Keepers Tour 2012 Update, Part I: Roubaix & RVV

Hitting the cobbles. Photo: Jesse Willems

With Keepers Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012 stitched up and in the history books, the challenge of documenting the trip became immediately obvious; how do you take the myriad impressions, experiences, and perspectives and put them down in a meaningful way – let alone in a way that can somehow be digested. Surely, to document even just the Keepers’ view on these goings-on would result in an article much longer than anyone would be prepared to read and would be a far cry from comprehensive. 

We have decided that the best approach is to split the report into four Articles, one authored by each Keeper, and each covering a different section of the trip. We also look forward to the contribution of additional photos and stories through the posts from those who joined us and those who witnessed the goings-on from afar. Today, we present you the report from the first weekend which covered the Roubaix ride and watching de Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Keepers Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012 Updates: Part I // Part II // Part III // Part IV

It took the five months since announcing Keepers Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012 to prepare myself both physically and mentally for the beating I would surely take riding the hardest and most sacred roads in Northern Europe. It took five seconds on the first cobbled secteur for me to realize that there is no way to prepare for it, assuming you don’t regularly operate two jackhammers at once – one with your hands and one with your butt.

Immediately after arriving at the Gite in Westouter, Heuveland, it had become obvious that the group had a chemistry that seemed as though it were guided by the very hand of Merckx. Everyone, from our guides, William and Alex of Pave Cycling Classics, to the Keepers (whom had never all met in person until earlier that week), to the attendees got along instantly like long lost friends with boisterous laugher lubricated by more than a few glasses of Malteni Beer and wine.

We set about unpacking and preparing our bikes in the nervous manner customary of people who anticipate something they don’t understand: advice was given to people who didn’t ask for it by people unqualified to provide it; justifications were assertively made for decisions not understood by those justifying them; adjustments were made to equipment that required neither adjustment nor attention.

I arose Saturday to the disappointment of a gloriously sunny dawn; my secret hope had been to ride the pavé in the muddy tradition of those who have ridden it before me, though it was difficult to be disappointed with the beautiful sight of an early morning sun flooding the hills surrounding the Gite. We kitted up, ate breakfast, and prepared to drive to Valenciennes, the site of our route’s start.

For me, to feel my wheels roll over the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix was a dream which I had held since I was 8 years old. Ever since I started riding a bike seriously, I had sought out any cobbles I could find in the various places I’ve ridden; either in the oldest American towns or in Dutch, Belgian, and French villages I visited. Through this, I had cultivated a confidence that I knew what to expect; that the French pavé couldn’t be significantly different than the stones I’d found elsewhere.

We rolled out and quickly arrived at the first secteur. Words can’t describe the flood of emotions that run through your mind the moment you hit the cobbles. The first and most obvious is an acute realization that you are riding in a group over a road so rough your back wheel is jumping a half meter from left to right as you jar over the cobbles. You then realize your eyesight lacks something in the way of clarity due to the associated scrambling of your brain and senses as you try to adjust to this new style of riding. As your vision wavers somewhere between “blurry” and “blind”, you realize that there is what seems like a significant downhill section coming up and your hands are fixed to the tops of the bars as though they were conducting an electrical current that locks your hands in a tight grip, like grabbing an electric fence with both hands. There is no possibility of braking, and only a phantom sense of steering.

Somehow, we all managed to safely navigate the 2.5 kilometeres to the divinely smooth tarmac at the other end and rolled to a stop. Excited conversations and exclamations erupted from the group as we came to terms with what had just transpired; I checked my wheels for trueness – assuming they had come to pieces – only to find they were in the same state as they had been prior to entering the secteur. The excited chatter turned more tame as we collectively realized we had 20 more such sections to navigate, with the hardest and most renown coming at the end of the ride.

A few secteurs further on, we arrived at the entrance to the legendary Forest of Arenberg where we stopped to pay our respects to this most hallowed stretch of cobbles before submitting to its 3000 meters of hell. These were indeed much more difficult than the previous sections, with huge gaps between the stones, and an unmerciful uphill finish. The thing that makes riding cobbles so hard is not the jarring of your bones nor the lack of control over the machine; its the fact that each stone you hit slows your momentum – from the very moment you hit the cobbles, they are dragging you down and its only a matter of time until you run out of power and succumb to their cruelty. One can only hope to reach the end of the secteur before your strength leaves you entirely.

