April 1976 was wet in York. I couldn’t rock climb and my then climbing partner introduced me to professional cycle racing via ITV’s World of Sport with Dickie Davies. Yes, live cycling was on the telly well before the advent of Eurosport and ITV4!
That sowed a seed which has remained with me throughout all my years of riding a bike (slowly). So this year Rob and I set off to ride the Paris – Roubaix challenge – 145km and 18 secteurs of pave starting with the Troue d’Arenberg and finishing on the famous outdoor velodrome.
The day started cool but cloudless with a short ride from the hotel to the start in Roubaix. A block headwind south was made much easier by sitting on groups who were prepared to work a bit harder than we were. Soon after the first feed the action starts with the pencil straight 2.4 kilometres of the Arenberg. This is timed and photographed with all of the info on the website on the Monday morning. Rob and I stayed pretty much together on every section of pave riding continuously from feed to feed. This was in stark contrast to many riders who charged along the pave only to stop at the end of it and have a rest and a drink.
After a 183 kilometre day with no punctures, no mechanicals and no crashes we rewarded ourselves with that well known and widely available isotonic recovery drink – Belgian beer!
I have not had as much fun on a bike in a long time so if anyone is interested in going next year I can help you plan a brilliant weekend of riding and watching the pros either by the roadside and / or in the velodrome. Just bear in mind that it has not rained at Roubaix since 2002!