‘Hell of the North’ beckons for Cycle Slammers

The signature ride of Stage 5 of the Dallaglio Flintoff Cycle Slam is day three – when we tackle The ‘Hell of the North’ – a 153km journey over cobbled farm tracks and streets from Paris to Roubaix, a bone-shaking route covered by many iconic bike races over the years.

Today, Sunday 8th April 2012, is the day of the professional Paris-Roubaix race, won this year by Tom Boonen who rode into the record books by equalling Roger De Vlaeminck’s all-time win record of four victories at the event. The 31-year-old Belgian rode the final 52km alone to win by 1:39 over a five-man chase group.

Photo: © Photopress.be

So whilst the Pros were busy battling it, I did some research into what lies in store for us Cycle Slammers. The nickname, ‘Hell of the North’ comes from the 50km of cobbles that are included in the course.   On the full race these are split into 27 sections, each up to 3km in length. The first of the pavés of Paris-Roubaix comes nearly 100km after the start before the sectors become increasingly frequent as the riders snake their way towards the velodrome finish in the Lille suburbs.

Amateur cyclists are equally well catered for, with the race preceded by a sportive that covers the sames course taken by the Pros. The following video sums up the essence of the event, and the hazards that lie in wait for the unsuspecting cyclist – at risk from punctures, broken gears and crashes.

So how do you train for riding on the cobbles? This is what the Pros suggest:

  • You need good speed entering the cobbles. The slower you ride them the harder it is. You have to go fast to smooth out the bumps.
  • Position is important. It is best to sit as far back on our seat as you can so that your weight is on your back wheel. It is also important to hold tight onto your handle bars so that you do not loose control and fall.
  • You need to have the right cadence. If your cadence is too high, you bounce. If your cadence is too low, you blow. But if your cadence is just right, you float!
  • The best way is to ride straight down the middle of the road. It is the hardest, but it is the best. When riders start getting a bit tired or a bit desperate they dive off into the sides or into the dirt because it is a little bit easier there, but that is where most of the crashes and the punctures happen.

So there you have it. Thursday 17th May is when we put theory into practice. Wish me luck!

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