Again, we regrouped before continuing on to the rest of the secteurs, which vary in length, difficulty, and brutality. As we put more and more secteurs behind us, we gained confidence riding the stones, but also became much more fatigued. The fatigue is one unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. While my saddle gave the impression of making unwelcome advances throughout each of the sections, my hands, forearms, and biceps took on an aching that significantly compromised my ability to hold the bars or steer my machine. Trying to pee made me wonder how I had caught venereal disease.

The cobbles themselves vary from area to area; some are fairly smooth, while others seem as though they had been dumped from a moving truck and left there; yet all of them made me glad we rode them in the dry. It seemed that by and large, the best place to ride them was on the crown and out of the gutter. This was not always the case, however, as the crown was in bad shape in some places. On the crown or in the gutter, the only way to ride the stones was á bloc, or full gas. The faster you go, the more your bike hovers over the gaps between the stones which in most places are significant. Ride the cobbles slowly, and you feel each and every bump.

We did have a few mishaps along the way. First was Marko’s seatpin, which cleft in two on one of the early secteurs and forced him to ride the remainder of the route on a borrowed bike. We also had the small matter of a certain Keeper of Dutch descent leading the group through a town and misunderstanding the traffic patterns. Coming around a bend, I plowed sidelong into a car and left @ChrisO to avoid it only by dodging to the right and crashing over the curb. Thankfully, no one was injured and we managed to continue on our way after replacing his damaged front wheel. If there’s one thing that makes you feel Pro, it’s having a support car with a mechanic jumping from it to replace a broken part. If there’s one thing that makes you feel like an idiot, its causing an accident because you’re – well – an idiot.

We finished the ride covering all the remaining secteurs including Mons en Pavelle and Carrefour de l’Arbre and rolling into Roubaix and onto its famous track, before touring the legendary showers. This day was a realization of a dream I have held for almost 30 years, and it did not disappoint.

Many thanks go out to William and Alex from Pavé Cycling Classics for their masterful work; you were more than guides and hosts, you have become our friends. Similarly, we are forever indebted to Belgian photographer Jesse Willems and his friend Tom who accompanied us and generously photographed us on our journey. Please see below for his masterful photographs.

Jesse Willems’ Keepers Tour Roubaix Gallery (view in Full Screen for best results)

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/Roubaix 2012 – Jesse Willems/”/]

With one dream sorted, we arrose the next day to watch de Ronde van Vlaanderen on the famous cobbled climb of the Oude Kwaremont. The controversial new route had the riders doing three circuits, covering the climb in each one. We conducted our selves in the traditional Flandrian way by consuming enormous quantities of beer, eating frite met (fries with mayonaise) and screaming our lungs out. The atmosphere is indescribable at these races, with friendship and camaraderie between total strangers.

One of the interesting things about being at the roadside is that you have very little idea of what’s actually happening in the race, though the large TV screens nearby did help lend some notion as to what was going on. The biggest contrast of the day was Fabian Cancellara’s pre-race interview being aired moments before his fateful crash; the interviewer asked him of what he was afraid during the race and Fabian looked at him quizzically, asking him to restate the question a few times before finally understanding what this “fear” business was all about and answering, “Oh, nothing.” Sadly, it appears even a stray bidon can change the course of a race.

If you haven’t been to watch a major European bike race, put it on your list to do as soon as possible. It involves a lot of waiting, drinking, and eating. A lot of chatting, a lot of excitement. The anticipation as the race comes close can be cut with knife; it mounts gradually until you hear the television helicopters hovering nearby. Then the race official cars come by, and finally the races woosh by in an instant. Try to pick a climb so the bunch is spread out a bit, otherwise it will be over in a flash. But you’re there for more than seeing the riders; being at the races helps you understand there is much more to racing bikes than crossing the finish line – there is an entire world that surrounds it and that world is one worth being a part of.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

Attendee Gallery

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/Roubaix 2012 – First Weekend/”/]

@Frank’s Strava on the ride: http://app.strava.com/rides/5985790

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140 Replies to “Keepers Tour 2012 Update, Part I: Roubaix & RVV”

  1. That’s me in the Z lid too!

    @Buck-Had I known the punishment my hands would take I would have trained with one of those squishy ball things. It was only bad the first day for me though.

