Rays of light filter through cups of golden beer, sunlight reflecting off a thousand smiles; this is the Roubaix velodrome. We bloody made it! Like children on Christmas Eve eagerly awaiting Santa, the promise of burger and frites is too much. So much so the first beer is downed shot style. Shotgunned. This is what pushing your body over 145km with large sections of it pavé does to you, it makes you thankful for life’s most simplest things–basic food, refreshment, great company and some grass to collapse on to. This was the Paris–Roubaix challenge.
The first 50km is smooth asphalt. The honeymoon period, it’s carefree fun you don’t want to end. Breezing along, laughter punctuates increasing levels of exhilaration. But we all know there has to be that first fight, it’s inevitable. The Trouee d’Arenberg knocks the wind out of you. It feels endless. Like a bandaid, the slower you peel it the more it hurts. Best to rip it off fast. Don’t stop. Don’t slow. There is light at the end of the tree tunnel and once there the stoney torture fades immediately. That wasn’t really an argument, right? More like a discussion.
Although further up the road a slow puncture reminds you an argument always has
potential to come back and bite. Onwards. Peace restored, a rhythm starts to form, secteurs with one, two, three star grading come and go. There’s a sweetspot to dealing with minor bumps and blips. When you find it, smugness is hard to contain while surrounded by fellow compatriots, faces contorted with pain. Cobbles? It feels like pedalling to the local shop. But remember this feeling, it’s not to be taken for granted.
A perceived feeling of invincibility is rarely permanent. Mons-en-Pévèle and the Carrefour de l’Arbre make sure they’ll steamroll it out of you, like a quarrell that lasts deep into the night. Riding the crown of the road that has a tendency to break down beneath your wheels spurs the mind’s devil into action. Pride versus the desire for an easy life cause internal conflict, “smooth” gutters entice you over. There you win! I think it’s called compromise.
But it doesn’t matter anymore, you can almost smell, nay, taste the beer. Not far to go. You take in Roubaix, observing an inner beauty that had gone unnoticed earlier that morning. Swinging into Stab velodrome Roubaix takes you by the hand, one last pirouette before allowing you to fall into a blissful heap.
A bit broken but not destroyed. You’re more durable than you think.
Words: Hannah Troop Photos: Hannah Troop, Caley Fretz