If you want to be known as a real cycling enthusiast, then set aside sometime Sunday to watch one of the most thrilling days in racing.
In America, we only hear about the Tour de France. It’s a great race, but our coverage is so vacant, that it’s pretty much over by the time the final stage hits national TV.
Outside of the Grand Tours, there are a series of five races that also carry high prestige called the Monuments.
They are grueling one day races not just are challenging in length, but also feature narrow pathways and difficult road conditions.
You can argue which one is the most prestigious, but Paris-Roubaix is the one I’d want to win most. I’m pumping up this race because it’s the one they’ll be showing on TV in the states.
What makes it so tough? How did it the race get the cute, little nickname, “The Hell of the North”? You look at the course’s profile and think “there’s barely any hills! How tough can it be?” Here’s my one word reply: cobblestones.
They may look friendly, in the nostalgic way we view medieval villages, but traveling across them at world class speed is an arm jarring, elbow exploding experience.
These stones are covered with dirt and mud caking riders, clogging their lungs.
Look at this before and after video of riders from last year’s race. I love how the pre-race awkwardness of trying to look cool on camera is replaced by total submission hours later:
Factor in high winds and anything can happen.
And then one more thing you have to look out for….TRAINS!!!!
The days of seeing those wiry Tour de France contenders appear in this race is behind us. Climbers bodies don’t belong. If you want to know why General Classification riders need not apply, look at how the addition of the cobbles for Stage 5 in the 2014 TDF pretty much determined the whole race:
Phil’s never ridden these cobbles before and weighs under 150 lbs. Seeing how he’s 6’1″, it’s fair to say that some sausages are thicker than his arms.
Look at this excellently put together recap of last weekend’s Tour of Flanders and you’ll get a sense.
What adds to the mystique is the finish inside the velodrome in Roubaix. If you’re lucky to have created enough of a gap, then there’s few victory laps that feel any sweeter. If you’re attached to a couple riders, then you have to strategize with how much you have left in the tank to sprint.
Even though the forecast calls for rain(and a lot of mud), you’ll find thousands upon thousands ready to cheer on these combatants through the tightest spaces.
..and you’ll see a lot of this…
World Champion, cycling lead’s personality and John Travolta impersonator, Peter Sagan looks to be one of the favorites after winning last week’s Tour of Flanders, but Fabian Cancellara and his amazing motor will be looking to retire from the cobbles in style.
Really, it’s anyone’s race as you can’t predict all the factors that will shape the race.
If you’re hardcore, you’ll be able to find a live feed in the wee hours of the morning. For the undead, NBC Sports Network will be showing the last three hours tape delayed starting at 12:00pm.
In other words, my phone is going to be off until 3:00pm Sunday!