Posted on Friday 14 April 2017 by Martin Hayman
The 2017 Paris-Roubaix Challenge was the second time testing my legs against the worst cobbles northern France has to offer (writes Naomi Wolf). For us Sportive riders, this was a “Saturday in Hell”. My companion in this year’s campaign, as last year, was Stephen Taylor. We selected the 145 km route which offers 19 cobble sectors and from a logistics standpoint is simple because the start and finish are both in the famous Roubaix Velodrome. The longer, 175 km route is point to point and has 28 cobbled sectors…19 were more than enough for me.
It starts with 50 km of delightful French country lanes from Roubaix before reaching the first sector, the famous Forest of Arenberg…
Each cobbled sector has a rating, from one star to five stars. Arenberg is a five-star sector and earns every one of them: the cobbles are huge, with massive gaps between, giving your front wheel plenty of opportunity to slip around in the the morning damp. However, this was early in the day, the sector is a straight line, and with fresh legs, overall not so bad.
But that was only the first one, we still had 18 more to manage. The sectors came thick and fast. There never seemed to be enough road between to really fully recover. After each sector, the same routine…
- Bike ok …. check
- Rider in one piece … check
- How many km to next sector …. check
- Drink liquid … check
- Need bar or gel … check
- Next cobbled sector….
Some relief came at the feed station of Templeuve. Paul, Linda and Keith were there with food and much-needed encouragement. Stephen and I stuffed down some croissants and were off again to complete the last seven sectors.
The Carrefour de l’Arbre was by far the hardest sector. There is no good line, no crown to look for, the cobbles are jagged lumps, and the lane twists and turns through the farm land. At this point after 125 km, the legs and arms are tired and each vibration is massive.
Stephen and I thankfully got a second wind and managed to finish with a lap of the legendary Roubaix velodrome. It was a great day out and we stayed to watch the pro race on the following day, seeing Van Avermaet duke it out with Stybar for the win. I would certainly recommend this sportive for anyone who is up for a Saturday in Hell!