Sunday April 10, 2016 | Northern France
Look, Paris-Roubaix is insane. It’s exactly why Manual for Speed was invented.
11,609 steps, 5.6 miles.
Again, it’s not relevant. It’s Monday morning as I write this, I just had a zalm roll, my feet are up, it’s like summer outside. Later today, just for fun, I might even go look at a canal. #tookasual
Also, we’re still living in a 4-dimensional Dwell cover story. Did I tell you about the shower in the ceramic space cave?
- See the race five times or more.
- Make it into the infield in the Velodrome, which is basic enough, except this year they changed the rules. Apparently the cut-off to make it in is tighter than before. It was all explained in the mandatory meeting we missed yesterday.
- Contemplate the word vibration.
- Mathew Hayman, Orica-GreenEdge
- Tom Boonen, Etixx-QuickStep, +0:00:00
- Ian Stannard, Team Sky, +0:00:00
“The queen of the classics,; Paris-Roubaix 2016, will take place this Sunday. For the 114th edition of the race, the organisor chose to keep a similar route as the 2015 race route (which was identical to the 2013 race route) when the race was won by John Degenkolb, but there’s one modification: the cobble stones section number 22, Verchain-Maugré, has been turned in for the Capelle-Ruesnes section which is partially uphill at the “Hameau du Buat”. Situated in the first part of the cobble stones programme, this change shouldn’t have a real impact on the result of the race.
“In the Hell of the North all small things can however come disturb the race for one of the riders or maybe the contrary, help another one. So, nothing’s sure beforehand: Sunday everything will be decided on the cobbles…
“With an almost identical race route as in 2015, the cobble stones sections are also (almost) the same as well, except for section 22. The difficulty evaluations awarded to these cobble stones sections after the visit by the organisor this Monday have been announced in a press release which could almost be qualified as pompous because these evaluations are exactly identical to those of 2015! The only thing which changed a bit is the position of the sections after number 24 in the race, for about 4 kilometers, following the detour to access the section 22 at the “Hameau du Buat” which makes its comeback after 3 years of absence.”—Velowire
The longest, flattest most brutal bike race course ever invented on Earth. It goes from Compiègne, located 40 minutes north of Chantilly (a village famous for inventing lace, the kind ladies with a pretty face and a pony tail hanging down wear) to Roubaix in Northern France. The focus of the race is a number of cobble, or pavé, sections which when viewed from outer space look almost like a road. Unfortunately for anyone trying to ride a bike (or walk for that matter) across them, it turns out pavé is closer in aspect to the Appalachian mountains. It never actually rains, it’s always dusty and the race is as much like a civil war reenactment as it is a Sporting Event. If you’ve never been before, you should. Also, let’s be honest, for many thousands of Americans and Europeans of the cycling persuasion not living in Northern France, spectating this race is a form of religious-like pilgrimage.
Keiran got into the stinging nettles on the side of the road. So did Klaus and Ian. Stinging nettles are a menace in Northern France.
YOU HAVE TO WEAR A HAT. If you’re part of a media journalism-type group chasing the race from one location to the next, hats are an invaluable part of identification shorthand. Because I wear a Baltimore Orioles hat and Raoul wears an orange Poler hat, we’re easily pick-out-able from a crowd. This is especially helpful in the start and finish areas.
At the start, near sign-in, Eastern European House Music could be heard (and seen, kinda) coming from the Tinkoff Team bus. Klaus believed it was being played expressly for the purpose of getting Peter Sagan pumped.
Also at the start, someone with media credentials was taking iPhone photographs of various Pros holding up what appeared to be a homemade laminated sign featuring a Le Gruppetto logo. Whatever that is. Klaus was concerned that Le Gruppetto could be something sinister, and/or at the very least could be a brand or something that may very well conflict with one of the rider’s team sponsors. So, while Klaus admired this unknown media person’s moxy and guerilla marketing skill, he was worried someone might accidentally endorse child molesting or the wrong sunglass company.
Shakira is no longer JUST a musical artist, she is also now a musical genre. Only I don’t know what language it’s in, some of it sounds Italian or Arabic, or maybe Roma. Maybe all three and more. Who knows, point is, at first you’d swear it’s a Carribean X Reggaeton-lite thing, but then, because you recognize Spanish, you realize that’s not it at all, it just sounds that way.
