Paris-Roubaix debutant relives his traumatic day on the cobbles in WhatsApp chat

'I gave my bike to André Greipel and then had two big sips of a Duvel a spectator handed me'

Excacty 174 riders took the start line at Paris-Roubaix 2019, but only 100 finished. That leaves 74 who either crossed the line outside the time limit, or didn’t finish at all. This isn’t really a surprise, with the cobbles causing many a crash and the general chaos of the race meaning you could simply get forgotten and left behind at the side of the road.

In the aftermath of these big races we always hear from the winners, those who came desperately close, and maybe the heroes the television cameras caught by chance performing heroics against the odds.

Who we don’t often hear from are the lesser known riders who either came last or even finished just outside the time limit. Those who may have suffered multiple punctures and become detached from their group or just had a really, really terrible day in the saddle.

One of these riders is Alan Riou, Arkéa-Samsic’s 22-year-old French rider. In a video shared on the team’s Twitter, he retells the story of his day on the road, including stories of having to give his bike to team leader André Greipel and even drinking the beer of a spectator who was standing at the side of the road.

Here’s the video of the real-time conversation that the team helpfully screen recorded, but we’ve also transcribed the conversation below for the sake of brevity.

Arkéa Samsic: We didn’t see each other at the bus. We hope you’ll take some positives from [the race].

Alan Riou: “I drank two big sips of a cold Duvel a spectator handed to me in sector 15. That’s the positive.”

AS: I’ll admit we had a huge laugh in the press room.

AR: “I swear it’s true.”

You didn’t have any bottles left?

“For 50km I had nothing then I got a bag from Dimension Data and then a bit further down the road a bottle, also from Dimension Data.”

What a mess…when did you get your bike back?

“I gave my bike then I didn’t get assistance from the number one car because they had to give the bike to André [Greipel] as quickly as possible. I waited for the second and I went back. I was only 5km before the Arenberg.

“I was caught by a group of eight, we went through the sector but then they all abandoned.”

Noooo!

“I hesitated for a short while. I would have hated to stop because I wasn’t on a bad day. So I continued, I wanted to see how it felt to ride this distance with so many cobbles. Too bad that we had a headwind for three quarters of the race.

“My morale went down 25km from the finish when I was going through a village and there was this big screen showing the leaders were 1.7km from the line.

“But after doing more than 200km, giving up was out of the question.”

That shows a lot of mental strength.

“The last 20km were long but before that it was fine I had a good rhythm, at least regular…I had my third bike which had 25 tubes, not 28 so with a bit more pressure.”

But that’s not possible…

“Sorry, lots of typos but I’m too tired to care.”

No worries! But did you enjoy the velodrome?

“I don’t know if I will ride many Paris-Roubaix races, but [I’ve now done] at least one and I will remember it. I was dead. But yeah it was cool. I didn’t go through a cobbled sector where there was no spectator. I got encouragements from everyone, they were all telling me to finish the race.”

Wasn’t it hard to give up your bike? [To Greipel who had a mechanical]

“At the moment no, when I left it I thought I would be back on quickly and find a group to finish within the time cut with. But the pace is so high…not giving my bike would have been an error. André is the champion, not me!”

After such a day you also are a champion and you’re gonna prove that at some point. What’s your programme now?

“Brabanconne, Finistère and Tour de Bretagne. Not much time to rest!”

Upcoming events