Belgian toothpaste — that’s what they call the mud and grime that coats riders and their bikes in the Spring Classics.
Inspired by this fact, Shropshire cyclist Steve Anslow has designed his own sportive to replicate the effect — the Telford Toothpaste: Hell of the Wrekin.
“It’s Paris-Roubaix through the Shropshire countryside,” Anslow explained. “Going since 1896, Paris-Roubaix was only stopped by two world wars. It deserves a tribute.”
Known locally as ‘Teddy Smerckx’, Anslow first had the idea of paying homage to the Classics on his home turf when out on a Newport CC club ride.
“It was just a chat on a club run about Paris-Roubaix,” he said. “We were speaking about the local tracks and lanes that we have here and that it would be great to do something similar.”
The local community has taken the idea on board. Accommodating farm owners have been happy to let the ride pass through their land, and Dave Mellor Cycles of Shrewsbury is sponsoring the feed station at the halfway point in Sheriffhales.
Now in its third year, the ride has grown from 20 riders in 2012 to 100 cyclists last year. This year, the 57-mile ride will be on the same day as Paris-Roubaix, which it emulates with motorcycle outriders and a mixture of rough roads, bridleways and a pavé section through the village of Lilleshall.
The toughest part of the ride comes in the final 10 miles, along a rough disused railway line from Bridgenorth back into Ironbridge.
After finishing, riders can relax at the Malt House, a pub on the banks of the River Severn just a stone’s throw from the famous Iron Bridge, with a French bière while watching the pro race live on television.
Entry for the event is £25 with £5 going to the Shropshire Air Ambulance.
Accommodation is available at the Malt House and the Swan for riders wishing to make a weekend of it.