Like its contemporary, Flanders, it’s a race that only needs one word to cue a movie reel in a fan’s mind. Rider have love/hate relationships with the Queen of the Classics, and it’s easy to see why. Double-taped bars don’t take nearly enough bite off the granite, and palms still tear open through bandaged hands.
But then, they finish in the velodrome in front of thousands of fans. At few races is finishing cause for celebration. The riders lay on their backs on the infield and let the lines of the sweat-soaked mud on their faces tell the story of the race.
We asked the EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale riders racing Sunday’s spectacle to tell us what they love about Paris-Roubaix. Some actually humored us and pretended to like it.
“It’s the holy grail. The Arenberg Forest. The trenches. I call it my favorite race. It’s hard to call something your favorite race when it destroys you every single time, but that’s cycling isn’t it?”
“Roubaix is a battle. It’s a journey. It’s physically and emotionally tough. I love it yet at times I hate it. It can defeat you and be the most beautiful moment in cycling. The velodrome, it’s emotional. Roubaix is the reason why I race each season.”
“For me, it’s the cobbles. They’re different than the ones in Belgium and the roads are only used once every year. It’s a special thing.”
“It’s so different from any other race. The history around it adds a layer of mystique.”
“What do I love about Roubaix? The massive battle on all the small, small cobbled roads, approaching the Velodrome. When you finally get onto the Velodrome, it’s hard to describe. It’s an unreal feeling to make it in there, the crowds, all the people cheering, the sense of accomplishment.”
Tom Van Asbroeck
“Nothing at all. Ha. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I was always afraid of it when I was on my previous team, on Topsport Vlaanderen. I had the chance to race it and didn’t take it. I heard stories about it. It was horrible. And then one day I had to do it and instant love. Instant love. It’s horrible but I love it.”
“Roubaix is the toughest Monument and the one with the most history. They call it the Hell of the North for a reason. It’s a race beyond compare.
“I have good memories from the race already with a couple time top 10 and last year one of the highlights of my career with the third place, standing there on the podium, entering the velodrome to sprint for the win. That’s one of the memories that will always stay with me. I‘m really looking forward to Sunday. From now on, everything is focused on that.”
Looking for more details about what you can expect from Sunday’s race? We highly recommend this Paris-Roubaix preview from CyclingTips
EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Paris-Roubaix
Andreas Klier (DEU)
Ken Vanmarcke (BEL)
Matti Breschel (DEN)
Mitch Docker (AUS)
Sebastan Langeveld (NLD)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Tom Scully (NZL)
Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL)
Sep Vanmarcke (BEL)