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Photo: Joe Hall
Paris-Roubaix is an easy race to fall in love with from the comfort of an armchair. The Queen of the Classics' appeal is visceral, with the cobbles demanding their pound of flesh and the mud-caked faces & haunted eyes belonging to someone else.
The history of the area is tangible, made up of towns that lend their name to First World War battles and the squat, muscular shapes of Second World War bunkers which fleck the windswept landscape. The clichéd comparisons seem facile but are apt, it’s an attritional ride and each sector wears you down. To survive it was enough for me, to race it… unbelievable.
Riding into the first sector causes bottles to leap from cages bent tight the previous night, hands flinch back from the hoods to the tops and against your will slowly begin to contract like a vice. It takes a conscious effort to relax, to get behind the gear and push. Get the head up & the eyes looking beyond the rider in front, hunt for the smooth line. The sanctuary of the draft takes on a sinister dimension.
Is this the best line? Can they be trusted not to fall off in front of me?
The world contracts beyond the peloton, the cobbles become yours to suffer alone.
As it was largely dry I hunted for the solace of the gutter, God knows what you do in the wet. Le Carrefour de l’Arbre (the last real sector) lacks a gutter and the cobbles litter the track, seemingly discarded there as a half-hearted afterthought, it’s a complete shit.
Francesco Moser has the best advice I’ve come across for Paris Roubaix: “_Be strong, ride in front and have a little luck_” If it rains with 4000 people on the parcours you’ll need a lot of the final attribute. Pay as much attention to the preparation of your bike as your body. Loctite bolts, tighten spokes and ride light, tiptoe across the stones, don’t wake the beast…
If I was in love before, I’m infatuated now.
- Last week was a great one for Rapha Condor JLT, all the action and images now up on the team site: http://t.co/ftBejPnnCJ
- RT @alainrumpf: Well done @mike_cuming and @raphacondorjlt winner of #TdK2013 under the scrutiny of latest drone… http://t.co/gv81uP9mHP
- In their attempt to cross the US in 24 days, @michaeltabtabai & Andrew Hudon will ‘Leave It On The Road’. → http://t.co/Per6QsCAtt
- We are delighted to announce the opening of a one-month, pop-up @RaphaCycleClub in Tokyo this summer from 22/6–21/7 → http://t.co/Jrc0EKZ9ky
- Huge congratulations to @raphacondorjlt’s @mike_cuming for winning the @TourdeKorea2013 and to @tomsoutham for best DS. #TdK2013
- @danfromnam in Corsica — outtake from our 2013 Spring/Summer shoot #corsica #beningstagram http://t.co/03A7pT9mtj
- Winner Winner Chicken Dinner ! The most important jersey of #TdK2013 hot off the press. http://t.co/Pflx0eUfdv”
- What a day... The boys keep Mike Cuming in yellow, after having to chase all day. Great performance by all.
- Just rehearsing the whole of Pacino's speech from Any Given Sunday to recite to the boys...
- UK: Thanks to all who came to to tonight’s Rapha Étape Evening in London with @CyclefitUK — one of our biggest turnouts yet.