Ooooooh! If only I were better organized. I am going to visit dear friends in Hamburg this weekend, but if I had paid a lick of attention I would have chosen to be in Paris on Sunday for the kickoff of the 103rd Paris-Roubaix, one of the classic bicycle races in all the world, Paris-Roubaix is famous for the spine-tingling and kidney-jangling variety of terrain, including a famous amount of cobblestones.
In bad condition for the past few years, the Wallers-Arenberg forest stretch cannot be taken this year. Therefore the itinerary will be directed towards the South of Valenciennes, where the riders will discover a brand new cobblestone section, in Aulnoy-lez-Valenciennes, with an uphill climb of 1600 m. The total length of the cobbled sections this year is 54,7 km (51,1 km in 2004).
That’s 54.7 km out of a total race length of 259 km; i.e., over 20% of the race will be this nasty stretch of cobblestones.
Now, as someone who until recently was riding a 19-year-old triathlon bike (with first generation index shifting), and has bought an aluminum frame bike, the thought of cobblestones continues to make my sitz bones hurt at the thought. But what fun to watch these great cyclists navigate such difficult terrrain! Dork that I am, I have followed the Paris-Roubaix since I started riding seriously in college, but in with all of the other excitements of this trip it completely escaped my notice.
UPDATE: The American George Hincapie comes in 2nd! A very good showing. I’m off to look for highlights on the sports channels …