Monday, December 31, 2012


En route to Lille, France, we passed right through Roubaix. Being cyclists, we could NOT drive through Roubaix without stopping to see the finishing velodrome from Paris-Roubaix.

The weather was awesome (again!), but I have watched Paris-Roubaix a million times on TV, so I was prepared and knew this is normal. However, all thoughts of discovering a cute and quaint French town where I watch this epic bike race finish were hurled out the window as we wandered around for half an hour trying to find the velodrome, while passing one dilapidated building after another. Thanks to the iPhone and some French roaming charges, we found the sports complex.

It is complete with a BMX track that I'm fairly certain I would die on should I ever try to ride anything with wheels around it, and a new indoor velodrome (located behind this track).

And more run down buildings. Paris-Roubaix has been a bicycle race for 116 years and I think many of the buildings in the sports complex are nearly this old.

But the velodrome itself was spectacular. It is old and concrete and seemed exactly as it should be - small, yet massive.

We decided to check out the steep banks on the end.

Below the thick blue stripe is a cinder running track filled with water. Which, as we decided to climb up the steepest part (covered in slick paint), we realized would be similar to a water slide landing should we lose our footing.

At one point Shaun was trying to pull me up the bank using the umbrella as a rope. We made it to the top without going down.

It's so steep I realized there was no way you could go into the corner on your bicycle without being committed and at speed. Standing on the top of the steep velodrome wall where 116 years of cycling history has ridden was really fun for me.

The finish line.

Cycling has a million problems, just as many other sports do. But I still really love watching the guts, hard work and determination that are put into an event such as Paris-Roubaix. It is all a bit crazy sport-wise and I like that.

This is a large version of the award the winner goes home with. A rock. Paris-Roubaix is known as "Hell of the North" not because of its difficult route over cobblestones, mud and slick surfaces, but because in 1919 when the race was run right after World War I it was the first discovery of just how bad the north of France had been destroyed.