Monday, June 18, 2012

Paris-Roubaix is Insane

 Every other year the Velo Club de Roubaix Cyclotourisme runs a Paris-Roubaix cyclosportive. "Luckily" it was the during the summer we are living in Amsterdam. My lovely wife was kind enough to drop me off at the start in Bohain-en-Vermandois and meet me at the velodrome in Roubaix. Any of the good pictures were taken by her. All week the weather looked terrible, high 50's with a 70% chance of rain. I was getting pretty worried about muddy conditions. By some miracle the weather was absolutely perfect, with the high about 65 and a nice tailwind. Take that northern Europe! The cobbles are hard enough in the dry with dust. I'm glad I didn't have to find out how they are covered in a mud.
I'm not sure how the pros survive the pave in a huge peloton. I was mostly solo as riding on the pave doesn't work for group riding. Picking a line is so important with potholes, missing stones and dodging lost bottles. In total, it was 210k with 54k of pave in 33 sectors. There were lots of riders on skinny tires and stiff carbon. I'm glad I set up the steel Coho with big tires (25mm front, 28mm rear). I was still beat up but not as bad as it could have been. Plus I only got 1 flat.

Looking fresh with the NC Rando gear

 I think about a dozen cyclists rode classic bikes and clothing. I don't think riding without a helmet was a good plan though.
Controls in Red, Towns in Black, Pave in Blue
Pave through a field. Don't remember the sector
 My only other ride with pave was the Tour of Flanders earlier this year. Those are short cobbled climbs and not quite the same. It took me about 6 sectors riding poorly before I got the right technique down.
1) Push a big gear to get your weight off the saddle.
2) Try and keep the upper body fluid and loose.
3) Hands on the top of the bars with a grip just tighet enough so you don't fall off.
4) Ride the crown of the road, it will be least bumpy.

This is the only time I will ride Paris-Roubaix, so I tried to maximize the time on the stone. I started riding down the center of the pave. but with about 60k from the finish my hands, arms and neck hurt so much I started to bike in the gutter, if one existed. The harder the sector, the less chance of having a gutter though.

Three sectors are rated the toughest with 5 star: Tranchee d'Arenberg, Mons en Pevele, Carrefour de l'Arbre. In the race they all happen in the second half, same for us.

The beast
Tranchee d'Arenberg was the first of the 5 star sectors. It is closed to traffic so the tractors tires can't smooth is at all. Its rough all the way across with no crown in it. Unlike the pros with barriers, there is the path to the side. Most opted to ride the path. I wanted the full experience so I stayed on the stones and got my ass kicked. It starts downhill with you are flying and bouncing around on, what feels like, boulders. It is so rough, by the end, my hands tightened up so much I couldn't straighten my fingers. I had to push my hands against my legs to help open them up.
So nice and smooth.
Slightly uphill second half
Slightly downhill first half

The cumulative beat down of the pave crushes the body. Each section adds a little bit of hurt into the body. By the second 5 start sector is Mons en Pevele (150k in) just hanging onto the bar took all of my focus. Its a long sector at 3k, rough as hell and no gutter to bail into. Its been over a week and my hands are still sore. I'm pretty sure I bruised the palms of my hands. Late advice from a fellow rider: Double wrapped bars and gel gloves.

The last 5 star sector is the Carrefour de l'Arbre. This was where Hushovd crashed in 2009 and where Johan Vansummeren got away from the break in 2011. Lucky for us, only 20k to go and the ride was feeling in the bag.
This is the famous restaurant at the end of sector. It was too close to the end for me to stop in for a coffee. Maybe some other time.

 The best part of the ride is being able to finish on the historic Roubaix velodrome. Abi was waiting at the track and got some great pictures as I finished.

Miss the NC crew over here. If there is any NC Randonneur who should ride this event its Jimmy Williams. It may not have enough gravel for him but should be off-road enough. Geof on the other hand, may not be able to carry enough tubes to finish without walking :) Just had 1 flat at about 20k to go during the Pave de Gruson. It seems fitting to get at least 1 flat during Paris-Roubaix. A nice Dutch family was at the end of the sector and I got to use a floor pump. Gotta love the spectators in Europe.
I finished in just over 9 hours with about 8 hours of ride time.
In the bag
Leave me!
My coolest brevet card outside of PBP

Diploma, card, jersey and my own cobble
And I'm outta here!

Side Note: I met a Frenchmen with a 2011 pbp jersey. He was a 3 time PBP finisher. We got a good laugh about the crap weather in '07 compared to the great weather last year.

Anyone want to ride the World Championship sportive in September in Limburg?


Anonymous said...

Fan-tas-tic! Nice write up. Made me smile. Congratulations!

Kim in Va Beach,VA

Rich said...

Your own cobble. How cool is that? What a great experience and a respectable time. Saw you passing riders in the velodrome! Ha! :-)