This years organised trip to take part in the Paris-Roubaix Challenge was another fantastic few days away.

Itineraries were sent out a few weeks ago and this year saw the introduction of a professional Soigneur to make life even easier for our riders. For those not in the know, A Soigneur is a dedicated person, responsible for looking after the riders and making sure their main job is to pedal the bike and enjoy the event as much as they can.

So to avoid the 4am start, 2 hour bus transfer and the freezing cold journey, John took us to the start line with breakfast and a dedicated Cycling Playlist in the nice warm van. This meant a more respectable start time and the ability to choose the right clothing depending on the weather at the start. A fantastic addition to an already brilliant event.

The other key role that John played (other than fixing and servicing bikes the night before the race, going to the shop to buy supplies, loading the van, driving to France and making sure we got to the start on time) was making sure we had a sandwich and a cup of tea en-route. For anyone who’s done Paris-Roubaix before, or any sportive infact, you’ll know that aid stations can be hit and miss, with loads of sugary treats to get you through, but experience of running previous trips told us that a sit down, savoury snack and good old warm cuppa halfway round would really boost morale and help boost failing legs. So it was with great delight, that after tackling the 5 star cobbled section through the Arenburg Forest that John did just that, taking photos for the guys as well as giving them a chance for a sit down and a change of clothes.

The race itself is amazing and horrible all at the same time. 110 miles with 55km of cobbled sections split over 30 sections from 1-3km long.

Riding road bikes over cobbles is quite an experience and no-one is ever really prepared for how bumpy it is going to be. The look on people’s faces after the first section is always something to behold, a mixture of fear, pain, excitement and adrenaline all mixed in…it’s a truly memorable event and one everyone should experience.

We proudly rode every inch of the cobbled sections, although I am always surprised at how many riders are riding along the gutter in the name of getting a fast time…it’s called ‘the Hell of the North’, it’s known as a ‘cobbled classic’, it’s a long way to get there…why would you not ride over the cobbled bits! Anyway, we defiantly stuck to the task of riding all the bumpy stuff and I’m proud to say that everyone made it safely and happily to the end.

Riding into the Velodrome to finish is a fantastic end, especially for anyone who knows the history of the event and has watched all those legendary hard men finish on there. Team Sole rode in together and John was there to meet us, pack up the van and take us off for a well deserved steak and beer back at the hotel.

A huge thank you to him for his hard work, and a massive thank you to James and Ian who remained the only two (of the 8 who signed up for the trip) who managed to stay injury free enough to come along with us!

Plans are already being made for Paris-Roubaix 2019 so get in touch if you’d like details…rumours are circulating that a Paris-Roubaix/Paris Marathon double may even be on offer to those hard/stupid enough to attempt both in consecutive days!

Our next trip is to Liege-Bastogne-Liege, another classic Sportive, in Belgium in 2 weeks time. If you’re over there then give us a wave 👋