    @eightzero – Spot on.

  2. Hey, who was that witte v-kitted rider I passed today going south on the east side of Green Lake? Sadly, my SGs are in the wash, so you might not have seen my SIgn of the Merckx.

  3. @Jesse Willems

    Phenomenal pix! Love the juxtapositions at the end. My hands hurt just looking at the photos.

  4. @RedRanger

    @frank
    Just trying to help. Keep in mind I spent 5 years in the meat packing industry. 3 years in south saint paul. Working on cattle
    With a knife will subject your hands to way worse than your experiencing. Again just trying to help.

    Love it!! I was just trying to express my surprise at the depth of hand-tharapy advice coming out! Amazing stuff.

  5. seriously, you need to just compile everything and publish a book, it would sell like crazy. great stuff, as always.

  6. @ChrisO
    I was going to try to write something poignant about the experience, but see no point in trying after that post. Thanks for expressing that so well.

    It really was great to meet all of the crew and the whole experience was top notch.

    Vive la Vie Velominatus!

  7. Frank, fucken well put mate. Just discovered this post the wrong side of a bottle of 2004 Ridge Cabernet, and have sat here giggling like an idiot and crying like a schoolgirl (that may be the wrong way round)… I was wondering how you’d boil it all down, and you’ve exceeded expectations. And didn’t Jesse come through?

    Great pleasure to meet all y’all (is THAT right?) and thanks to the keepers, ok, Frank, for making it happen… Truly a top ten life moment. The wife isn’t sure if she’s happy or sad that I came back without any of my organs being harvested, my hands still can’t carry anything or unscrew anything, and I miss all of you big hairy, snoring mother fuckers (yes, that means you, especially)

    VLVV

  8. Thank you for the well-composed and poignant prose, Frank. I am still suffering from some significant withdrawal. It’s incredible, really. When you stop to really dissect it, there are not many things in the world that simultaneously beat you to a serious, long-lansting hurt while also inspiring you to the point of giddy tears. I have been flipping through these photos over and over and over and over, intently staring, in a daze, simply waiting for them to come alive, allowing me to relive the glory all over again.

    This trip was magical. This trip was absolutely life-changing. I’m almost a little ashamed to have underestimated what I was about to experience. I, like all of you, knew in my mind the story of Paris-Roubaix – the timeless legends, the enduring glory – but I don’t think I truly knew the impact that these secteurs would have on me. On the surface, yes, my hands screamed with a deep, stiffening pain. The knuckles, the palms, the muscles – all wrecked with torture. So much pain, yet so much joy.

    And the countryside of Belgium, reeking with passion and magic as it did with manure as we pedaled our way through the farm fields on our way to tackle the always poised and looming Kemmelberg. 23% of blood, sweat, and cobbles within minutes of our pillows.

    Like a tattoo on my fore-arm, this trip will remain with me forever. No, not a tattoo on my forearm, but rather, a radiating one on my heart. I made new cycling comrades that I felt I’d known for years prior – all for the sake of our love of the game. We chased each other on some of the most sacred roads in the world. We couldn’t help putting the hammer down with each cobbled climb – we were doped silly from the evaporated sweat rising up from inbetween each cobblestone. I couldn’t have asked for a finer, most-genuine bunch of gentlemen to share in this life-changing week of our lives. The generosity and graciousness of William, Alex, and Genevieve were absolutely top shelf. As Frank best described, we left with new friends in Northern France. That means so much to me.

    I’m still floating from this experience, and I have promised myself that I will return again. Please, do your best to promise yourself the same.

    Guys, we were THERE!

  9. @Frank and Jesse
    BTW what’s the deal with the photos… I know Jesse very kindly gave up his time to do it, but I’d love to be able to buy some high-res downloads or prints.

  10. @ChrisO

    @Frank and Jesse
    BTW what’s the deal with the photos… I know Jesse very kindly gave up his time to do it, but I’d love to be able to buy some high-res downloads or prints.

    You can download the pics right here, by clicking the “download” link – these are the full resolution photos from Jesse. I can also share a bulk download link with you if you want them all at once, but its a huge download.

