Where I go mad on a road bike… and I win Paris Roubaix.
“Don’t play in the dirt it’s dirty” – an often used expression to curtail an action of an adventurous child, and if inculcated deep enough it could mean a lifetime of avoidance of all sorts of things. Thankfully I know that there are more dangerous things in the home than simple dirt in the outside world and this includes the humble kitchen sponge or dishcloth, both being the harbinger of some really nasty microorganisms that are out to get you. (Always dry out both thoroughly)
Thankfully my mum and dad let me play in the mud and thus I have no fears of it and I don’t need to wait for the sunshine to play. Now, at this point I should say that I am not one of those cyclists who enjoys the idea of suffering (a whole brand was built upon this premise) and I am very happy to pedal in the sunshine on dry days and not see wet mud or tarmac. But deep inside I am attracted to rough roads, mud and gravel trails and pave (see my old ‘gravel’ bike). My favourite race was the no longer held ‘Dengie Tour of the Marshes’ an event that moved off the ‘black stuff’ with vigour and I have been documenting similar races ever since.
My new home in Goettingen in Germany offers me great opportunities to hit the ‘wild side’ and I have been following my ‘Roubaixesque’ calling with enthusiasm, in fact I rode more times in one week than I did in six months in London.
So, feeling jazzed up by the recently held Spring Classics I expressed my inner ‘Roubaixesque’ by mixing tarmac and gravel/farm tracks on a road bike. With each pedal stroke I was reliving my 2019 Paris Roubaix win (dream on indeed!). My only change to this bike was to fit a set of Vittoria 28mm Pave tyres, otherwise it was as ridden in the sun on smooth roads. The art of riding a road bike on tough terrain is to be patient, be ever watchful keeping the wheels away from really tough stuff – on the Roubaix Sportive you look ahead and seek out the ‘best bits’ of cobbles to ride. Be also ready to clear out the muck from under the brakes (unless you have discs). Post ride my body aches more than usual as the bike/tyres offers minimum comfort from the hits of the trails or pave.
Prior to this ride it had rained hard during the night and morning so I knew that things might get dirty, I missed out some of the gnarliest sections and began my ride by ascending the cobbled climb through the Zieten Barracks (now Terraces), the further climb of the Panzer Weg and onto Kerstlingroder Feld. It was then down one of the worst tarmac roads (Bismarck Strasse – worse than London, but at least the potholes slow down the cars) and into the Leine Valley. Here I was hit by a strong headwind which added further nuance to the ride. Being on a road bike I elected to hit more tarmac than usual, tarmac in fact free of most traffic (I can’t remember being overtaken except for when an elder man on an e-bike went passed me on a hill). I should admit that it was a great to fly along the smooth roads on a road bike!
In total 35 kilometres of pretending to be racing Paris Roubaix and I ache a wee bit!
Dirt is great; nonetheless do wash your bike after a ride to help stop the spread of bugs, contaminants etc. before venturing into other areas and yes, some dirt might be out to get you so wash your hands; keep dirty fingers away from the eyes (and wear glasses) and mouth.