The Paris- Roubaix is a 253.5 km (157.5 mile) bike race that takes place this Sunday, April 12th. The distance (which will be covered in about 6 hours) is not the scary part – not why people have nick-named it, “The Hell of the North.” It earns that moniker for two reasons: 1) When the Paris-Roubaix recommenced after World War I, Battlefields and rampant destruction still marred the villages along the route. 2) These……Fifty-seven-point five km (35.7 miles) of cobblestones like these. These cobbles tear tires, become slippery when wet, and shake elite athletes’ bodies into jelly when not flinging them into spectators or ditches. This year, the 113th edition will be won by the Czech cyclist Zdeněk Štybar. Why? One could list many reasons. He is a three-time World Champion in cyclocross, a muddy discipline of cycling that develops amazing poise, power, and agility. This year, he won the Italian equivalent of the Paris-Roubaix, the Strade Bianche. He achieved 9th in the Tour of Flanders a few days ago despite not being able to eat sufficiently – he rode so hard his temporary teeth rattled loose! ( He lost his teeth in a bad race accident last year) Finally, his country has many cobblestones; they are in the people’s psyche; they are in Štybar’s psyche. Actually, I believe a Czech should win the Paris-Roubaix every year; with cobblestones like the ones below, what excuse do they have? (Except maybe they use bike paths and bike lanes instead…?)
Good luck, Zdeněk! If you’ve ridden around Prague, you should be ready to win Paris-Roubaix!