Cobbles, Cycling and the Hell of the North

Cobbles-of-Belgium-300x180Sunday was a day for cyclists to dig deep, to bounce through the endless, jarring cobbles. Stay light in the saddle, I was warned. Take some pressure out of the tyres. Go for a higher gear. Get ready to feel every tooth rattling in your skull.

Sunday was of course the greatest of the one-day classics, l’enfer du nord (the hell of the north), the Paris-Roubaix race covering 27 ‘sectors’ on bone-shaking pavé, or cobblestones. So in our own little homage to one of the great cycle races, ride organiser Pip of Le Sportif managed to find the only cobbles in Bristol to finish our Sunday morning training. A lap of Queen’s Square was quite enough to leave my teeth chattering and my admiration soaring for those that ride for hours on cobbles that probably make ours look like gravel.

Then we adjourned to Bristol’s Mud Dock to watch the race unfold on the big screen. The duel between Fabian Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke lasted until the final yards of the 254 km race. Cancellara covered that distance to win in five hours 45 minutes and 33 seconds – about the same time it had taken me to do just half the distance in training that day – and my ride comprised just 200 yards of cobbles.

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