Wednesday, 30 November 2011

My head hurts!

Got up this morning at 5:30am to catch the train to Roubaix, which involved one switch in a place called Kortrijk. Today was the big adventure of my Belgium trip to ride Paris-Roubaix from the Arenberg Forest into the finishing velodrome, about 92 km with 17 of the 27 pavé sections totaling 30 km of cobbles.

Sunrise on my way to the Arenberg Forest just outside Roubaix

It was exactly 50 km to get from Roubaix to Arenberg. This place is not easy to find and I'm very thankful that Gregg loaned his GPS to me for the day. There is no way I would have been able to get to the start and do the course without it. The course is not marked in many sections and believe me that those cobbled sections are not easy to find in the middle of farmer's fields.

After 2 hours including a few missteps I made it to my designated P-R start where there was a memorial to a cyclist Jean Stablinski, who won quite a few races in his time but I'm not sure why there's one here since he didn't win P-R and I didn't take time to read the long inscription.

The cobbles of the Arenberg (these were the worst of all the secteurs I did). Not a nice way to start. My head and brain received a real shaking today (that's why my head hurts!). These cobbles were also filled with grass and moss growing over since the gaps were so large. I should add that I wisely chose to do this with cross tires.

Cobbles and more cobbles.

As you can see, I had a beautiful day riding through the farmer's' fields. Here in France and Belgium I keep seeing these huge piles. At first I thought they were rocks but up close they looked like huge turnips. I saw a sign nearby selling "endives de la terre" and maybe they are the root part of the endives. Maybe someone knows out there?

Each of the sections are marked off by little red and white markers with the name and length but sometimes there are other signs.

This one had a little flower growing beside it.

Crashed out on these cobbles.

Not really, this was staged!

In between the cobbles it is very flat and most of the roads are in good shape so I could see that during the actual race the pace must be very fast. I only recall one significant downhill in the 92 or so clicks where I got up over 55 with the cross tires and I really can't recall climbing anything more than a few meters.
A few nice pics along the way.

Finally, making it to the velodrome after 142 km and many hours in the saddle. Yes, you can actually ride right in and do a "victory lap"!

The "Hell of the North" (L'enfer du Nord) was actually more heavenly today than hell-like (on the building it says that it leads to paradise and today was definitely paradise for a cyclist.

I rode the few km to the train station and after a 40 min wait hopped on to Kortrijk. By that time, I was getting the chills and didn't warm up enough on the short ride plus I felt great so I decided that I didn't want to wait 30 min for the connection then set out to ride the additional 40 km back home to bring it up to a cool 195 km for the day. What a day!

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