The stones bring out the best in certain types of riders.

The stones bring out the best in certain types of riders.

Riding Beautifully Ugly

by / / 17 posts

The cobbles are not for everyone. Peter van Petegem said it best, that you have to really love the stones to be good at them. Much like climbing, they demand that the rider forge a close relationship with a special kind of pain – one that is self-inflicted and inspires you to inflict more.

I knew I would love the pavé before my tires ever came close to them. I knew I had the right head for it (stubborn), and I knew I had the right body for it (fat). I had watched all the Paris-Roubaix videos that I could get my hands on, but they didn’t really sink their claws in; I was getting drunk on kegs of LeMond’s Tour domination and was yet to develop my Classics palate. It all changed in 1991 when Marc Madiot stormed the gates of Hell and won his second Roubaix.

I remember sitting on my parent’s sofa, remote control in hand, watching the overhead camera shot of Madiot riding along the Carrefour de l’Arbre. There was such grace in his style despite the way his bike lurched about underneath him. I rewound the tape over and over again and watched in awe.

That’s the kind of riding I can do business with.

For the next 22 years, I was convinced I was good at riding the cobbles in the way only a Dutchman can be convinced of something he knows absolutely nothing about. And when I finally hit the stones for the first time during Keepers Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012, my love was confirmed.

I don’t know that I’m any good at riding cobblestones, to be honest. But I know they appeal to me more than any other kind of riding. Sometimes, when I’m riding gravel in the Cascades I hit a section of rough road that reminds me of the incomparable feeling of the pavé. I can’t wait to go back this Spring and breath in their atmosphere once again.

Loving something is more important being good at it; I’ve always believed that. In fact, loving something is usually what makes you good at it. That’s definitely the case with the stones. To be good at riding them, you truly have to love them.

// Awesome French Guys // Belgian Affirmations // Keepers Tour

  1. From my drunk mind this quote is needed on this thread from a fellow Dutchman of yours (Theo de Rooij) “It’s a bollocks, this race! You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping …. It’s a pile of shit.” Then when asked if he would be back next year, this was his reply, “Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!” Sums it up for me. Most amazing day of my life on a bike was riding this cyclo in 2012. Fucking AWFUL and pure PAIN but the most beautiful day on a bike in my life.

  2. There’s this Dutch kid you may have heard of who is pretty good at something called cyclo-cross. He has, in my opinion, one of the ugliest sprinting styles I have ever seen. It absolutely grates on me. It is uglier than the riding style of Froome, the sprint of Cav, or the old TT of Contador. I can singularly point to this kid’s sprint style as the reason I root against him.

    On another note, I too envisage a ride on many of the Flandrian and Wallonne cobbles…then I remember the damage the past few harsh winters in the Midwest have accrued on my local roads. I can get the Koppenberg experience without having to box up my steed.

  3. @Buck Rogers

    From my drunk mind this quote is needed on this thread from a fellow Dutchman of yours (Theo de Rooij) “It’s a bollocks, this race! You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping …. It’s a pile of shit.” Then when asked if he would be back next year, this was his reply, “Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!” Sums it up for me. Most amazing day of my life on a bike was riding this cyclo in 2012. Fucking AWFUL and pure PAIN but the most beautiful day on a bike in my life.

    You are so right

  4. Fantastic watching Terpstra again. That really was the one that got away. He played an absolute blinder with that attack

  5. Ah, Marc Madiot, the Rowan Atkinson of the peloton.

  6. @Buck Rogers

    From my drunk mind this quote is needed on this thread from a fellow Dutchman of yours (Theo de Rooij) “It’s a bollocks, this race! You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping …. It’s a pile of shit.” Then when asked if he would be back next year, this was his reply, “Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!” Sums it up for me. Most amazing day of my life on a bike was riding this cyclo in 2012. Fucking AWFUL and pure PAIN but the most beautiful day on a bike in my life.

    That is just classic! Thanks.. I can’t help but just really dig that kinda thinking. I’ve only just discovered a fascination for this race and it started when I watched on high def TV Boonen put the hammer down and ride away with the race in ’12. And another race, or stage, that enthralled me was Lars Boom’s win in stage 5 of TDF. For some reason, this kinda challenge attracts me more so than the mountain climbs. The only way to accomplish these rides successfully is to put the power down, not let up, keep the bars aimed straight ahead, and blow over the pave. It is just too cool. I love it.

