Catching up with old news 4 Riding at the iconic Paris-Roubaix by Joseph Martin

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We are really pleased to receive your stories of races and rides that have inspired you no matter how short or long, it your experience that makes the story interesting more so than the size of the event itself.

Here we have a story written by member Joseph Martin who visited the Paris Roubaix race. Joseph submitted this some while ago but our website had malfunctioned, please take the time to read it as it gives some insight into riding this course.

You may have read separately on our website Joe Bishop’s report of the professional race.

Day 1: we ride the Paris Roubaix

We woke up very early and got changed into our bike kit. We could only manage a small breakfast before leaving on the coach for Roubaix. We arrived in Roubaix where we would cycle out towards the start of the pro race for 35km before turning back on ourselves and joining the end of the pro route. We only did the 70km ride and so we missed the treacherous Arenberg Trench. But we did the last 8 pavés. We set off at 7:30am and after about 2 km found a good group of riders from France and Belgium. We rode with them travelling at about 35km/h for the first half.  Then when we got to the point where the 150km riders split from 70km riders and we were left as the only cyclists on the road. The whole group split from us.  But they had saved us a lot of effort as – without realising – we had been in a headwind the whole way to the split and now we had a tailwind all the way back to Roubaix.

At 37km we hit our first pavé (Templeuve). The first few hundred metres were, according to other riders, “the hardest of the whole day”. They were muddy and slippery and we got stuck behind a guy who we couldn’t overtake until that section was over. The second section was a lot easier. These were both 2 starred pavés.

Then at 44km we hit our third pavé (Cysoing à Bourghelles). This was a 3 star but was easier. So the starring must be the length and difficulty together.

We went through 5 more pavés, including the famous Carrefour de l’Arbre where we were timed; this was the only 5-star pavé we would do. I rode this really hard as I found that the faster you go the less you bounce around. But my quick release came undone on this sector with all the shaking and I had to wait for my Dad to check my wheel was OK.  With 8km to go we were at the front of the whole sportive. Just me, my dad and this other guy, a Fabian Cancellara look-a-like. I attacked at 8km to go and had it not been for being stopped at every traffic light, would have stuck it out. Unfortunately we were so far ahead that there were no signs for the Velodrome. We missed it, and I lost my position on the Cancellara look-a-like’s wheel as we turned back to go into the Velodrome.  He went high on the banking and won the sprint finish. (Just!)

Day 2: pro race

Yet another early start. After the ride the previous day, we now got to watch the pros ride it. We got a coach to Chantilly, where the race was starting and we watched all the riders roll away.

Then later on in the day we got to watch the riders on the first section of cobbles. There had been a crash just before this section so there were riders rolling through slowly behind the team cars.

Finally we got to watch from the Velodrome. My dad and I got good seats at the top of the banking on the first bend. It was a spectacular finish and it was a shame that Boonen messed up the sprint by going low and getting boxed in.


It was a great experience to be able to watch the riders ride the cobbles that we had ridden the previous day and I would love it if it could be organised next year for a PPYCC group to go and ride it.

Jojo Martin