When it was all over, canvassed the opinions of the survivors.

Picture These children should be riding in the centre of the road, coasting over the crest of the cobbles. Don’t they teach them anything in France?


Age: 22

From: Crystal Palace

Distance: 190km

Good bits – Finding energy and adrenaline from the Arenberg I rode across a 3km section of pavé (Pavé de Hornaing) passing other members of my group who had stopped to re-thread a pedal. I was bumping around so much I couldn’t tell who or what the problem was. They mentioned that the cyclist behind me was ‘blowing chunks’ to stay on my wheel. It’s good to know that sometimes girls aren’t the slowest.

Bad bits – Ate to much cake and then drank a red energy drink at first checkpoint. The next bit of pave shook it all up and I was sick. I had to stop in a muddy section; got my shoe cleat clogged in mud for the next 800 metres to the end of the pave I rode unclipped which was really tough and nerve-wracking on slippery cobbles.

Memorable bits – Arenberg – it is not like anything else or could expect from watching race footage. Although smashing my bike to pieces isn’t wise it was great hammering along. I’m glad I can say I rode it all and gave it all my effort.


Age: 28

From: Surrey

Distance: 260km

Good bits: Muddy pave. The ham salad baguette at Beuvry. Finishing in the velodrome.

Bad bits: The coach not starting at Hampton Court. Otherwise none. But it was a long weekend.

Memorable bits: Tony shouting “Oh F***ing Hell” as he came up alongside me on the first section of pavé and started sliding sideways towards the grass verge/hedge.


Age: 37

From: West Malling

Distance: 260km

Good bits: Getting pulled along (and some pulling) for the first 50 miles at a pace I wouldn’t normally ride at, looking over my shoulder at the huge group we had formed of probably 100-150 riders – for a triathlete, scary, but cool! Sprinting out of Arenberg on the pavé,shouting to myself – in rhythm with my pedal strokes – “Hup, hup hup, hup”.Not finding the Carrefour de l’Arbre anywhere near as bad as I had feared.

Bad bits: The shock of that first piece of pavé and the slick cobbles in the wet on those first few sections. Blistered hands making it painful to grip the bars on the smooth, let alone the pave. Not wanting to go on after the 4th check point, and then again the 5th. The cobblestones were winning, my joints, muscles, bones were losing.Cramping badly twice coming off of the pave, and despite still feeling strong having to resign myself to the rest of the ride soft pedalling.

Memorable bits: That first piece of pavé. Nothing I could have done short of pre-riding it could have prepared me for how rough it really is. Coming off the Carrefour de l’Arbre pave realizing that the worst was now behind me! The Velodrome (read END), naturally! Having other riders around me suffering too, yet pushing me to carry on and finish. The Velodrome (read END), naturally


Age: 44

From: Redhill

Distance: 260km

Good bits: Many, including looking across to one of our group as we hit the first stretch of very slippery pavé at top speed & laughing as he just swore very long & loudly f******g H*ll, which sort of summed things up at that point as bodies seemed to fly everywhere.

Bad bits: Struggling to eat and drink as much as I needed to.

Memorable bits: Too many to list, but riding the whole of the Arenberg sector, without resorting to the side-path, as a wager, will stick in my mind – and other parts of my anatomy.


Age: 33

From: Carshalton

Distance: 260km

Good bits: Turning round after an hour to see if our group of eight was still together to find a peleton of about 60 had formed. The 1st cobbled section; adrenalin had got the better of me and I attacked it like the last lap at Crystal Palace but then got into a two wheel drift. Somehow I saved it and got out the other end. Coming out of every section of pave with the most ridiculous grin on my face.

Bad bits: Having a puncture, where was the Mavic motorbike?

Whoever invented the stand up toilet never wore bib shorts!

Memorable bits: The English lady following her husband along the pavé in her BMW and tearing her exhaust off in the process. A level crossing coming down. The Arenburg; I cheated quite a bit, but did enough to understand. Coming up to the famous café. The last section of cobbles.

Coming up to the famous café. The last section of cobbles. And last but not least, the showers. I got Hippoltye Aucouturier (1903 and 1904). What a great name.


Age: 37

From: Epsom

Distance: 190km

Good Bits: Excellent ride. Loved the bone jarring Arenburg Trench which I started on 50×15 and exited on which I was pleased with.

Bad bits: The 3am wake up call.

