Photo: Agence France
Paris-Roubaix was the first of the Spring Classics to which I was introduced and the race I watched was on a day like the one on which George Hincapie is shown above. Tomorrow's forecast is for a chance of rain, which turns a tough, cobbled course into "The Hell of The North". Bike and component makers work all year developing special gear just for this race. Handlebars get double-wraps, high spoke-count wheels and fat tires come out, bike frames are beefed up, and light weight is sacrificed in favor of damn near anything that can survive the pounding of the cobbles. Ask Hincapie. He was in the perfect position for a coveted win a couple of years ago when his steerer suddenly broke, leaving him with his handlebars no longer connected to his bike. His shoulder and his dreams of a Paris-Roubaix win were simultaneously shattered as he veered off into a ditch. When the roads are wet, there are only two places to be on the narrow cobbled sections, either the favored crown of the road or "shooting the gutters". Anywhere else and you're subject to having your bike slide out from beneath you, creating chaos. Imagine the scene above with a hundred motivated riders desperately fighting for the front, but unable to really put any power to their wheels anywhere but the crown or the gutters.
Set your DVR for this one. Versus at 4:00PM.
To see what the boys have put together in the way of hardware especailly for P-R: