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Heaven and Hell
Photos: Kieran Riley
WORDS: Matthew Berry
On Sunday, I witnessed the junior race, marvelling at the grimy, bruised young riders skittering over the cobbles at speed. How much smoother their passage seemed compared to my own the day before, on the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Challenge. My bike had banged and rattled its way over the pavé, the bike feeling very different even after the first section. I’d been advised to hit it hard and keep a loose-ish grip on the bars. And I did hit it hard, maybe too hard. It was a slow and uncomfortable progress. On the next section, I went down a few gears and found my technique; I flew, although some flew faster. As much as possible I stuck in the gutter, occasionally hopping on to the crown of the road for a smoother passage, or to pass a slower rider. I enjoyed it , I really did, there was something about finding a way, wanting to perfect it. Who knows, I could get good at this.
Lessons for next time include a proper meal the evening before the ride - I’m sure the pros weren't riding on Chicken McNuggets. A proper breakfast too, maybe. And possibly ease off on the wheel sucking; the rider who slowed bizarrely at the end of the first section, and I mean escalator style, almost took me out.
A few other random observations made from Rapha’s roving race HQ on the day of the pro race:
• The sad sight of the minibuses following the junior race, the dejected looks of disqualified and abandoned riders, sitting in the back on show to all.
• The pro race rider rattling past on a bike minus its saddle.
• The loud, drunk (and spotty) teenage Chavanel supporters.
• The Paris-Roubaix Challenge: dread beforehand; relief and pride afterwards; even some enjoyment during.
• Paris-Roubaix, the real thing: the huge sense of anticipation and searching the sky for the helicopters; the thrill of the race, the raucous crowd, the dust and Fabian looking huge and handsome; sharing our individual takes on the race over frites and under-the-counter beer, before heading home in our different directions.
• Did anyone else see the Boney M-man? Or was it cobble-induced delirium?
- Cool to see our friends @chriskingbuzz representing in the mix of the elite men's race. #mycielo Parbo! http://t.co/L8g8gNofyR
- The masked man on the cyclocross course today was @jeremypowers. It was that cold. http://t.co/KztIjCYu4O
- Calm and confident on the snow - Katerina Nash is off to an early lead. http://t.co/8TynNP7Nho
- Mr. McDonald's tire choice for today's snowy conditions. Can you guess his PSI? http://t.co/2iHgOw6sUw
- They reopened the ice covered fly-over here in Bend. http://t.co/6xOs5BSd0W
- River City Bicycles racer Ryan (Dream) Weaver 2_wicked_awesome powered his way to a chilly 2nd in the… http://t.co/HDDjDnS99w
- Meanwhile over in Bend, Oregon it is a bright, crisp day for cyclocross racing. http://t.co/6lcDQK5UNX
- If you're in Scottsdale, Arizona, make sure to stop by the beautiful new @bicyclehaus shop. 2 - 7pm. http://t.co/gsWtf6fa45
- Win today's Alpe D'Quiz prize: a Men's or Women's Classic Softshell. ‘A thing of beauty,’ according to The Times. → http://t.co/3n8XlqiNYq
- @tribryan Hi Bryan, that’s a discontinued Irish Country Jersey which is no longer in production, sorry to disappoint.