Unforgettable Rides: 1993 Paris-Roubaix

In 1993, before the UCI put a stranglehold on the means by which riders sought to go faster, innovation flowed through the peloton. Training methods evolved rapidly (apparently in tandem with the potency of the drugs available at the time) and bicycle design was in a period of exciting change spurred on by Greg LeMond’s win in the 1989 Tour de France after using aerobars to overturn a 50-second deficit on Laurent Fignon.

Paris-Roubaix, more than any other event on the calendar, would see some of the most dramatic experimentation, as riders lost themselves in their pursuit to smooth out the race’s brutal terrain. In a five year span, we went from LeMond fitting Rock Shox to his bike to Johan Museeuw showing up aboard a full-suspension Bianchi. The Rock Shox were at first met with raised eyebrows and thinly-veiled snickers until Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle used them to roll over the finish line as the victor at age 37 in 1992. Not surprisingly, 1993 saw many more machines sheepishly toeing the start line with products borrowed from Mountain Bikes, including the GB Team’s custom-built Bianchi’s decorated with Softride suspension stems.

Balance is a critical component in cycling. Balance between rider and machine, of course, but also between comfort and rigidity. As anyone who has ridden with font-suspension will tell you, what is good over the cobbles may not be as good in a closely-contested finish. Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, the defending champion, and Franco Ballerini, the upstart Italian, broke away together and, with their front-ends quivering like plates of over-cooked pasta, made their way to the velodrome.

The Italian’s confidence in his sprint was matched only by Duclos-Lassalle’s experience on the track. The two wobbled their way to the line, sprinting as hard as their soggy forks would allow and threw their bikes with a synchronization that would be the envy of any Olympic swim-dancing team.

Ballerini was certain he’d won. Duclos-Lassalle wasn’t so sure he’d lost. The referees went to the photo and served Franco a juicy slice of humble pie, in what was one of the closest finishes in Paris-Roubaix ever. Ballerini swore he’d never ride Roubaix again, but nevertheless won it in 1995 and 1998. Solo. On a bike without suspension.

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71 Replies to “Unforgettable Rides: 1993 Paris-Roubaix”

  1. yeaaa I did link I am so not a computer spazz. ( actually am…but how many of you can break down long chain olefins eh ? )

  2. @frank

    @paolo, @ChrisYeah…upgraded the backend to PHP5.3 and there were some sneaky problems. I’ve had a lovely day plugging holes. Sorry for the trouble.

    No worries mate, coming to velominati is always a pleasure, never a chore.

    Even when I cant log in.

  3. Wow. I just watched the 1985 finish. Marc Madiot, nice. A crash when they reach the velodrome. Jeez, to make it that far.

    Then…the interview with LeMan?! Mud covered face, half delirious, and so gassed he acts like 4th is a shame. Oh, and his hair net is quite askew. He’s amazing in the interview, almost acting as if the viewer might be unaware of what he just pulled off. Like he was just out riding his bike, not hammering it in the Paris-Roubaix!

  4. @Ron
    Oh, we’re talking about cycling again?? Oh.

    Yeah – that attitude – that 4th is bad – is what makes people like LeMond end up winning 3 Tours and a couple world championship road races. Never being satisfied with anything less that numero uno is what it takes.

    Marc Madiot – he’s the DS for Français des Jeux and directed Gilbert for a while. Love his win in…was it 1991? The way he pedaled over the stones with his bike bouncing around while his body was totally still. A perfect example of how to ride them. Amazing.

    Ok, just checked – yeah, it was 1991.

  5. @frank

    Awesome video Frank.

    (it could use some kittens dancing in viking helmets in the background but awesome none the less).

    Ok, no more interuptions from me. Cycling…carry on.

  6. @minion
    Pic taken pre-nuts… for some reason the site ain’t liking my picture uploads lately (either wrong orientation or won’t load at all), so you’ll have to use your imagination…

  7. Always did love that RMO jersey. Along with La Vie Claire it was one of the coolest jersies of the 80s. Madiot, Mottet, Claveyrolat did it proud! Had replicas of both but the LVC one went awol. (Insert very sad face here).

  8. @sgt

    @minion
    Pic taken pre-nuts… for some reason the site ain’t liking my picture uploads lately (either wrong orientation or won’t load at all), so you’ll have to use your imagination…

    Should work now – there were lots of bugs with the upgrade to PHP 5.3, but they’re getting fixed. Nothing like non-stop debugging for 32 hours straight to get things working again.

  9. @wiscot

    Always did love that RMO jersey. Along with La Vie Claire it was one of the coolest jersies of the 80s. Madiot, Mottet, Claveyrolat did it proud! Had replicas of both but the LVC one went awol. (Insert very sad face here).

    Moi aussi. Somewhere deep in my drafts is an article about the RMO team. I’ll have to finish that one day. Awesome. There’s a lot of Virenque hate here, but I always loved the guy.

  10. The new Trek Domane has possibly given us the most innovative suspension technology since the controversial Zertz inserts from Specialized (do they work, or are they a gimmick?) I vote gimmick, but that’s another argument. Let’s take a closer gander at the Domane.
    1) The handlebars are pretty nice, taking the Fizik gel pads to a better place.
    2) The asymmetric seatpost makes loads of sense. Maybe more challenging for aftermarket posts, but not any more than the integrated posts are currently.
    3) Now for the IsoSpeed joint. So simple and elegant – Has this been done before? I question that it will last the life of the bicycle, but servicing doesn’t look all that difficult.

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