Breakfast: 10 Euros, continental style, Sounded like a good deal, but it wasn’t. Three (French, read bad) coffees from one of those dispensers with the tap handle at the bottom and some chaud lait from the chaud lait carafe, one plain yogurt made marginally better with some peach jam from a miniature personal sized (so cute!) jar of Bonne Maman. And that’s that because the cheese and meats were already sweating and it was only 7:30 am.
Lunch: In the car, no time for stopping. I still have gummy bears stuck to my butt. Three miniature bags of Haribo Gummy Bears, bottle after bottle of warm Badoit and some Fisherman’s Friends mints. There was talk of an apple but I never saw no apple. One Snickers bar. I also broke down (I’m on a diet this year: NO FLOUR, NO WHEAT, NO POTATOES, etc.) and ate a day-old pain au chocolate from a bakery in Paris, which is why even after 24+ hours in the glove compartment of our rental car it still tasted better THAN EVERY SINGLE chocolate croissant ever made in America. Klaus had a bag of vegan beef jerky too but I didn’t eat that because I don’t know if you were listening or not but I said vegan beef jerky. Which is obviously kinky and strange, and repugnant.
Snack: We stopped at the Texaco on the E-17, the first stop north of Roubaix on the way to Ghent. One latte macchiato and one cappuccino, both from a machine. They were delicious. And some Hollywood gum, which was also delicious. But but but but don’t mix them, that experience is not delicious.
Dear GoPro Operator Bro: I apologize for getting in your face, publicly, at the finish, in the velodrome infield, in front of everyone. Seriously, I am. Nobody should get in anybody’s face except in response to real injustice, though this situation could almost meet that minimum requirement. Anyway, you were super chill and you looked genuinely repentant. And clearly you were aware of the problem, like, obviously I’m not the only who finds your RAM-AND-JAM technique intolerable/upsetting/hostile/problematic/etc. So, like I said, here’s the deal.
- NOBODY expects a clean shot at the start and finish, or for that matter anywhere at a professional bike race really. If they do, they’re unrealistic and naive. So it’s not about having endless, unmolested clean photographs.
- That said, you have a lightweight camera-like unit on the end of a stick. Which stick you put in the face of EVERYTHING that comes past you. Which stick you wave around in front of you, behind you, below you and above you. Which stick you poke into and out of, sexually, EVERYWHERE AND EVERYBODY. Which stick you use to anonymously violate the personal space of roughly 163 people per minute.
- I mean, what you’re doing looks more like rhythmic gymnastics or some kind of magic trick-based performance art than photography or videography or whatever form of electronic news gathering GoPro wand waving and stick poking represents.
- The point is, you have to be at least a little selective in terms of where you put that thing. You need some sense of and respect for, your immediate environment.
- And remember, what you’re doing is something approximating documentation. You’re not trying to make everyone at the start (and all my photographs) pregnant. It’s not a wand, you’re not casting spells.
- I get it, you’re tracking. You ARE your own dolly. You’re doing complex compound camera moves, and you’re good at it. People want what you do. GoPro footy is, for many millions and billions of fans, exactly what they want.
- But still, you gotta share. I mean, right?
- Anyway, I liked you, you had good energy. Let’s be friends.
- But seriously, limit my exposure to that stick of yours otherwise I will break it in half and throw both ends into a canal.
I Race Report
Nothing bad happened. It was a stunning day. The race was wonderful even if, maybe because, all the favorites were defeated by an Australian. I could talk about the word vibration. I was lite-obsessed with it, plus if I did I could make a connection between the physical vibrations that come from riding across uneven medieval rocks and the metaphysical vibrations that come from being a part of something truly magical. But I’m not going to do that because look, Paris-Roubaix is insane. It’s exactly why Manual for Speed was invented.
Today's Race Jargon Borrowed verbatim from the official Paris-Roubaix Race Bible and translated into English.
- Cobble Goblin: A block of stone possessed by the devil, found hiding in the “road” next to the other non-living cobbles/pavé, which waits until cyclists come by before attacking them. For example, last Sunday Fabian Cancellara was just riding along (in the middle of a bike race called Paris-Roubaix) when a Cobble Goblin tried to eat Fabian’s front wheel, causing Fabian to crash and, subsequently, Peter Sagan to stunt.
- Cobble Gobbler: A professional cyclist who performs well in the pavé sections. The winner of a Spring Classic. For example, Phil Gaimon is maybe not a Cobble Gobbler. But whatever dude, he got the call, he showed up, he made it roughly 80km, and he’s one of the .000000000000000067% of the population physically capable of being a professional cyclist racing at the World Tour level. Also, he’s got a poster and you don’t. But but but but but… you could have one too!?