    No word on prints etc for now.

  11. One of the things that shocked me – and this goes along with @Marko’s point – is how quiet my bike was over the cobbles. The steel bikes all were rattling and dinging along, but the carbon bikes (at least mine) were remarkably quiet. I will, however, grab some carbon Rotundo’s for next year’s trip, as I think they would cut down on the hand pain versus the alu Rotundo Pros that I have on there now.

    The other remarkable thing was the wheels – thanks to @Oli’s tutelage, my wheels emerged from this trip with absolutely no damage and as true (if not truer) than when I arrived in Belgium. So cool! The tires were amazing as well, very smooth and solid feeling. I am fully in love with FMB’s at this point.

    I spoke with Tyler Farrar at the airport in Seattle while we waited for our bikes, and we really geeked out over the Roubaix setup. Garmin-Barracuda rode customized R3’s with longer chainstays to accomodate the 28 FMB Paris-Roubaixs that they rode, which doesn’t surprise me since I had to zip-tie my front derailleur cable out of the way to make room even for the 25mm FBMs I have. I also dropped my pressure from 7 bar to 6 bar for the second day on the cobbles, which was a huge improvement, but Tyler said that the drop from 6 to 5 (which is what they ride) is even more significant.

    On the other hand, William and Alex did caution against riding too low a pressure the first day on the cobbles – riding low pressure does come at a risk, and should be reserved for riders who know how to avoid the big bangs on the rocks.

    [dmalbum: path=”/velominati.com/wp-content/uploads/readers/frank/2012.04.15.15.29.45/”/]

  12. @McEnroeMark
    Beautifully put! The cobbles are so strange, they way they torture you and make you yearn for the end of the secteur, and then the moment you hit the tarmac, they beckon you from the next secteur. I’m already looking around town, wishing there were some cobbles rough enough to give me that feeling again.

    I can’t wait for next year. And, as @G’rilla said, Belgium is something else entirely when it comes to passion for the sport. Amazing. A beer with your breakfast paper? Natuurlijk.

    @RedRanger
    I was making fun of you, but that doesn’t mean your knowledge wasn’t appreciated and surprising!

  13. I have questions for you cobble riders for future ref. Did people use that silicone gel under the bar wrap or double wrap or anything? Did anyone go gloveless? I ask because I have small hands and as such I like no padding and minimal wrap otherwise I can’t get a good grip. I like riding glovelss when I can but obviously this is a hazard if one should fall. I imagine if I ever rode the cobbles I would find it hard to compromise between something thin enough to grip and something so padded it would work against me.

  14. @McEnroeMark
    It’s good you jumped on this trip, you rode the hell out of Belgium and Northern France.

    I wanted to speak about Roubaix tires and wheels for anyone who is considering doing this next year. Obviously, from watching Boonen on Zipp 303s and 27mm FMB tires at low pressure, it’s all about the tires, big tires.
    I rode 10 year old Campagnolo inexpensive clincher wheels, radially spokes front wheel, with 28mm clinchers and escaped Roubaix with no flats and no blisters.

    After our first section of cobbles I had serious doubts about my choice of wheels. It was so damn rough I was sure something would have to break. My point is, maybe 3x laced tubs are more comfortable but not required. Big tires are the important thing, so one can run lower pressure and not ruin your hands and taint.

    Here is a good Velosnooz link about P-R tires and pressures.

  15. @paolo

    I have questions for you cobble riders for future ref. Did people use that silicone gel under the bar wrap or double wrap or anything? Did anyone go gloveless? I ask because I have small hands and as such I like no padding and minimal wrap otherwise I can’t get a good grip. I like riding glovelss when I can but obviously this is a hazard if one should fall. I imagine if I ever rode the cobbles I would find it hard to compromise between something thin enough to grip and something so padded it would work against me.

    Several people rode gel and several rode double-wrapped bars, and several just rode singles. For the Keepers, we split the difference and two of us (Brett and I) rode double-wraps, and two (Marko and Gianni) rode gel. To grip the bars, it felt about the same, though I think e gel was more vibration-absorbent.

    Overall, the lack of padding with the fizik bara tape is part of what I love about it, but I am thinking about going with cork next year just for the Roubaix ride for the extra cushion. We all rode with gloves.

