Paris Roubaix Cyclo-Sportif 2006 - Road Cycling UK

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Paris Roubaix Cyclo-Sportif 2006

paul H

Get behind some fast Italians

I signed up for the Paris-Roubaix event without really thinking too much about it. Having done quite a few longish events in the past, including the full distance in the Tour of Flanders Cyclo, I thought of P-R ‘how hard can it be?’ and ‘it’s not even hilly’. How wrong can one be! (very, if you must know).

Sunday June 11th 2006 will definitely stick in my mind as one tough day in the saddle. Getting up at 2.30 a.m. to be on the coach in time to get us to the start for 4:00 a.m. was fun in a perverse kind of way. Even the first puncture of the day – on the coach – didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm. Scott Bugden (Pearsons Cycles) and John Mullineaux (LondonCyclesport.com) did a great job on puncture repair and traffic management, and we finally made it to the start at just gone six.

I tucked in behind the Pearsons boys, and the first 40 miles flew by. Reaching the 50 mile point in 2hrs 45mins, I could see myself at the finish by lunchtime. But – and it’s a big but – that’s before I became acquainted with P-R pavé – a tougher breed than your average Flandrian pavé, which I now think of as quite quaint and inoffensive. Whereas PR pavé is tough, aggressive, angular, pointy, uneven, and like riding your bike with pneumatic drill attached to the bars. And there’s a lot of it too – nearly thirty miles worth, over 27 stretches, some of which were themselves over two miles long. It is worth noting that this is not a day to bring along your best, svelte, UCI weight limit busting carbon exotica – you need a sturdy frame, 32 spoke wheels, and some tough tyres (I used Conti Ultra GatorSkins), with everything strapped and tightened down

alpe

The cake stops are exceedingly good…

Weather is also a factor – Sunday’s blazing sun and heat (over 35 Deg C at noon) added a further dimension, and made this ride even more of a test. Finding it tough to reach a decent speed over the pavé suffer-fest, I tried to make up time by tucking in behind whatever speedy-looking bunches I could find on the road stretches in between – one minute chatting to a Surrey League rider, the next to a group from an Italian racing club – this was a very friendly and international event too, with over 1900 riders competing. The good thing is there is always a bunch going at your pace, whether you’re out to break a record, or just get round and survive. And you’ve got to get round – there are no broom wagons, so unless you’ve got a support vehicle, you need to make it to Roubaix!

My Garmin Edge shut itself down at 155 miles, as it had run out of memory. So with no more clock-watching, I pushed on to the finish, beating another Italian over the line in the famous Roubaix Velodrome, in our own sprint finish (probably not quite as fast as Fabian Cancellara though). Getting in with a riding time of just under 10 hours for the 161 miles, I had a real sense of achievement – and I only had one puncture too (which was better than our coach).

paul H

Pre-Race carbo-loading French-style

The Roubaix showers (unisex – a nice surprise for the ladies), a cold beer (or two) and banter with fellow riders at the end soon made the aches and pains of the day disappear. Didn’t manage to sleep on the coach or boat back, and finally got home at 3.30 on Monday morning. Felt pretty whacked the next day, but what a great weekend! Thanks to Scott Bugden for putting it together.

Just one injury, a bruised and grazed wrist from where my watch repeatedly bashed against it with each section of pavé (so no watch next time). Will there be a next time? Having met a Belgain rider who was on his 9th P-R (that’s 18 years’ worth – will he never learn?) I think the least I could do is make a return trip on 2008. So, would I recommend Paris-Roubaix? Yes, deinfitely, if you enjoy cyclosportif events, this is one that will stay with you forever.

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