Post Roubaix wash up….

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.

2018 Paris Roubaix 116th Edition - a muddied and battered Gerain

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

2018 Paris Roubaix 116th Edition - Geraint Thomas (Team Sky Proc

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

2018 Paris Roubaix 116th Edition - World Champion Peter Sagan (B

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!

 

2018 Paris Roubaix 116th Edition - Taylor Phinney (Ef Education

 

 

Duo the fun…Duo the pain

The Christmas break is fast approaching but sadly so is the cold weather which means my trifecta of conditions i won’t go out in happen pretty much every day…Cold, Dark and Wet. But on the plus side i have logged quite a lot of Zwift hours and also cracked through quite a lot of christmas movies while training.

But at this time of of year the Pro’s are starting to find the areas of warm, or at least warmer weather to make everyone jealous and Instagram is full of people loving the Australian summer. Once i get rid of a very jade skin tone i start thinking back to the highlights of last season and days of sunshine and fun rides.

One highlight of the year just gone was the Duo Normond, having tried and failed to get myself organised with a partner this year it finally came together. With the help of  teammate Andy some great accommodation was sorted and with Aaron as a keen partner all i needed to do was get there.

With the challenge of limited leave allowance it meant a less relaxed journey on the friday rather than the other guys and my external optimism or more accurately my innate ability to underestimate how long things take meant i arrived in the wee hours of the morning. By a miracle navigation and some careful instructions not only did i find the house with no issues (the collection of TT bikes in the shed gave me some confidence of being in the right place) but i also found my bed and snuck in quietly without waking a soul and pretty much passed out.

Previous visits to the Normandy area of France didn’t give me hope of a nice dry weekend but waking on the Saturday morning to glorious sunshine was the best start to the weekend. I would say the “gentle spin” to Marigny was pleasant but get my teammates on quiet sunny roads on TT bikes that aren’t exactly flat leads to a very generous definition of “gentle”.

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It was the ride back with just Aaron and I that the realisation of just what i was letting myself in for, a combination of a 58t chainring and a him being few kilos lighter made for a challenging climbing pace. The pressure of not letting him down was definitely starting to weigh down on me and really helping the nerves start building up.

When Sunday morning came all was looking promising for a lovely day, the first pair from the team were off early and set a great bench mark for the day in great weather but as noon came around and our start time drew nearer the clouds were starting to thicken and the biblical downpours i’d seen pictures of from last year threatened again.

Having been and photographed quite a lot of Pro TT’s the start ramp was not an unusual site, but actually going down one was, the prospect of going down one and straight up a hill was not making it any easier on the nerves.

As we set off my prediction of pain came true all too quickly as i struggled to keep pace with my younger and faster partner, holding back the panic and trying to compose myself into “the zone” i merely grunted to ease back as we crested so i could tuck in and get settle into the pace. As we gently eased (from a cornering perspective definitely not pace) through the bends of the flattish opening km’s my red line definitely passed i was left wondering how much harder it was going to get, respite came in the form of a mini disaster and Aaron unshipping his chain which afforded me a minute or two of coasting.

This was to be the last respite of the day as he then proceeded to push well past my limit for the rest of the course, i feel this image typifies my memories of the ride…Aaron on the front, my desperately clinging on to his wheel.

 

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With no course recce i was riding entirely blind, but my team mates had only given my words of warning for one decent that was “a bit tricky”, sadly this was the one decent i misread the road entirely and narrowly avoided the bush with some effective breaking, which on new carbon rims was an experience in of itself.

Somehow we made it round the “hilly” part of the course in one piece and rolled through Marigny to start the final 10km’s of the ride. At this point my legs started feeling a bit better, as i realised at the final turn it was mainly because it was slightly down hill. The sprint out of the dead turn extinguished whatever fire was left in my legs but thankfully by this point Aaron and i were matched on tiredness, having done the lions share of the work evened us out. With a sense of numbness we pushed the last bit of energy out in the downhill sprint to the line and sought somewhere to collapse

As you can probably tell from the post race photos…one of us was the hammer and the other was the nail, and if you need a clue i couldn’t string a sentence together for 10mins afterwards)

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Photo credits to Mike Smith for capturing Aaron and I hurting ourselves for 33miles