Director Jorgen Leth named his 1976 film covering Paris – Roubaix, A Sunday in Hell. I’m hoping my experience of the same race won’t be comparable. Given the recent downturn in the weather I have a nasty feeling it could be brutal! Having agreed back in January to take part as a way of celebrating a friend’s birthday, it seemed like a good idea. One of those comments thrown into the conversation after a few ales but now the reality is almost here.
The facts of the event are, 210Km at least 50 clicks shorter than the pros rode in April but without missing any of the famed sections of pavé. That means almost a quarter of the distance will be ridden on the tough, unrelenting cobblestones and there is less than a week to go.
In preparation, I have being riding a Pinnacle Evaporite Three. It is a full carbon, lean machine that has an understated appearance but performs and handles the English roads very assuredly. After 10 days the kilometres have been clocking up and yes it’s been fun. The compact FSA chainset has worked well with the Shimano Ultegra components, resulting in smooth shifting and a happy accumulation of kilometres. The Cole C24 wheelset has smoothly dealt with the best and worst of the Sussex, Surrey and Kent roads. By best I mean the newly re-surfaced Box Hill, a great advertisement and the worst, a lot of the other roads to get there.
In the short time the Evaporite and I have been acquainted, over 400kms have been covered and it really hasn’t been too much of an effort. I’ve looked forward to getting out, commuting and generally finding an excuse to get more time on the bike.
Now though it’s down to the business end of the sportive calendar for me. Two big trips to France sandwich a busy domestic riding schedule, a real test of what the Evaporite can do. However, compared to all my other events, Paris-Roubaix will be a very different proposition. Normal preparations for speed will be forgone in favour of comfort and stability.
I’ve spoken to others who have ridden the Hell of the North and have come up with a plan. At least I hope it will suffice but the proof will be revealed in less than a week. Without access to long sections of cobbles at home or the time to pop over for a recce it will be a case of doing what I think will help.
First change will be double bar tape and gel pads on the key areas of the bars and a choice of well-padded mitts. Check. Swapping the supplied 23mm Kenda Kalientes for Continental Gatorskins, the slightly wider variant and using less pressure. Check.
The bike will be given the once over, if any event will expose loose spokes, nuts or any other problem this will be it! With all this done, it will be packed and ready for transportation to Paris via London on Friday. As for me the rider, well the weather looks likely to play a significant part in proceedings, so choice of attire will be further complicated. It will be a case of taking most things and seeing what’s needed on the morning.
Spares and nutrition are on my list to sort out this week. It will be a long ride in terms of time in the saddle, so making sure I stay hydrated and well fed is essential. There are no significant climbs say in comparison to the Alps or the Pyrenees but the constant battering over the cobbles will take its toll.
Having committed my thoughts to paper it has now got the competitive juices flowing! I can’t wait to get out there, sample the atmosphere and start riding perhaps the most famous of Spring Classics.