Why I Love Paris-Roubaix
The following words were first published in my 'A-Z of Cycling', which you can read if you click here. Spoilers, to me, 'Cycling is Roubaix'.
I love Paris-Roubaix, and tomorrow will be a sombre day as we mourn the loss of this great race once more. Paris-Roubaix is my favourite race in cycling. But why do I love this race so much? Let me explain.
It is the most beautiful mixture of pain, suffering, sacrifice and potential glory. The barbaric nature of the cobbles sections offer a throwback to days of yore, where it really was man vs nature. The Spring Classics are the best couple of months in cycling, with the racing delivering time and time again with frenetic and unpredictable action. Add in the passionate crowds that follow these races like a religion, you get the greatest experience as a cycling fan. Whichever rider has won Paris-Roubaix, no matter the weather, you know they have been in an incredible battle, not only against their fellow competitors, but against the fabled cobbles. Incidentally, I have an Arenberg cobble on my doorstep as I type this, don't worry though, it was discarded in the forest and did not require the sacreligious removal from the ground!
I think the reason this race stands out for me, other than its exciting nature as a race, is that it is the event I have most first-hand experience with. It is a truly brilliant weekend, with the in-the-know fan being able to see the race at three different moments. On the Saturday prior, there is the chance to go and ride the cobbles yourself (bring spares...), before taking in the criterium in Compiegne the night before the race. After wandering around the team buses (another uniquely brilliant aspect of cycling) and watching the race start in Compiegne, one can drive to the Arenberg Trench and take in the deafening atmosphere as the riders descend into hell. It is a barmy experience! Finally, there is enough time to drive to Roubaix and find a spot on the grass bankings of the velodrome, where I distinctly remember Bradley Wiggins entering on his final Roubaix as a rider. It was a magical experience and despite not quite being able to take the long-desired victory, he gave it a bloody good go! Up next comes a mad scramble to make it back to the Channel Tunnel for the last crossing and the long drive home to Lancashire. Home in the early hours of the morning, at school at 9am, Bob's your uncle!
The atmosphere in the Roubaix Velodrome is electric. Above is the 2015 Paris-Roubaix, eventually won by John Degenkolb.
The memories I have from attending the race, and seeing stars like Fabian Cancellara up close and personal, are why I love this race so much. It is an incredible spectacle to take in on the television, but to follow the race on the ground is something else and an experience I can't wait to relive once these crazy times are behind us.