The route is undoubtably contrived but so much of modern cycling is, mountain top finishes, prologues in a different country, trail centres and obviously cross! The course has evolved since 1896 and today many of the sections are included to add to or maintain the 'character' of the race rather than a logical link up from point to point. Many of the original roads were tarred over in the intervening years (in the name of progress), in fact by the 1965 edition there was only 22km of pavé. By the late 70s the shortage of pavé was threatening the whole character of the race and the local mayors were petitioned with a view to reclaiming and protecting the ancient cobbles. Today there is even a 'Friends of Paris-Roubaix' organisation who repair and maintain sectors in some cases going so far as to exhume previously 'buried' sections! The landscape that it passes through is not the most interesting visually but historically is incredibly rich. With battlefields dating back to 1214 (Bouvines at Carrefour de l'Arbre) and numerous WWI and WWII connections. The L'Enfer du Nord monica was supposed to have originated from the post WWI editions of the race traversing the then blasted landscape.
We arrived in Cambrai near to the start in Bohain on the Friday evening, Jo, Nick, Wayne and myself. The plan was fairly simple, dump one vehicle in Roubaix on Saturday, drive the other to the start on Sunday, ride to Roubaix drive back to Cambrai collect other vehicle (and the ever patient Jo) then drive home for work on Monday! The F1 in Cambrai was an ideal base and we dropped the car off in Roubaix finding a parking slot literally 50 metres from the velodrome entrance in the cobbled central reservation of the D760. Whilst in Roubaix we visited the velodrome and its attendant clubhouse/cafe 'Au Pavé', not the souvenir shop one, which was obviously the meeting place for Lille cyclists. You can just ride in and do a lap of the velodrome it would appear, like popping in for a quick knock about at Lords!
|Now that's a clubhouse!|
Saturday evening we drove into Bohain to register and beat the imagined rush. No need, it was unbelievably low key and slick, we parked almost at the door walked in and had got our carnet within a couple of minutes. Ace! On the Sunday we just rolled up got our carnet stamped and then headed off. The organisational excellence form Vélo Club de Roubaix Cyclotourisme continued with amazing feed stations (jelly sweets, dark chocolate, bananas, pastries, cakes, sandwiches, crepes, drinks etc) complete with mechanic and first aid.
|Mons en Pevéle|
|The Other Two Musketeers|
|G & T ready to go.|
Equipment notes for the gear freaks out there. I rode a Van Dessel Gin and Trombones CX bike which was perfect for the job. Wheels were home built 32h 3X Velocity A23 clinchers on Ambrosio Zenith hubs which remained perfectly true. Tyres were Challenge Paris Roubaix 27mm lovely and puncture free. Gearing was 53/39 X 12-25 but I only changed down to the 39 a couple of times and a 42 (or pro 44 would have been good). Handlebars had a second wrap of tape and I put a precautionary zip tie around the Garmin but this probably wasn't necessary. Spares went in a saddlepack, two tubes, patches, multitool, CO2 cartridge, and magiclink. Minipump in back pocket together with phone, cape and 5 gels. Two bidons were probably unnecessary with feed stations every 40km, Wayne got by with one.
A fabulous event - it would be great to get a big HCTB contingent over to ride it en-masse!