    Boonen rode with bare hands, and I think that’s the way to go because the gloves just form a friction barrier and the one blister I got was caused not by the bars, but by the seam on a glove after if sat there and vibrated 10000 times back and forth.

    I loved the feel of the double wraps, but my impression is that is had more to do with expanding the diameter of the bars so that someone with big hands such as mine can grip the bars better. Remember that you’re not holding tightly to the bars; you’re gripping them loosely, but with enough grip to keep your fingers from shaking all over. If you have small hands, I would recommend a single wrap and no gloves, with careful consideration given to carbon bars to cut down on vibration.

  16. @McEnroeMark
    @ChrisO @Roadslave525 et al
    You guys have already said everything I wanted to, and said it better than I could ever hope to. So I’ll just a say that I had one of the best weeks of my life, with a fantastic bunch of people. Kindred spirits indeed, and so much laughing, I was regularly in tears.
    BTW I thought that the Roubaix cobbles on Thursday’s ride were actually enjoyable. Listen to Alex and ride the drops, people! However, riding the RVV cobbled climbs on Saturday was shit (am I right, @Bill?).

  17. @frank

    Thanks, that’s some good info. I have carbon 3T ergonovas and was thinking that if I did undertake such a trip I would go Alu just in case of a spill. But then maybe I shouldn’t think in such a negative way. I wonder if I can manage in march/april in Europe with no gloves. Living in Southern California makes you soft!! Fiziks soft touch wrap might be the way to go tapewise, I wonder if it’s better than cork?

    I started riding without gloves by mistake one day when I was in a rush and now I really like it tbh. Sometimes I think it might be foolhardy to tempt fate. I saw a video of one of the Quickstep riders go down without gloves..bit of a mess.

    @Gianni

    Great info re the tires and pressures. Lot’s to consider for the future there but at the price those Nemisis wheels look like the way to go.

    Did anyone or was anyone tempted to do the old trick of two pairs of bibshorts?

  18. Hello All,
    Alex, Genevieve & myself are very touched by all your kind words.
    We were suffering from withdrawal syndrome this week.
    I rode Kemmel like a “kunt” yesterday and almost calved at the top. I had a virtual McEnroeMark, Rigid, Francky & Brett for company. You fuckers are considerably faster in the virtual versions.
    Genevieve (who is drinking my finest wine at the moment) adored cooking for such a well behaved & passionate bunch of alcoholics. Although as a retired GP, she suggests that you all work on your alcohol dependency.
    We created Pave Cycling Classics to bring passionate people like us to the cobbles of Flanders. With the Velominati trip we earned more than the initial aim. We made true friends over the 10 days.
    We are delighted and looking forward to next year.
    Vive le velo, Vive Phillipe Gilbert (a true champion who takes his responsibilities), Vive les rules
    William, Alex & Genevieve

  19. Boonen did the P-R ride with bits of garden hose wrapped around his bars under the tape , thats what was announced during the live broadcast on sporza

  20. @William Cobbles Eating Kuuunt
    Ha! William, I had your voice in my head for a few days afterward, “Gianni, you fuck.” It was nice to run into Alex at the train station as we were in withdrawal too. You and Alex are the best ever for putting up with us pussies. And Genevieve, we were blessed to have her as Chef, I have not eaten so well ever. Many, many thanks for an amazing week.

  21. @Gianni
    Echoed! I can’t imagine why you want to do this again; you guys had the unhappy chore to herd us cats for a week straight. 16 A-type, obsessive people running around in different directions – especially inside a store or some such. What a week.

  22. F’n brilliant trip! I’ve kept up with all the posts like it was the Tour de France. Excited for all who got to attend and jealous that I wasn’t among you. Not knowing any of you personally, I know that this trip will be forever etched into your psyche as one of the seminal gatherings that only happen a few times during a lifetime… Sounds like a first rate tour through Pave Cycling Classics and lets not forget to pay great homage to the Keepers for putting this all together. Looking forward to the next installments of the trip!

  23. @William Cobbles Eating Kuuunt
    Thank you, William! Great to hear from you, man. I miss you guys and am so very fortunate to call you my friends! That truly enhanced the experience ten-fold! Every single day since my return, I have been sharing stories with friends and family. This true was a dream come true and then some – while you’re hammering up that son-of-a-bitch-berg, I’m here dreaming of it as I pedal up these white-bread, smooth-ass tarmac hills here. I will return, I promise.

