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The unusual case for a Roubaix vacation

Caley Fretz went through several emotions while riding the Paris-Roubaix sportive two years ago.

The author participated in the Paris-Roubaix sportive in 2015. While bouncing along the cobblestones, he had the following epiphany….

The Arenberg felt great, didn’t it? It did. Like flying. That slight downhill entry gifted just enough gravitational boost to stay on top of the gear all the way through, hands on the tops, as fast as Boonen and at least twice as handsome. But that was a long time ago.

Ahh, pavement.

Oh. Another one.

There is a moment about two hours into this ride you signed up for and waited for and flew across the world for when for all the world you just want it to end. Please. Legs were ready and skills seemed adequate but now hands, arms, shoulders, and the very spirit they hold off the earth are breaking. Broken. And still, there is a long way to go.

Ahh, pavement.

Crap. Another one.

The TV doesn’t show the line of soft gravel and grass on either side of the stones. Fans stand there, removing temptation. But it’s tempting now. No fans today. Tantalizing. This is now a question of pride. Of willpower. You will not break. OK, maybe just for a second. Maybe just for this sector.

Oh lovely pavement.

Shit. Another one.

How terrible at riding bikes are you, really? How completely, utterly bad? A disgrace. Turn your stupid jersey and stupid shoes and stupid bike in to whoever adjudicates these things and stop pretending you are anything more.

Thank God. Pavement.

Shit. Another one.

Mons-en-Pevele. That’s what it said on the little red and white sign that looks a lot like a gravestone. Look left, at those moving neon spots across the flat dead field. Those are riders already through this sector. Lucky them. You’ll be there some day. But isn’t the shortest distance between two points a straight line? Why are you going this way? Wouldn’t it be faster to ride straight through the field? Are farm furrows too much for 28mm tires? Walk? Could you walk?

Could you walk? Shut up. Probably less embarrassing just to ride on the grass over here. Anything but the goddamn rocks.

Thank God. Pavement.

F—k. Another one.

Carrefour. That’s near the end, right? On television it seems so close to the finish. Top of the ninth of Paris-Roubaix. On TV if someone breaks free here it might be over. Remember Sep last year? It was almost over. It’s almost over. Twenty minutes on TV.

Thank God. Pavement.

F—k. Another one.

It’s been 20 minutes. Where the hell is the velodrome? TV, that lying bastard. What f—king town is this. Sorry, hands. Sorry. Sorry. How much farther? Ride the Paris-Roubaix sportif, they said. Do the medium one, just 145 kilometers. There’s nothing to be afraid of but your own frailty, they said. It’s true. Only, you are frail.

Thank God. Pavement.

F—k. Another one.

You know this part. This is where Vansummeren realized he had a flat. He dared not look down, kept riding anyway. Keep riding. It’s downhill, just a bit. You call these cobbles? It’s practically asphalt. Easy. And gravity! Like Boonen, you are, and almost as handsome. Right turn. Right turn. Blue apron, banked concrete. Sprint for the thin black line because of course you do.

The finest moment you’ll ever have on a bicycle.