A lot of things taken for granted in Cycling go swiftly out the window when cobblestones are introduced to bicycle and rider. The notion that your wheels should both be pointed in the same direction at any given moment, for instance, or that that they should in some way be in alignment with the direction of travel of the rider/bicycle unit, such as it is. Not true, in fact. As it turns out, wheels can move wildly in any maner of directions and not greatly impact forward motion. Another misconception is this notion that one needs to have their handlebars reliably in hand while whisking through a corner or that the direction the handlebars are pointing should be in the direction of travel. Also untrue.
Riding cobbles is a matter of going full gas over the secteurs, no holds barred. The faster you go, the more your bike cascades over the tops of the stones; as the bike flails along, the rider links together recovery after recovery to stave off the imminent crash caused by any of the above conditions going catawampus. Riding the pavé is basically like a toddler learning to walk: always one step away from a face-plant.
For me, though, the biggest challenge is recuperation during those intense efforts. Over the years, I have gotten good at faking it and stealing a few deep breaths during short windows of opportunity, like when the pressure comes off the pedals briefly when cornering. On the cobbles, however, this matter is complicated somewhat by the bouncing wheels, jackhammering of the bars and saddle, and the certainty of an imminent crash.
Which leads me to conclude that while endurance, strength, and interval training will all form critical elements of my training for Keepers Tour 2013, I’m going to also make a point of learning how to take recovery breaths with a tightly clenched bunghole as I try to keep from shitting myself. That’s going to be a differentiator for sure.