How riding the cobbles is exactly like surfing.
How riding the cobbles is exactly like surfing.
So I went for a ride and then I headed over to my favorite sandwich joint. And the guy behind the counter, he watches pro bike racing. And we got to talking about Paris-Roubaix.
I’ve always sort of envied mainstream sports fans – they get to talk about last night’s game with random passers-by. But cycling, it’s like a secret club. Not everyone watched the game last night. Which, why didn’t they? Because it was awesome.
It was crazy times watching Boonen ride away with 55 kilometers to go. And that moment, when the others behind him, they start looking at one another like, are you going to chase? And you see them realize one after the other, I got nothing on that.
That long doomed chase, you felt for those guys, right? Killing themselves on the front with still 50 kilometers and seven or so sectors of cobbles to go – including the monster Carrefour de l’Arbe which more normally plays the racemaker.
The bike race, it was a long way gone up the road and not coming back.
The talk after the bike race, the rehashing and arguments, I think that might just be my favorite part of the whole thing.
People, really? You really were criticizing Pozzato? Aww, that poor dude. No way he was bringing Boonen back himself, not without help. And Ballan, he just got there after dashing across the gap, and then, there’s Nikki Terpstra going to the front and pounding on it. That was a smashing right there.
I’m not usually an afficionado of the long breakaway. But this one, it had drama. Something about the weight of history, and the sheer desperation and disbelief of the chase behind. They seemed shell-shocked. Like, for reals? He’s really gone? Yes, kids, he’s really gone. Next time you see him, he’ll be on the podium cradling his new rock.
You don’t too often see a rider so much in his element as Boonen was on the cobbles on Sunday.
Oh, and while I’m here? Rog, dude, shut your piehole! Blah blah in my day the cobbles were harder, blah blah… Whatevs, brah. Your record, that thing is so going down.
When I was a mountain bike racer, I used to stuff my pockets full of food and extra tubes. And a chain tool. Always a chain tool. And out I went. Up the hill, down the hill, up the other hill. Just go.
And you see weird things on the long, hard rides. One day I was on my way home after too much climbing and too little food. A car pulled up next to me at the stop light. The people inside, they looked so clean, so comfortable. I looked over, the passenger side window was open, and there in the cup holder sat an unfinished Big Gulp. And I wanted that Big Gulp so bad.
This story from Bill Strickland about riding the entirety of Paris-Roubaix reminded me of those rides. It reminded me of the strange things you see out there on the bike. And it reminded me of how, if you stay out there long enough, you start to lose your mind a little.
Why did the rooster cross the road? What might those people have said if I’d reached in the window and grabbed their Big Gulp out of the cupholder?
Maybe I should have been writing more then. Maybe I should ride more now.
Quite the comedy of errors in the finale at Paris-Roubaix. You don’t really expect the lead group to crash themselves out, but crash they did.
A bit of history for you: In 1929, four riders comprised the lead group. One rider flatted out, leaving Georges Ronsse, who won in 1927, Aimé Déolet, and Charles Meunier, who finished 3rd in 1928. All three rode for Automoto, one of the strongest teams of the era. Sponsored by a French frame-builder, Automoto won four Tours de France during the 1920s (Pelissier, Botecchia twice, and Buysse). As a previous winner of Paris-Roubaix, Ronsse held the role of team-leader. The three team-mates arrived at the Velodrome together. But then came disaster. Ronsse crashed, taking Déolet down with him. The last man standing, Charles Meunier, won. The 1929 win marked the highpoint of Meunier’s career, a one-off win. Thanks to Dutch cycling historian Benjo Maso for posting this story.
Unlike in 1929, this year’s winner was not a one-off. Despite the crashes, the strongest rider won, Tom Boonen. Bike handling, so essential to playing the cobble game. You have to stay upright to win.
One of the more bittersweet moments came when Manuel Quinziato tried desperately to bridge alone to the winning move. The camera angle showed just how close he came. And yet, so very much road he had to cover. Those last few bike lengths hurt the most, the legs failed to match his ambition. He arrived alone in the velodrome just ahead of Matti Breschel, the last survivor of the Saxo Bank-led chase.
And spare a thought for George Hincapie whose race ended so early. A flat at the wrong moment, the world’s longest wheel change. Surely, the QuickStep mechs train hard for the Paris-Roubaix wheel changes. They were that fast. Hincapie vows to return. I want to see more of Edvald Boasson Hagen. But that’s just me.