was great to stand on the edge of the pave´ and marvel at the pace of Gilbert, Politt and Sagan as they charged past on the same cobbles we had ridden the day before on the ‘hell of the north’!
It was truly great experience … Tour of Flanders next year anyone?