Figuratively and literally a requirement after this year Hell of the North..
The normal weather punditry leading up to this years was spiced up with quite a few days or rain meaning the recon for the riders were quite the mud bath. But the Sun was ignoring the fan (and all those who weren’t riding, driving or generally working) who were baying for Mud. A few days of sunshine baked the worst of it into the normal dust storm with the odd patch of damp to keep the riders honest.
Modern cycling, certainly at Grand Tour level is sometime reduced to numbers, Watts, VAM, Vo2Max one day racing bucks against this trend and Roubaix is the pinnicle of that.
The only 2 numbers that matter at Roubaix are 29 and 54.4 (at least for this year) as its the number of cobbled sectors and the total number of Km’s that will be spent bouncing over them. That’s not to say bike technology doesn’t play a part, tyre pressures, light weight wheels capable of withstanding the rough roads and aero bikes to make you slide through the wind. You only have to look at the luck of Team Sky to know this can be wiped out in an instant. A crash on on the first cobbled sector robbed Geraint Thomas (a former Junior Winner of Paris Roubaix) of the chance to contest the race.
It seems that the same is true for photographers as well, or at least for me, i’ll spend the night before planning, going over previous years photos either looking for something different or even something the same if its worked well previous years.
The plan was out of the window on the first planned stop, the normal farmers field with adequate parking space was fenced off and i was left to drive on trying to keep my on the road and the spectators but also to the side of the road looking for a stopping space.
Had that not happened i might not have seen Geraint valiantly trying to chase back on behind an equally brave team car going hell for leather onto the cobbles trying to stay ahead of him
From that point on the plan was completely out the window, experience has taught me (usually by punishing me) not to correct the plan to, just skip the step and move on. If i was on a motorbike then this wouldn’t be quite so costly but in the car there’s a limit to how many good stops you can make, there’s plenty of mediocre stops you can make.
Just when i thought it was back on track…bam another hit, a missed deviation sign meant instead of shooting from the side of the sector..i was on the sector!
With a small amendment to the plan…a stop resulted in this photo
Ok, back on track, a cheeky little stop in Cysoing just like so many other year and then onto the finish, well almost. Thanks to the joys of arriving with minutes to spare and more cars than parking spaces…as i ran into the velodrome i could hear the cheer go up…guess that’s the finish then. That’s the first time in 11 years of covering the race I’ve missed the finish…I’ll add that to my list of lessons learned…now its time for a shower!