    You, Alex, and your wonderful mum-in-law have created a true gem. Yours isn’t a business, it’s YOU – I felt that I was brought into your home and tagged along with you on your favorite, neighborhood routes….that also just happen to be RVV and Roubaix! Incredible difference.

    And, incidentally, William, driving across town today, I gave it a bit of a “go” towards the shit-drivers in my way, and it felt quite satisfying. Thank you, my friend. Talk to you soon.

  24. Just want to echo the comments of others and say what a great bit of writing and the photos are fantastic aswell. Looks like it was a great experience, one I hope to enjoy one day. Although I can see the bikes on many of the pictures, what kind of set up were people going for on the bike? Any significant changes from the normal roadbikes you ride?

    Looking forward to the next installment.

  25. Jesse Williams has got me looking rather Tommy Voeckler like in the Arenberg. Cobbles like that are not the place to ride with your tongue hanging out. Not pro at all.

    @ChrisO, @McEnroeMark, @Roadslave525 and others have written much more eloquently that I could have about what the trip has meant to them; riding Paris Roubaix and watching the RVV with you all was fantastic and William, Alex and Genevieve did so much to make the experience special – William – awesome work pulling me back to the group a couple of times! thanks to everyone involved.

    Beyond the experiences had on the cobbles and bergs, it’s changed the way I view my cycling. On the few occasions that I’ve been on my bike since then (sadly few and limited to relatively short intense roller sessions, the kids Easter holidays haven’t afforded much opportunity), there has been level of focus and immersion that has surprised me. I’ve been discussing goals and targets with the chap I get a bit of coaching from and they’re going to be much more focussed.

    @frank put me down for next year. I thought I’d trained fairly hard in the lead up to this year but, with hindsight, more could have been achieved and whilst I was training, I didn’t really know what I was training for.

  26. @frank

    @ChrisO

    @Frank and Jesse
    BTW what’s the deal with the photos… I know Jesse very kindly gave up his time to do it, but I’d love to be able to buy some high-res downloads or prints.

    You can download the pics right here, by clicking the “download” link – these are the full resolution photos from Jesse. I can also share a bulk download link with you if you want them all at once, but its a huge download.

    No word on prints etc for now.

    If you could ping me the remote download link that would be awesome. My broadband speeds at home are measured in kilobytes and work is getting a bit too hectic at the moment to be individually downloading stuff.

  27. @William Cobbles Eating Kuuunt

    I rode Kemmel like a “kunt” yesterday and almost calved at the top. I had a virtual McEnroeMark, Rigid, Francky & Brett for company. You fuckers are considerably faster in the virtual versions.

    My virtual self is more charming, smarter, skinnier, stronger, and better looking. Why not add faster to the mix? Seems logical enough.

    The Kemmelberg stands apart as the hardest of the climbs, certainly when taken from the Moneberg side when we big-ringed the whole thing a bloc to catch that nob @McEnroeMark. Give me the Koppenberg any day over that bastard.

  28. @Chris

    @frank put me down for next year. I thought I’d trained fairly hard in the lead up to this year but, with hindsight, more could have been achieved and whilst I was training, I didn’t really know what I was training for.

    Fantastic – and likewise on the training! As we start to work through the initial planning and get the first registration opened in the coming months, I think I’ll also pull together some thoughts on training, what to expect and so forth as I think we were all a bit blind-sided.

    Really glad you enjoyed the trip.

    @all
    Sounds like Jesse is currently working on putting together a book of these photos. Stand by for that. I’ll also share the direct download link with the attendees. Cheers.

  29. @GProsser

    Just want to echo the comments of others and say what a great bit of writing and the photos are fantastic aswell. Looks like it was a great experience, one I hope to enjoy one day. Although I can see the bikes on many of the pictures, what kind of set up were people going for on the bike? Any significant changes from the normal roadbikes you ride?

    Looking forward to the next installment.

    Pretty standard. As was said before, the principle changes were the width (25mm or 27/28mm if your bike will take them) and (low) tire pressures in the tires. This also points to the main reason for wanting to use tubulars and not clinchers – you want to ride as low a pressure as possible, so tubs are a better choice from that perspective.

