April 8, 2012

The Cobbles of the North

Easter Sunday in France is known by cycling fans not as not only a religious holiday, but also a sacred day of cycling...it's the '[Heck] of the North' or a 'Sunday in [Heck]' to those who know the event that unfolds. It's the annual Paris-Roubaix road race, a 257.5 km (160 mi), six-hour cycling race that crosses twenty-seven sections of cobblestones. Just imagine a 160-mile ride on your bike...with several hours of that going down train tracks.

Following are just a few thoughts on the results of this epic one day race.

First, the camera work on television was fantastic, viewers saw close-ups of the chains rattling, riders being bounced, and definitely got the feeling these guys were getting beat up for hours, not to mention the spectacular crashes that are so common on the cobbles.

"This wasn't a race. It was a pilgrimage."  ~ Henri PĂ©lissier (1919)

My main rooting interest and personal cycling hero, BMC's Thor Hushovd, hit the deck on an odd crash, and BMC's George Hincapie got an ill-timed flat (he's cursed at this event), so my main rooting interests were out early. Even BMC racing teammate Alessandro Bassan was beaten out by a hair, and I mean a hair (see photo below) for second place; odd point on this, was it the tires? Europcar rode 30mm tubular tires, while BMC used 25mm Continentals...those 5mm may have been the difference. It just wasn't BMC's day, even their support car got a flat tire.

After 160 miles of racing, it was this close for second place.

But to be honest with myself, even if Thor didn't crash, I don't think anyone was catching Tom Boonen today. He's on a different level in 2012, and today he rode off the front with 56km remaining and nobody was going to catch him. He finished 1:39 ahead of the second place rider (Turgot). After winning last week's Tour of Flanders and this week's cobbled classic, Boonen is definitely the new "Lion of Flanders."

Want a few images of how dusty, dirty, and brutal the cobbles are, check out BMC Racing's Paris-Roubaix Flickr set at the following link, it'll make you realize your Sunday road ride is cake: BMC Racing Flickr

Images used above from VeloNews at link.