Paris-Roubaix:The Guts, The Glory, The Grime


Think you’ve survived something as nasty as Paris-Roubaix? Read our blog about the classic race, and tell us your story. There will be Contender goodies involved for the best tales! Keep reading for details….

In 1896

When two textile manufacturers wanted to organize a cycling race from Paris to the new velodrome they had just built in the small, rural town of Roubaix, they had a journalist ride the route to see what the course and conditions for the race would actually be. The hope was that the journalist would enjoy his ride and recommend his paper help promote the fledgling race. As the story goes, when he finished his ride, the freezing temperatures, the howling wind and the apocalyptic rain had done him in -he was convinced that not only was the route a nightmare of mud, bad roads, and barbarous conditions, but that sending a group of racers on these same roads would be ridiculously dangerous. 

Now, I’m not a huge steward of history but I’ll say this: if some guy (who, by the way went on to be a deputy organizer for The Tour) decided in 18-friggin’-96, the same era that had Jack the Ripper, Polio, coal-covered child laborers, and doctors that still used leeches for bloodletting (!), that a bike ride was too dangerous then you know it was pretty gnarly. 

Half the riders that signed up for that first Paris-Roubaix decided not to show up.

But they ran the race anyway. It was a huge success.

And That’s Kinda How It’s Stayed

The only time the race was shut down was during the two World Wars. In 1919, organizers decided to survey the route to see if any of it had survived the shelling of the First World War. What they found, they said, were road conditions that could only be described as “hell”.

But, again, they ran the race anyway. And It garnered it’s famous name: The Hell of The North.


Fast-Forward About Another 100 Years

Paris-Roubaix is a spring classic; a test of the stupidity  endurance and fearlessness of riders stupid brave enough to face it’s mud, grit, weather and cobblestones.

And we love it! We revel in the ridiculous idea of having to race on some of the worst roads in Europe. It makes you giggle. It seems so hard -so dumb- to subject you and your butt to conditions so purposely bad- but there’s a strange attraction to it. There’s a bizarre affinity attached to events where everyone involved agrees that what they’re doing is probably a bad idea, but they’re going to do it anyway. Why? Because, dammit, other people will think you’re crazy and it’ll probably make a good story. Call it evidence of the unyielding human spirit. Call it our need to push and test the boundaries of what we can suffer. Call it something dumb you and your friends decided to get together and do.

paris-roubaix preproads

Call it something nasty under your breath.

The Point is, We’ve All Done Something Similar

We’ve all decided, for whatever reason, that we are going to undertake some misadventure with full understanding that it could possibly be the worst thing we ever decided to do. But hell, you’re friends are doing it, and you don’t want to be the only one left out. So you’re in. All the bloody way in.

In recognition of Paris-Roubaix this week, we thought we’d ask all of you to give us your most courageous, near-death (or near near-death) stories.

We want stories that revel in the wreckless abandonment that has engulfed us all at one point or another in our sporting careers. We want the stories that your significant other hopes you don’t tell at get-togethers because it just proves that they married down. We want the stories that are marinated so unabashedly in poor decision making that letting your cat prep your taxes is a comparatively good idea. Yeah. That’s what we want.

Here’s One To Get You Started

Mine has to do with a (seemingly) sunny Saturday in February about ten years ago and my friend’s idiotic attempt to get some winter ya-ya’s out and a whole bunch of early season miles in. Truth be told, I was just as eager to ride after 3 months of winter as he was. We decided to ride out to Provo Canyon (where we would end up hiking our bikes through more than 6 miles of snow drifts), into Heber where the sun quickly disappeared, then Park City; where it actually began to snow. By this point, we were out of daylight because of the time we had lost hiking up most of Provo Canyon with our bikes on our shoulders. We had no choice (because hypothermia was setting in and we just wanted to get the #%$! home) but to hop on I-80 and be done as fast as possible. I remember calling my mom from a 7-Eleven in Jeremy Ranch, letting her know where I was, what I was about to do, and that if I didn’t come home this might be the reason why.

I guess we could’ve stopped, stayed at the 7-Eleven and had someone pick us up. But we didn’t.

We saw the snow, we saw the semis shooting up huge rooster tails, we knew we’d be dodging black ice and we decided to do it anyway. We hopped onto I-80 and cruised down the canyon. It was one of the scariest, dumbest things I’ve ever done.


So what’s your story? Leave it in the comments and if we love it, we’ll post it! When you post it, look for an email about some Contender goodies heading your way!

Hope you watched the 111th edition of Paris-Roubaix this morning!




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