Monday, 14 April 2014

Total madness - Paris-Roubaix...

Last year while on our ride from London to Paris we experienced a short section of the Paris - Roubaix route around Chantilly. A section of pave (pronounced parvay) probably only a few hundred yards long - but that was enough to understand what's involved in riding the Hell of the North - The Paris Roubaix. We lasted about 50 yards at most, shaken, rattled and rolled, we got off and walked. This isn't a road surface like any i've ever experienced. It is totally uneven, rutted, with gaps inches apart, the surface is jagged, sharp and torturous - the stories of pain and destruction come suddenly and clearly to life.

Yesterday I watched this years race on TV - it really is incredible - unbelievable even. 260 kilometres long with about 50 of those over the pave and ending in Roubaix with one and a half laps of the velodrome. To win this, one of the 'monuments' of the cycle racing season a rider is raised to God like status - Coppi, Merckx, Moser, Kelly have tamed Paris-Roubaix's pave for well-earned status.

The Paris Roubaix is one of the oldest races in professional cycling.Ffirst run in 1896, it was created by two textile manufacturers to publicise the opening of a new velodrome that they had built in Roubaix. They offered a winning prize which represented seven months' wages for a miner at the time. The Paris-Roubaix was born.

The Pave is sections of granite cobbles, uneven in size and laid haphazardly, dating back to Napoleonic times the rough, uneven surface afforded greater grip for carthorses transporting munitions across France. Each pave weighs around 16 kilos and the race winning trophy? - you guessed, a piece of pave.

Considering the pave surface the speeds the cyclists achieve is remarkable - the record was in 1964 - 165 miles at an average of over 28mph.

The largest winning margin? - Eddy Merckx (who else?) in 1970 he won by 5minutes 21seconds.

And the best quote.... Bernard Hinault in 1981 - "Paris Roubaix is just plain stupid"

Here's a few photos so that you get the feel for it.


  1. Yep it tough stuff! I did the Paris Roubaix sportive in 2012 ( a very memorable experience!

    The cumulative effect of the pave is the killer.

    I went on and cycle Flanders last year (, I personally found it so much harder, at least in PR you can hit the cobbles fast and maintain the speed or use the gutter/crest, in Flanders 90% of the cobbles or on bloomin steep hills, and there is seldom a gutter.

    I am giving Leige - Bastogne - Leige a go this coming Saturday, no cobbles but hills and distance ;-)

    1. Wow!!!! - super impressive John - good luck with that