Paris Roubaix Sportive Trip 2014
It was hard graft, and extremely hard on the mind. After two previous rides on the Sportive I can state with some confidence that this edition was the hardest by far. It was indeed brutal.
The heart of the matter
Now well into the third part of the sportive the rain abated and the sun appeared, and I was now bearing down on some of the worst pave of the ride, where the pro-race is lost or won.
One section that remains carved in my mind is dedicated to two time winner Marc Madiot at Beuvry La Florest; it is 2400 metres long, has been badly cut up by local farming traffic and was stupidly hard. I could feel my tyres almost bottoming out as cobbles jutted out from the wet mud and sent shock waves through my hands, which already pained were now screaming for mercy. Thankfully the mix of mud and bad pave forced the less sure footed to walk and my way was surprisingly free of people to thwart my progress.
Cysoing is where the race and the sportive get hardcore, and after a quick refuelling at the time checkpoint I hit the ‘Pave Duclos Lassalle’ section (named after the two time winner). I knew I was truly on hallowed cycling ground – ahead lay the terrors of Carrefour de l’Arbre. Although running near to empty I had survived my earlier moment of self doubt and a second drenching from heavy rain. I shouted out loud, “I can almost smell the frites and beer in the Roubaix Velodrome, and nothing is going to stop me now.”
The entry to Carrefour follows a section of indifferent tarmac and here is where the likes of Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellera will be ready to pounce and hit the nightmare that is Carrefour at full speed cresting the pave with thousands of fans screaming in their ears. For me it was less noisy, but I did have to overtake a very talkative Frenchman who was blaspheming with almost every rotation of his pedals. The rough stuff of Carrefour was just too much for a lot of riders, and many walked on the side whilst others struggled on the pave. It was very, very much a battle to get past them and I had many a moment as riders tumbled or switched across the pave into my path. It was certainly the hardest section.
The transfer onto the run up to the cafe l’Arbre follows a tight turn, and once more I saw a few riders veering off into the fields. I was in a line of over 70 people as we approached the cafe, a hotbed during the pro race and where Thor Hushovd crashed out from the lead group in 2009. With flood waters lapping the crown of the section and many having taken to their feet, I found it impossible to overtake and resigned myself to feeling every cobble, as I rode it at near snail’s pace.
Past the cafe, featuring a good number of spectators and helpers, but well short of the tens of thousands who will grace the spot during the race. I went past a long line of riders, taking my bike through a number of deep puddles which I knew from previous experience did not have pave broken underneath (this was my third ride of the sportive). Sadly further up the route the waters cleared and the smooth section of gravel was revealed to all and I was almost taken off as a rider veered down suddenly into my path. No contact was made and he apologised in French, but I had hit a sharp curve and I suffered my first puncture in three editions of the Paris Roubaix Sportive.
I sat down in the mud and began to change my tyre, my hands were so sore that getting the tyre off the rim was a major struggle, but at this low moment Neil and Gary from the London Phoenix rolled up and gave me their encouragement and a spare inner tube, just in case. I will be eternally thankful to Lezyne for creating a great mini pump as it took me only five or so strokes to get my tyre up to pressure. I needed all the energy I could muster and struggling with a tyre can bring any tired cyclist close to breaking point. Previously I had passed many riders mending punctures and had wished them no ill whilst thinking, “Thank goodness it’s happened to them and not me!”
The worst of the pave was now over and my Garmin had run out of battery; I was also in need of a major recharge. So close but yet so far… The course now weaved through the suburbs of Roubaix and stopping at traffic lights almost did for me. Their interruptions made it impossible to maintain a pace and I have to admit to taking some liberties with the French Highway code in my quest to finish (though I was never reckless).
Entry to the Roubaix Velodrome felt odd, in the race the place erupts as the fans expectations are quenched, but I felt a little self-conscious as the many people lining the entrance were bound to be disappointed to see me and not their friend or relative. Nonetheless I had triumphed and that was enough for me, and I did get a few cheers, although not as many as Cancellera or even the bloke who had his whole family out to greet him.
I steered my bike to a stop and fell onto the ground as fatigue completely swamped me. It took me some time to regain my composure and when I finally got to my feet, it was only to fall into the arms of a friend, “It was brutal”.
Later I picked up my cobble trophy, drank my free beer, visited the famous Roubaix shower and changed in the cubicle dedicated to Jan Jansen, a winner in 1967.
Garmin GPS Data
The Whole Story
For more information about the 2014 Trip please contact: Scott Bugden firstname.lastname@example.org