Paris Roubaix Cyclo - Text and photos by Gregg Bleakney
Stage 3 of this year’s Tour de France from Wanze to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut shook up the GC standings and rattled the nerves of even the most senior pros amongst the bunch. Toss in a few hard crashes, mechanical meltdowns, and (unfortunately) broken bones along the way and the result was one of the more dramatic early TDF stages in recent memory. The culprit of stage 3’s angst and drama—cobblestones. The route included several short sections of cobbled pavé from the Paris-Roubaix, or “Hell of the North,” which, as its name suggests, is one of the most punishing races on the European calendar.
To truly understand how painful it is to get thrashed over the cobbles, you just have to try it for yourself. And many do. In the days and months before the Paris-Roubaix and this year’s TDF, thousands of cycling pilgrims make their way to northern France/Belgium to test their vibratory thresholds.
The granddaddy of weekend warrior cobbled event rides is called the Paris Roubaix Cyclotourisme, which is held every other year and open to anyone crazy enough to pit themselves against its 150-mile overall distance which includes 30-50 miles over the cobbles. This year, 3,000 participants turned up for the ride and whether they were equipped with retro-steeds, fixies, mountain bikes, or 28mm roadies, they all shared a common grimace while bouncing over the pavé and (I'm sure) a new appreciation for what the boys in the Peloton had to endure during stage 3 of this year’s Tour de France.