    On on the maps right now sorting out today’s ride. We’ve had a lotta rain yesterday and I’m thinking the dirt roads up north in the county are just the ticket for a good long ride.

  7. I just signed in for the cyclo next april. Im looking very much forward to it. Its gonna be a day of hell, but that’s what I like about these challenges. One moment you think wtf have done, stupid f*ck. The other moment you think no pain no gain. Bring it on motherfuckers!! Pain is weakneas leaving the body!

  8. Riding on shit pavement is definitely an acquired taste. I’m Too Fat To Climb as well, Frank, but put me on a bad surface and it brings out my best – I love the chaos of it, and how the only way to make way is full gas.

    We have a road here in Nashville, the Old Natchez Trace, that had become somewhat of a political football over whether it would be widened, whether certain historic trees would be cut down, and so forth. The ensuing maintenance delays had the wonderful effect of causing the pavement to degenerate into a lovely mess best referred to as Tennessee Pave. Most local cyclists avoided it. I rode it every chance I got.

  9. @Buck Rogers

    From my drunk mind this quote is needed on this thread from a fellow Dutchman of yours (Theo de Rooij) “It’s a bollocks, this race! You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping …. It’s a pile of shit.” Then when asked if he would be back next year, this was his reply, “Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!” Sums it up for me. Most amazing day of my life on a bike was riding this cyclo in 2012. Fucking AWFUL and pure PAIN but the most beautiful day on a bike in my life.

    I’ve never ridden The Hell of the North, but I have ridden The Heck of the North, and I get this.

    (We could’ve used you there, Buck.)

  10. I too love the stones, however my pansy ass has yet to brave then (I will by Merckx, and soon). My first taste was in ’84 watching LeMan, caked in mud, claim 4th. That sealed it for me more so than any grand tour.

  11. @frank, nice one mate, looking forward to hitting the stones again with you next April.

    There really is something about the cobbles that bring out the best in you, by beating it out of you. Some secteurs treat you better than others, or suit some riders more. I seem to go pretty well on the Carrefour de l’Abre, but suck on Mons Pevele. You can feel like Madiot one minute, or Schleck the next.

  12. This one could be fun

    http://thecyclinghouse.com/trip/montana-hell-ride/

  13. @Buck Rogers

    “It’s a bollocks, this race! You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping …. It’s a pile of shit.” Then when asked if he would be back next year, this was his reply, “Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!”

    Thanks for this @buck rogers, i’m using quotes like to explain my recently discovered cycling addiction to the VHW, keep it up.

  14. It’s awesome how long some of you have followed the PRO peloton. Very cool that your passion remains so high. I’m a rookie in comparison to many of ya.

    Ooooh, do I see some M-Frames? As much as I love Radars and some Rudy Project shades as well, the M-Frames are a pretty incredible set of shades. Not as cool looking as some of the newer ones, but great unimpeded vision, good wind protection, light, nice arm crooks to go around your helmet straps. Very solid shades many years down the line.

  15. @Paul

    I just signed in for the cyclo next april. Im looking very much forward to it. Its gonna be a day of hell, but that’s what I like about these challenges. One moment you think wtf have done, stupid f*ck. The other moment you think no pain no gain. Bring it on motherfuckers!! Pain is weakneas leaving the body!

    Ohhh FUCK, Brother! Soooo awesome! Did you sign for the full cyclo??? It is UNBELIEVEABLE how those pave’ fuck you up after 200+ k’s. Cannot be imagined, only experienced! Soooo jealous for you and at the same time feel such pity for you as well!!

  16. That video is excellent. Is Madiot spinning? No. He’s trying to rip his cranks off the spindle.

  17. @mdoherty83

    @Buck Rogers

    “It’s a bollocks, this race! You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping …. It’s a pile of shit.” Then when asked if he would be back next year, this was his reply, “Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!”

    Thanks for this @buck rogers, i’m using quotes like to explain my recently discovered cycling addiction to the VHW, keep it up.

    And quotes like these help her understand?

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