You know how it is. Somebody sends you an email inviting you to participate in a monstrously hard ride some months in advance and you sign up with unbridled enthusiasm and think about doing some training. Then, before you know it, said ride is a few days away and the overwhelming feeling is of impending disaster.

Still, it could be worse: I could be in the same boat as Messrs Birnie and Shrubsall, Cycling Weekly?s resident mugs (sorry ? make that ?brave volunteers?) who have plumped for the full distance Paris-Roubaix of 255 kilometres.

In the same style as the Tour of Flanders sportive, doing the full monty involves a lengthy opening section of not terribly exciting road before reaching the nitty-gritty of the cobbles. What may constitute a bit of a warm-up and a chance to jockey for position for the pros sounds a lot like unnecessary suffering for this work-shy journo. Consequently, I have plumped for the mid-distance, 190-kilometre route which puts you straight in at the bumpy stuff at Saint-Quentin.

And here lies the reason for my apprehension. 190 kilometres in one day is not something I have ever tackled before ? not even on flat tarmac roads, let alone farm tracks and pavé. I am assured by experienced P-R sportive-ers that the distance is not a huge issue: attack the cobbled sectors and recover in between and everything will be just fine. We?ll see about that.

Here are my preparations ? such as they are.


Sporadic ? to say the least. A 90-mile sportive, a weekly four hour ride at the weekends and the odd mid-week track league or criterium. Oh dear.


There?s nothing like a good eight hours kip. With a 4am alarm call on Sunday morning ? that?s right, folks, 4am ? I will be getting nothing like eight hours, so am sleeping at every available opportunity. If you are doing the sportive and see an extremely grumpy Englishman in the morning, please do not attempt to talk to him.

The bike

The ?cross machine came out of the loft and got a dust down. I figure that comfort is going to be a big factor and the ?cross bike handles the rough-stuff a darn sight better than the road machine.

Water bottles

Having no cage bosses on the frame, I mounted a cage on the seat tube using special plastic clips. These promptly broke within half of a mile of leaving the house, before I?d even reached the first speed bump. Oh dear ? again. Now replaced with aluminium clips that appear much sturdier. Here?s hoping?


28mm Conti Gator Skins. I want as much rubber as possible between my backside and the pavé. There is a good possibility of rain on Sunday and the tracks will already be muddy, so I?m putting my faith in Continentals on 32-spoke wheels. Call me old-fashioned.

Bar tape

Specialized Bar Phat gel has gone under the bar tape to try and take the sting out of the front end. Phat chance.

Everything is in place. What could possibly go wrong?…


Dreaming of cobblestones