Paris Roubaix is THE Pro-cycling classic in France. This year the 113th edition starts at Compiegne, in the north of France with the famous finish on the velodrome of Roubaix. But it’s what is in- between that makes this race so fantastic. 253.5 grueling kilometers with 27 cobbled sectors, for a total of 52.7 kilometers (33 miles) of jittering hell!
Riding on cobbled roads in itself isn’t that much of a deal. Ride through the countryside, take the time to see the scenery, time to time a more energetic and focused spin, then grab a beer at a local bar after a thirst quenching climb. I’m actually softening it up a great bit so you’ll want to come and try it for yourself. Riding cobbles actually takes a good dose of concentration. You need to keep up the speed to roll over the bumps and not get a wheel stuck. Just think of riding the cobbles as a Power-Plate training session. Good, good, good vibrations…
— Andy Ross (@ajmr_gt) 9 Avril 2015
Now imagine these guys are doing it in a huge cluster of over 100 men on light racy carbon fiber bicycles, with the clamor of the crowd, the motor-cycles with reporters or race organizers suspended on the back, and maniac sports directors zigzagging and honking behind them. Add on the imminent spring rain and you get one heck of an adventure!
What are cobbles? They are century old farm tracks. Fewer and fewer cobbled sections exist anymore. After the Second World War, locals didn’t want to seem behind the times and started paving over them. It became difficult to find cobbled sections for the classic race. In 1965 only 22 kilometers of the 300 km race were cobbled. Thanks to the determination of associations, cobbled sections are being maintained, and the race can continue to torture its participants. Some cobbled sections are even copywrited now!
The Paris-Roubaix cycling race was created in 1896 and purposely placed a month before on the cycling calendar before Paris-Bordeaux to make the second race look like a walk in the park. It quickly took up the nickname as Hell of the North.
This year, Stage Four of the Tour de France is considered a mini Roubaix. The stage start begins in Seraing, Belgium with already one cobbled section before crossing the French border. There are six more cobbled sections before crossing the finish line in Cambrai. It will take a warrior to finish this stage, a hero to win it.
Discover cobbles : Amsterdam To Bruges
Discover the tour de France : Tour de France