The Grand National was not the only race on the sporting calendar last weekend that can bring surprise, excitement, devastation and exultation, and that tends to not show any favouritism. Second only to the Tour de France (well, arguably) in cycling’s annual roster of classic races, Paris-Roubaix is a one-day race, over the flat part of Belgium. What takes this away from a pan-flat day race aimed at sprinters are the famed 27 sections of ‘pave’ or cobblestones that account for 52.8km of the 257.5km course. Riders have to negotiate all these sections whilst racing against 200 other riders. It can safely be assumed that everyone that even finishes can be accounted as iron men, of any sport. And these aren’t even standard cobbles. They vary in size, in coverage of mud, in section length, in the chance to ride ‘in the gutter’, whether they are on straight sections, or have sharp turns in the route, and many other features. All taken at an average speed of over 40km/h.
2016 was no exception to proving the exceptional skills, tenacity, experience and strength needed. Won by Australian Matt Hayman, from the Orica Greenedge team. Ian Stannard was the highest placed British rider, a hugely creditable 3rd, equalling the best ever British-places from Roger Hammond (2004) and Barry Hoban (1972). Hayman doesn’t feature in any pre-race bookies favourites, or list of top 10 riders to watch, or most likely to win. Like the Grand National it’s an extremely difficult race to predict. Hayman’s a 37 year old rider, one the world’s best domestiques – a rider who rides for team leaders, not for himself – who had broken his arm only 5 weeks ago, and is probably coming to the end of his career. Hayman was on at 800/1.
Cotswold Cogfest is not quite as demanding as Paris-Roubaix. However, cycling is still an endurance event, so if you’re riding one of our sportives, do make sure you are prepared physically, mentally and your kit is in good condition. We want everyone to have a great day on the bike – finishing is, to us, still the greatest achievement.