Paris-Roubaix, a cobbled classic like no other

Posted on 07/04/2019 / Posted by admin / Category 深圳桑拿网

Former French pro Christophe Mengin once said you need six months to get ready for it, and six months to get over it.

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Following the FDJ team as it scouts the “secteurs paves” of Sunday’s race — also known as the ‘Hell of the North’ – there is little doubt Mengin was right.

“In this race, you’re at war with yourself,” sports director Martial Gayant, fourth in the 1990 Paris-Roubaix, tells Reuters as he leads his riders on one of the 27 cobbled sectors on Thursday.

“Because of the vibrations you get blisters on your hands, stiffness in your back, your shoulders. It also hurts your buttocks.”

Even if the cobbled sectors in the 253.5-km race are more or less the same every year, it is important to check them every season.

“It is important to start get your body used to the pain,” says Gayant, who knows every twist and turn of the course.

“It is also important to check out the cobbles every year because it’s when you can test equipment that is only used on this race. The tyres, the bike. It’s like a pilgrimage.”

Frenchman Yoann Offredo says the race can take everything away from you in an instant.

“It is one of the hardest races in the world,” he says, as he has his bike checked by one of the three mechanics deployed on the “reconnaissance” day.

“You can spend six months getting ready for it and still lose everything in the blink of an eye. Then it leaves mental scars.”

‘DESIRE TO WIN’

In one of the team cars is Felix Schaefermeier, product manager at Schwalbe, who supply FDJ with tyres.

“As the years go by, the tyres are getting wider. In recent years we have gone from a 26mm to 28 and now 30mm tyre width,” says Schaefermeier.

Sebastien Joly, one of the FDJ coaches, explains that the bikes have also got longer and heavier, and the frame is modified to better absorb vibrations.

Bradley Wiggins’s Team Sky even have a bike equipped with a rear suspension, though FDJ sports director Frederic Guesdon, the last Frenchman to win the race back in 1997, believes it would be better on the front.

It was just one of the countless technical discussions in the week leading up to the race, and mechanics know they will not get much sleep the night before as riders may require last-minute changes to the bike or tyre pressure.

Even the sports directors driving in cars during the race struggle with the terrain.

“Driving on the cobbles is almost as hard as riding your bike on the cobbles,” says Guesdon.

“Oh Fred, you’ve got a short memory!,” chides Offredo with a smile.

Even though he is a one-day classics specialist, Offredo, who weighs 66 kilos, will ride in support of French champion Arnaud Demare, the team’s thoroughbred who has an outside chance of raising his arms on the Roubaix velodrome on Sunday.

“A rider who weighs 60 kilos has nothing to do on Paris-Roubaix. If you want a shot at victory you must be between 70 and 80 kilos,” says Gayant.

“What will make the difference is the desire to win,” says team manager Marc Madiot, a double winner of the race in 1985 and 1991. “There are races you can win without really wanting it.

“Not this one,” he adds.

‘Roubaix’ takes on extra significance at FDJ because of Madiot’s love for the race.

In Beuvry-La-Foret he has a cobbled sector named after him, and his team are one of those who use one-day assistants on the cobbled sectors.

They can be family members, members of the fan club, office assistants positioned along the road with bottles and spare wheels should the team cars be too far down the field on the narrow cobbled roads.

“We cover about 90 percent of the cobbled sectors. It’s part of the folklore of Paris-Roubaix. There is a huge investment at every level of the team,” says Madiot.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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