April is the best. Springtime, birds chirping, snow melting, longer days, the mountain bike trails become clear of snow, bikes get dusted off, roads become clear of debris. April showers bring May flowers and all that stuff. It is a glorious time.
Sometimes in past years, I have thought of one last ski trip or an early trip to Fruita or something like that. But this year I have been completely preoccupied with Paris-Roubaix. This year I have been all about that one thing. April rivals July for bike racing excitement, especially with the combination of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix on successive weekends. There is a bone-jarring, cobbles-induced, glow that takes you all the way through the month. And although there are a lot of Belgians and Dutch that would argue about which of those races is more important and a bigger deal, for me Paris-Roubaix is the mack daddy. Paris-Roubaix is the baddest bike race of all time. L'enfer du Nord. But for this year, I have a new twist on that behemoth. Oh baby.
It all started for me last fall. I had the opportunity to meet with the people from ASO about Trek continuing involvement with their citizen events during the Tour de France as we had been for the previous 3 years. During the course of those conversations about the July events, the ASO informed us that they were going to put on a Paris-Roubaix citizen race the day before the pro race.
It was going to be hard. After all, Paris Roubaix is for the hardest of the hard. If you win that race as a pro, you are THE MAN. ASO had the goal of showing a bunch of citizens exactly how hard it is the day before the race. All the banners and barricades would be up and there would already be people in the forest preparing for the pro race the next day. We made the decision for Trek to sign up with that bad boy. Holy cow! I made the decision right then and there that I was doing that race. After all, I kinda like a challenge.
So since that day in October I have been planning to be there on the start line, with a few thousand other people preparing to go into hell. I have been riding crappy pavement roads, looking for dirt roads, riding the trainer, etc. I have been soliciting advice from teams and mechanics all over the world. What do I ride? How do I prepare? How do I ride it the day of? My mind is swirling with all of that advice. Double handlebar tape, big tubular tires, keep your pace and your cadence up, do not under any circumstances slow down and down shift (downshift equals death), no watches or wedding rings as your wrists will break and you will have to cut the ring off as your hands will be so swollen after the ride, ride the path on the side if you can, stay on the crown, do not change your line. I already have butterflies in my stomach. The great gang over at Rapha did a recce of the course a couple of weeks ago. You can see that here.
If you are a cyclist, and anywhere near my age, you have grown up watching Fabian Cancellera, Francesco Moser, Gilbert Duclos Lesalle, Bernard Hinault, George Hincapie, Sean Kelly, etc. tackling the "Hell of the North." When I was just getting into cycling, I remember watching A Sunday in Hell featuring Eddie Merckx. Now, I am going to ride the same roads and the same cobbles. Wow.