If you are a rabid pro bike racing fan there is only one time of the year other than July when your mouth starts salivating, your hands start shaking and you can't sit still for more than about 2 seconds. OK. If you are Belgian, the maybe it is three times a year (De Ronde!), but for those of us who don't eat our frites with mayonnaise it is the Tour and Roubaix. Paris-Roubaix to be exact. The H3ll of the North. The Cobbled Classic. The hardest one-day race on a bike on the planet. Pick a moniker and as long as it describes a total melee on the most difficult surface to race a road bike thrown in with potentially bad weather and the odds on chance that you might get run over by a support vehicle and you have the Queen of the Classics.
If you happen to have the right combination of skill, strength, and luck, and somehow emerge from the fields of northern France in one piece and are first across the line in the velodrome in Roubaix, you get a huge cobblestone as a trophy of your win. The thing weighs a ton and probably still has a bit of cow poo on it, but there isn't a single rider in the pro peloton who wouldn't trade their left nut for that stone.
And if owning a piece of French real estate wasn't enough, they even name a shower stall in the Roubaix Velodrome after you. Of course, the race organizers fail to mention that you need a Class 7 biohazard suit to venture into the shower room at Roubaix, however, take my word for it, you get a stall with your name on it.
What makes Paris-Roubaix such a prestigious and tough race is those darn cobbles. As with the stones in De Ronde, these babies were laid down back in the late 1800's and early 1900's and while I am sure they looked flat over 100 years ago, that's definitely not the case now. There are twenty six cobbled sections along the 160-mile route ranging in length from 400 yards to several miles and you would swear that just when your strength is ebbing that those darn stones come alive, raise their little heads and send you and your bike flying sideways just for grins.
Yes, it takes a bit of luck to win Paris-Roubaix, but the cobbles always seem to produce a worthy victor, a rider who will, from that day on, be known as a hardman of the road a title that is well deserved. Who will be the next inductee into the hardman hall of fame come this Sunday. My mouth is watering, my hands are shaking and I can't sit still for more than 2 seconds. Bring it on!