When I first got into cycling I didn’t know anything about the classic races, or even the Giro or the Vuelta. The only race I was really aware of was the Tour de France. I would imagine that’s the same for most people that aren’t aware of cycling and all the great racing throughout the year.
The more I became immersed in bike culture the more I became aware of these other “lesser known” races that are the one-day classics. Well, lesser known for Americans who don’t know much about bike races. If you are Belgian, or even European, you are fully aware of these races and they are so deeply rooted in your culture that it’s almost a national holiday.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this documentary I highly recommend you do. I typically am not one to own movies because I never watch them twice. This one I’ve seen twice and could see over and over. It’s just incredible and the photography and music are amazing. It’s almost haunting in a way; it’s truly riveting.
It’s often called the Queen of the Classics and the Hell of the North, with over 50km of cobbled sections that are almost 200 years old. (Jamie Smith gave his account of one of the famous sections, the Arenberg Forest, on his blog last year.) Not only is the course difficult to manuever, but the weather can be cold and rainy. Such is the spring season in Belgium.
George Hincapie has been quoted as saying that this one day race is harder than all the 21 stages of the Tour de France. It also follows a week after The Tour of Flanders, which is equally as exciting and iconic in Belgium, and almost as difficult, though some consider Flanders more difficult to win. (Tell that to Stijn Devolder!)
BKW had an interesting post regarding the murals at Café de l’Arbre along the race route. These murals are incredible and give you a sense of what this race means to the people of that part of the world.
It’s anyone’s guess who will win Paris-Roubaix tomorrow. Everyone wants to add this race to their list of victories. One of those being Big George Hincapie. It’s been a dream of his to win it but he’s been plagued by a series of unfortunate events prior to or during this race. In 2007 he broke his wrist during the Tour of California that kept him out of the classics. In 2008 he had an equipment failure (broken fork) during the race. This year he had a crash at the end of the Tour of Flanders and hopefully that won’t affect his quest for a win tomorrow. He’s well suited for this race and many of the experts feel he can win it. One might compare his quest for the famed cobble trophy to Roger Federer’s quest to win on clay at the French open – so close and yet so far way. Perhaps this will be the year George will make that happen. I will certainly be cheering for him.