    We also experimented with double-wrapped bars and gel under the tape. Other than that, the bikes were pretty much standard. One could also consider dropping their saddle height 5mm or so to allow for riding off the saddle a bit more.

    The biggest thing in addition to the tires is the way you ride them. Your cadence is critical, and the “right” cadence varies from secteur to secteur based on the style of cobbles and the way they lie. In general, though, you’re riding a much bigger gear than usual, in part to allow your legs to act as shock absorbers and to take pressure off your saddle.

  30. @Gianni

    @frank
    Gianni! Awesome info as I am very curious and will be running the 28 spoke tubular rims with 27mm Vit Pave’s. Should be okay per your post as far as I can tell.

    Frank et al: Did you guys ride the hoods or tops or even the drops mostly? Sorry if you have already addressed this question.

  31. @frank
    It’s a long way off at the moment and the more immediate targets are hour long circuit racing and some big rides in the Pyrenees but it will be interesting to see how people, especially those who’ve been before, approach training for it.

    Thanks for the link.

  32. @Buck Rogers
    I started off riding largely on the flats, thinking that a more upright position would help but after a few secteurs found that wasn’t working. I never found any comfort or relief on the hoods but whilst I wasn’t riding entire secteurs in the drops, it was the most comfortable position, both in terms of the vibrations but also for getting some relief from the cramping that I was suffering in the vastus medialis(?) that I was suffering from as a result (I think) of the lower cadenced big ringing. My left knee is a tad fucked so I tend to ride a relatively high cadence on bigger cogs (too much road running as a youth, twisting and dislocating it playing rugby and falling off motor bikes – these days it probably functions better as an indicator of barometric changes than as an efficient joint)

  33. @Buck Rogers

    @Gianni

    @frank
    Gianni! Awesome info as I am very curious and will be running the 28 spoke tubular rims with 27mm Vit Pave’s. Should be okay per your post as far as I can tell.

    Frank et al: Did you guys ride the hoods or tops or even the drops mostly? Sorry if you have already addressed this question.

    Started off on the tops, but the second day I went to the drops and it was MUCH better. You can steer better, and break/shift as you corner – some of the secteurs have 90 degree corners and they are tough to negotiate from the tops. The thing is to not let your fingers vibrate loosely – grip hard enough that all fingers are touching so they don’t get slapped around too much.

    Marko rode the hoods but every time I tried that, I felt like I was awkward with my weight too far forward. I did ride the hoods a lot on the kassien in Belgium, though, which are much less brutal.

    Also, its been said before, but ride lllloooooowww pressure. Go out the day before (or a few days before) and do a few practice runs at 7 bar, and get the hang of not hitting the sharp bits of the cobbles. Then go down to 5.5 or 6 for the big day.

  34. @Buck Rogers
    Personal preference. I hated the drops on most sectors. It puts more weight on the front wheel and I liked being in a more relaxed position, more like on a mountain bike I guess.

    I ran Vittoria Open Pavé CG 24mm clinchers with Vittoria latex tubes at 90PSI and had not a whimper. My Oli-built front wheel is as straight as a die, but the back one never saw the stones. Thanks baggage dick.

  35. @Buck Rogers
    I rode almost exclusively on the tops, away from the brakes. It seemed more manageable way to keep a loose grip on the bars. But then again, I had no idea what I was doing. Since William and and Alex were in the drops, and they surely do know what they are doing, that might be the way to go.

  36. @Buck Rogers
    Mostly tops for me, which I found OK (and I normally ride in the drops).

    I did occasionally use drops, especially where as Frank said, there was a need to corner or brake or, God forbid, change gear on the f***ing Sram that was equipped on the rental bike.

    The one place I found impossible was the hoods. Too much bouncing around and I found it hard to relax my grip while retaining control.

    I think I was one of the few who didn’t have a blister at the end of the Roubaix ride so I took that as a good sign.

  37. @Chris@frank@brett@Gianni@ChrisO

    Thanks for the advice. Glad to hear that you do not HAVE to ride the drops all the time. My flexibility would not do too well with that and I have enough to work on before the ride without having to become Gumby as well!

