As far as Cycling and racing iconography goes, Paris-Roubaix sits at the very zenith. It’s the most revered race among fans not only because of the pavé and the punishment it hands out, but there’s also the traditional finish of the race in the old velodrome, and what are possibly the most photographed showers anywhere in the world. Outsiders could never understand the significance of a shower and its importance in relation to a bike race.
It may seem ridiculous to some, but any visit to Roubaix and the velodrome usually includes a wander over the road to the old shower block, and if you’re really lucky, a cleansing soak under the holy water. On our first Keepers Tour we were allowed into the building but a no bathing policy was in place that day. I think the caretaker just wanted to get us in and out so he could return home with the wine for his children. The second occasion we were granted permission and I’ve never seen a bunch of blokes more enthusiastic to get naked and wash themselves in front of each other. And photograph it. Unfortunately on our last visit we were unable to even get access to the block, and a more disappointed crew I’ve rarely witnessed. We were on a high from a brutal day on the stones in the rain, we were filthy, tired and hungry, and there would have been no more perfect a scenario for a soaking.
Being the reverent types of people we Cyclists are, we look for ways to pay homage to our heroes and the scenes of their battles. Maybe you’ll name your cats Fausto and Gino, or your dog Eddy, or your first daughter Roger. Perhaps you’ll own a replica bike that one of your idols once rode, or your walls may display photographs or posters of races and racers long gone, or erect a shrine. Possibly, you’ll dream big and plan a replica Roubaix shower for your own home.
I’m dreaming big, and making it a reality. Long has there been talk between myself and my good mate @rigid, who also happens to be an accomplished architect, of a Roubaix shower in either his or my home. With a new house build coming up for me, we’ve been looking at the ways to incorporate the classic concrete stall and hanging shower head/chain arrangement, just like the real thing. Every non-Cyclist I mention it to needs a ten-minute explanation and photo gallery session, with stunned disbelief and incredulity the most common reactions. I’d probably have the same response if someone told me they were re-creating the tanning bed from Donald Trump’s place, so it’s understandable I suppose.
But the rest of us freaks are more like “fuck yeah”. Another friend of mine who’s a bathroom guy just can’t get his head around it, and is reluctant to build it for me not because of any perceived difficulty, but because he just doesn’t get it. Which is the whole appeal, because we are different, and we celebrate it. We live on the edges of society, shunned by motorists, laughed at by other sports, and it’s just the way we like it. And if there is any bizarre way to honour our sport’s icons, we will find a way to do it, no matter what anyone thinks. I’ll be in the shower.