Memorable bits: The French man getting changed next to me in the Roubaix showers who turned to me totally naked and asked in his best English “can you take photo of my backside to the name plaque please” and handed me his camera. So he positioned himself starker’s next to the plaque (each plaque is in memory of a former winner of Paris Roubaix) and I took a photo of his bum. Ha! Ha! So I moved closer to take the photo I knew he really wanted (his upper body next to the name plaque) but he sensed something was up by the giggles coming from myself and Ben Spurrier. As we left he checked the pictures I had taken on his camera and gave us a most puzzled look!


Age: 29

From: Clapham

Distance: 190km

Best, worst and most memorable part was straight down the middle of the Arenberg at full pelt all the way -the most brutal thing I have ever experienced on a road bike.

Also, being on Cleverly’s wheel when his pedal came clean off on one stretch on Pave!!!


Age: 33

From: London

Distance: 190km

Good bits/bad bits/memorable bits: Concern at Hampton Court over the non-starting coach

Alarm going off at 3.15am – argh!

Setting off to choruses of ‘bon route!’

Hitting the first cobbles – “For godsake don’t slow down”

Feeling very thankful that I was riding cross tyres

Having to pull Kimberley’s shoe out of her cleat stop– speedplays and mud do not mix

Avoiding the green toothpastey liquid at the feeding stations

Richard and Richard of London Phoenix with their matching ‘Phoenix Stripes’ of mud

Loving a floppy white-sliced cheese sandwich at one of the later feed stations and those waffle things with the confectionary cream inside

The hurt of the Arenburg forest – then the joy of a break on the cinder path alongside then nipping back on to the cobbles near the end and in time for the photo opportunity

The eclectic décor of the Mega diner

Aching forearms from Arenburg onwards

The joy of a one metre strip of tarmac amongst the later cobbles

Counting down the cobble sections

The encouragement of the spectators at Arenburg, Carrefour and the velodrome

Ellicit surrealism of being one of three women in a huge shower-room of men

Being able to choose my cobble

The post-ride beer

Tired and satisfied with a coach-load of others


Age: 36

From: Blackheath

Distance: 260km

Good bits/bad bits/memorable bits: The early morning mists; the vanilla filled ‘gauffres’ at the feed stops and the very friendly people; the huge excitement building as we approached the first section of pave; seeing someone with a broken rim at the side of the road 1km BEFORE the first pave (now that’s bad luck!); the shock of the slipperiness of the first sections of pave (probably the worst) and seriously questioning whether I would be able to complete it; refining the technique over each successive sector; the worry of something breaking on the bike which receded as confidence grew; swinging into the velodrome and riding the banking was a fantastic feeling. The famous showers were an incredible experience too – I got Peter Van Petegem (2003). Oh, and frites afterwards!


Club: Bristol South

Distance: 260km

This was the fourth time that I’ve ridden Paris-Roubaix, (each time the full distance), I would say that this was the worst. It was bad in 2006 because of the heat, but at least the cobbles were dry.

The first sector of pave at Troisvilles was frightening, how the pros manage in a bunch of 180 riders is beyond me.

Everyone was scared and riding really slowly over the muddy cobbles, then we saw a rider on the floor with what looked like a broken leg, at this point everyone carried their bikes over the sector.

It was nearly impossible to ride some of the early sectors without falling off, it was just luck that kept me upright… not skill!

By the time I got to the control at Beuvry-La-Foret my “enjoyment” was running low. The combination of the distance and cobbles was taking its toll.

There were loads of riders with broken machines, lots of snapped gear hangers, broken saddle rails, broken spokes, snapped bars and I passed one rider with no saddle.

I knew that the hard sectors were to come, therefore rode steady on the tarmac parts in order to conserve energy, it was hard though to ride the cobbles fast because slower riders would block my way, and the side ditches were full of water.

On sector six I was nearly brought down on a corner by an Italian who touched my back wheel. Down he went with a bang. I stopped and went back to check, he was okay so I carried on.

Carrefour de l’Arbre was mad! How do the pros attack over this ‘road’? I was at the roadside in April when Boonen, Cancellera and Ballan came past at more than 30 miles per hour. I was struggling to manage 10 mph at this point… respect to the pros.

Finished in 9 hours and 40 minutes, had a well earned beer at the velodrome. Will I ride for a fifth time in 2010? Not sure…

Maybe I’ll have to get a team together and ride a quad and beat the France who rode a triplet!


Paris-Roubaix sportive home page

Ian Cleverly’s Paris-Roubaix sportive experience

Lionel Birnie’s Paris-Roubaix sportive experience

James Shrubsall’s Paris-Roubaix sportive experience

The readers’ Paris-Roubaix sportive experience


Official Paris-Roubaix cyclo-sportive site