What an amazing “Hell of the North” today’s Paris-Roubaix was

Cobbles and Classics… today was Paris-Roubaix!

(C) Peter Kraiker

Close friends know Andrea and I were intending to go to Belgium for the Ardennes Classics and to see our friend Wim. That trip would have also included Paris-Roubaix. It didn’t pan out (stay tuned), so we watched it online instead. Not nearly the same, although I was certainly thinking of friends who I’m sure were watching (and envious of the folks Wim was guiding around).

Here’s a snippet of an email I got from him this morning:

All my crew left now (sunday morning 6;50am) and I do have 2 spare minutes.  I worked out a new route for today. We will see the cyclists at our lunch-place and then 2 cobblestone sections, then I’ll drive the customers OVER 3 other sections of which the last is section 8 (Pont-Thibaut à Ennevelin).  That’s where our TV-tent is, same place as last year but now WITH TENT.
At this last place we will of course also see the cyclists.
Weather is perfect (blue sky and 23°)
Devolder will win.
(I picked Hushovd to win, at least I got the right team!)

(C) Peter Kraiker
Wim does an amazing job getting his customers to really experience the race, and a one day classic is a very different experience compared to following a grand tour like le Tour de France. He’s now heading up special trips with Thomas Cook Sport Travel, take a look to see what he’s up to (much of the text is by Andrea, most of the photos are mine). Here’s a shot of some of the key riders from last year, both Cancellara and Hushovd were active today, as was Boonen until misfortune struck once too often.
Paris-Roubaix is an amazing race. Having ridden  some of these famous cobbles, including Arenberg, I know how punishing it can be to any rider. Having watched the race, I know how committed the racers are. They all know that the “HoTN” can be cruel and bad luck abounds. This year had lots to go around, as did other years (anyone care to ask Hincapie about carbon?).


One of the highlights of the race was seeing Canadian David Veilleux (riding for Europcar this year) compete in his first Paris-Roubaix. He spent much of the race in the breakaway and was in the hunt for a good result. When the dust had settled he was 25th overall and the top North American. Here’s a photo from SteepHill.TV/Sirotti that’s very clear in showing the effort required (wish I’d been there to take it!). 
I interviewed David after the Tour of Elk Grove in 2010 and asked him about his thoughts on Paris-Roubaix…
PK – You’ve said you like Paris-Roubaix.  Has racing in France given you a
taste of what it might be like? 
DV – Not really. A part of the last stage in Tour of Bretagne was on cobbles and gave me a taste of what it is like to race on such a road. However, Paris Roubaix is unique and it is a complete different level of race so I don’t think any races I participated in so far can be compared to it.
PK – and is it a race you see yourself competing in? 
DV -Definitely.  

Impressive result David!

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