Archive for April, 2007
This race is certainly a specialist race, requiring an agile, fast, and lightweight rider to overcome the parcours (course profile) that looked like an earthquake on the Richter scale. The course really suits a guy like Frank Schlek (Team CSC) last years winner.
The race finishes on the famous climb of the Cauberg, which you pass twice before finishing, it’s 1.3km long, with 9% slope, it’s a truly amazing atmosphere there, packed 4-5deep with people either side of the road, coupled with the smell of beer and sausages wafting into the air as the deafening sound of all the fans helps push you up the climb.
On this day I spent most of my time swinging on and off the back of the peleton, getting bottles for my team mates, before calling it at day 180km in the 260km race. Races like this come down to a really select group of riders who actually have a chance of winning. About 5-10 guys on the day will be in that position, or be brought into a position by there team to win a race like this. A tough thing to explain to people outside the sport, but that’s just how elite events like this culminate.
Here’s probably a good opportunity to explain the different levels of Pro Racing.
The lowest level race is what is called 1.1, for a one day race, and 1.2, for a stage race. This is where I’m competitive at the moment, and I’m aiming for some results in these races this year.
Then you have you Hors Category races, another step up, normally attracting a field of at least half pro tour teams, here I feel like just jersey in the peleton ‘bunch fill’ as we call it.
And then there are the big ones, the Pro Tour races, 30 races a year, where all pro tour teams are mandatorally required to start, together with a few minor teams who get wildcard starts, for the moment I’m mostly a number in the bunch as the worlds best riders battle it out. As I’ve observed in the last few weeks, these races are pretty insane!!, really fast and intense experiences.
259km, 51km of pave’ (cobbles), 200riders, 24teams, and a place in history for the one who crosses the line in the Roubaix velodrome 1st…. a supreme prize in the world of cycling that marks the culmination of 6hrs of hell.
My adventure to this monument of cycling, often known as “The Hell of the North”, started somewhat surprisingly. With a late afternoon phone call four days out from the race. My director Marc Madiot (incidentally, 2 x winner of Roubaix) told me I had gone from first reserve rider, to a spot on the start list, as one of our riders had broken his arm over the weekend in the Tour of Flanders.
Next step, jump on a plane to
Features like, A double wrap of bar tape to help grip the bars and absorb vibrations, oversized brakes to stop dirt blocking (not that this was a problem, as it was just dust blocking yours, as temps rose into the early 30’s), special extra puncture proof tyres and an alloy seat post (instead of the regular carbon one) all to ease, at least a little, the ride over upright standing cobble stoned roads/paths in rural northern France.
Even in training I really felt the effects of the pave’, my hands, arms and back ached, as vibrations of the pave go right through your body. During the race many riders look to ride on any smoother section of the road possible, this is usually a thin strip of compacted dirt on the very edge of the road, right up against the fans…. Makes for a hairy experience at 50kmph, but definitely worth the relief it offers!
The crowds really come out for this race, I’ve seen the Tour de France as a spectator before, the crowds here easily rival that. The first 100km was Fast, really FAST! and dusty. Made no easier by the fact you have to push long 25cc (WIDE!!) tyres with only 70psi (FLAT!!, normally 100+) in them. I couldn’t believe these guys kept up speeds consistently above 50kmph! Relentlessly, speeds even hovered around 60kmph at certain points. The tension in the bunch was unbelievable, you knew that this race meant a lot in the cycling world, as riders took risks to move up the bunch, there were crashes like in a junior world champs.
My race, along with many others, was over rather quickly, as I got caught behind a big pile up on the 3rd section of pave and never really made contact with the peleton again. Just to be a part of this event was something I’ll never forget.
While I took the bus to the finish still covered in dirt and sweat, it was great to hear a man from downunder, Stuey O’Grady would lift the pave trophy in the middle of the
Thoughout the next week I coughed and spluttered up dust remnants from