    Will try more in the drops riding between now and the ride (less than two months–egad!) and plan on mixing it up between drops and tops on the ride. Thanks again.

  38. Yeah, I can now see the need for top mounted brake levers there too… coming into some of the corners with no chance of grabbing the brakes makes it a little sketchy.

  39. @frank
    Re changing your alu bars for carbon – here is clip that I also posted previously with the sky team mechanic setting up wiggins PR bike in 2011. They switch from using carbon bars back to aluminium for Paris Roubaix for safety reasons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_JCm33WSAs

    Really enjoying all the accounts from the keepers tour, keep em coming.

  40. @Chris and Frank
    Regarding training, if I would have done anything differently it would have been more sprint and interval training to prepare for the need to just blast over the cobbles.

    That was the bit that surprised me. It felt much the same as hitting a short but sharp hill – stay in the big ring and try to keep it going.

    Otherwise I was fairly happy with my training, although I was prepared for a longer ride than it turned out to be.

    Although I had no desire at the end to get on my bike and do another 50km I could and would have done them at the beginning. Partly to warm up and partly (as it was the first day) to get the group riding together before hitting any secteurs.

  41. @Buck Rogers

    @Chris@frank@brett@Gianni@ChrisOThanks for the advice. Glad to hear that you do not HAVE to ride the drops all the time. My flexibility would not do too well with that and I have enough to work on before the ride without having to become Gumby as well!Will try more in the drops riding between now and the ride (less than two months-egad!) and plan on mixing it up between drops and tops on the ride. Thanks again.

    I’m also not a regular drops user. But after I dropped the saddle 5mm, hooking my hands into the drops and pedaling as hard as I could was the fastest and most comfortable method for me to traverse the secteurs. My theory is that there is more vibration-dampening aluminium (ellooominim?) between the stem and your hands. Just don’t let your fingers hang loosely, or agony will quickly set in and won’t disappear for days.
    If I’m lucky enough to do this again, my training will focus on 5-7 minute intervals at near max effort. The smooth tarmac between secteurs provides enough recovery if you can stay with the leaders, but not if you have to battle solo into a headwind to catch up what you just lost on the cobbles.
    Other tips:
    1. Leave your carbon cages at home. Alloy Elites work. I didn’t come even close to loosing a bidon all week.
    2. 3 snickers and a can of Coke can mask your training deficiencies for an hour or 2, but not for a whole week. So do some training!
    3. Ride some MTB, or use your road bike on gravel to perfect steering via your saddle. For me, there was nothing better than floating smoothly and quickly through a 90 degree cobbled corner. I loved Mons-en-Pevele!!
    4. When William tells you to boogie, you had better fooking boogie!

  42. @Bianchi Denti

    @Buck Rogers

    @Chris@frank@brett@Gianni@ChrisOThanks for the advice. Glad to hear that you do not HAVE to ride the drops all the time. My flexibility would not do too well with that and I have enough to work on before the ride without having to become Gumby as well!Will try more in the drops riding between now and the ride (less than two months-egad!) and plan on mixing it up between drops and tops on the ride. Thanks again.

    I’m also not a regular drops user. But after I dropped the saddle 5mm, hooking my hands into the drops and pedaling as hard as I could was the fastest and most comfortable method for me to traverse the secteurs. My theory is that there is more vibration-dampening aluminium (ellooominim?) between the stem and your hands. Just don’t let your fingers hang loosely, or agony will quickly set in and won’t disappear for days.
    If I’m lucky enough to do this again, my training will focus on 5-7 minute intervals at near max effort. The smooth tarmac between secteurs provides enough recovery if you can stay with the leaders, but not if you have to battle solo into a headwind to catch up what you just lost on the cobbles.

    This sums it up perfectly in my mind. If you’re only in the drops for the pavé it’s not long enough to be worrying about the usual aches and there’ll be bits hurting more than your back. I rode with my saddle at it’s regular height but my backside was one of the only bits that didn’t hurt although an extra dollop of chamois creme would have been nice.

    20 x 5 minutes at full gas with random recovery periods from 30 seconds to 4 minutes should do the trick. Up a flight of stairs.

    5. When William tells your there’s only three more sectuers and then 10km to the finish, don’t believe a word of it. He’s a lying Irish kuuunt.

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