- Cobble Gobblin’ The act of shredding cobble/pavé gnar. Tom Boonen did come serious cobble gobblin’ on Sunday but, I guess, that other dude from Australia that nobody’s ever heard of did more.
This poster is an homage to the Spring Classics, therefore it is an homage to Cobble Goblins. Art by Benjamin Marra. Printed by Topo Copy in Ghent, Belgium.
III Today's Highs & Lows
- The first link I got today via text/email was this video, which video I’d never seen before. I love Utah Saints and this dude’s necklace and skunk tail belt flair make me happy.
- Sticker Privilege while driving the course, especially through Arenberg.
- About two hours into the day Klaus invented the cycling equivalent of Truck Nuts: Bike Balls. He was VERY excited about the anatomically-correct nature of Bike Balls, especially when compared to Truck Nuts.
- Klaus’ story about the monkeys in northern India that allegedly try to have sex with your ears while you’re sleeping. And the subsequent product idea that came as a result of that conversation: Monkey-Proof Ear Muffs.
- A conversation with Klaus about the expression, "How do it know?" in reference to whether the machine that gave us a ticket to park in a nearly-full parking lot knew how many spots were currently available.
- Today’s Playlist. Today we listened to some of the worst music ever made ever. Apparently when music from the ‘80s and ‘90s dies, Belgium exhumes it, covers it, then remixes the cover into a house song, then plays it on the radio for supposed/alleged enjoyment. The music was so bad and there was so much of it, and I was so burned-out by the end of the day, that eventually I turned it up. It was like I was cutting, but with music.
- Accidentally keeping my bib. By the time I got back to the car and realized it was still on it was too late. The Press Office was in the infield where I’d just come from. The Organization (ASO) wants them back. YOU HAVE TO GIVE THEM BACK. They will send emails. I don't know what happens if you don't give them back but it’s probably bad. I still have to give this one back. It’s sitting right next to me as I write this, staring at me, pulsing. I will have to mail it. I’m not looking forward to mailing this bib back. Mailing things is not my strong suit, mailing things to a foreign country from a different foreign country is even less my strong suit.
- At the end of the race the first riders through collapse in the infield in exactly the same spot where ALL the soigneurs and media are standing. The first finishers are a mess, they can barely stand, they’re wasted, utterly empty. There is something incredibly alluring and captivating about the state they’re in. Maybe it’s their fragility. Maybe it’s as simple as bearing witness. Whatever it is, one way or another it has everything to do with absolute commitment. Clearly, everything they had to give they gave. Short of death, nothing, it would seem, is held back. They roll in, dump their bikes then collapse, slump and stagger around in the grass among the media which media proceeds to savagely consume them even further. The raw, insatiable appetite of the media is unseemly. About half way through the first wave of finishers I stopped taking photographs for a minute or two, which is eternity in there. It’s hard to describe the scene without using pornography and sexual references like bukkake and gang bang, but that’s what it feels like. It feels like an orgy, in a bad way. It feels sinful or something, you know, the one about flesh and gluttony and all that. Whatever is happening it doesn't feel wholesome. It’s chaos, media are knocking each other over, yelling at each other, everyone is in everyone else’s way. The riders continuing to finish while all this is happening can’t get to where they’re trying to go. People are stepping on each other. One dude is on the ground, cramped and moaning, meanwhile he’s literally surrounded by two dozen media sticking cameras in his face and up his butt. The sound of shutters firing, flashes flashing, it’s disturbing. I mean, I def started shooting again so I’m 1000% part of the problem, but something is not quite right.
- Klaus lost an eBay auction for a Colombian pressing of Pink Floyd's The Wall.
Today's Playlist This is just a sample because even Shazaming these to make a joke hurt.
Noyon Approx. 35km
Quiévy to Saint-Python 107.5km (3.7km long)
Trouée d'Arenberg 162km (2.4km long)
Orchies 197.5km (1.7km long)
Spring Classics (aka Cobble Goblins) Underwriters Thank You!
For the next three weeks Manual For Speed is your Spring Classics Virtual Reality. Creating a three-week-long virtual reality requires a lot of support both emotionally, psychologically and financially. Our underwriters provide us with all of three and more. We cherish them because of it; won’t you cherish them too?
with additional support from:
Cobble Goblins art by Benjamin Marra.