Everything we do this year is either directly or indirectly related to Road to Rad. Actually wait, everything we’ve done to date as well as everything we will do in the future, next year, and the year after that, is, when it comes right down to it, about Road to Rad. Maybe what I mean to say is this: this year is about enumerating (and unpacking) the ways in which Road Cycling works and doesn’t work. It’s about making a list. Pros and Cons. Good and Bad. Keep Doing and Stop Doing. Et cetera et cetera.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTI mean, it’s not too late to buy one…
As such, we came to the Classics, again. Last year our Spring Classics campaign was called Cobble Goblins. This year it’s The Luck/Love Tour. Yes, the naming thing IS in part about branding. Obvs giving the whole body of work a Name and a Concept is a way to make the story more compelling and easily digested. It’s also a way to sell posters (more on that in a bit). Theoretically at least—we didn’t sell very many posters last year even though Benjamin Marra’s art was incredible and SO on point. Maybe it was bad art direction on our part. Who knows, who cares, it’s not important. What is important is Shape. And how Shape gives us, fans of cycling, a better more clearer understanding of what and why, and how, certain aspects of racing are special and transcendent, and more-than-just-a-regular-sport stuff. All in the hopes to apply that understanding to the greater subject of cycling and racing. Naming also helps with Shape. It helps to give an idea or concept some Form. And Truth. And Understanding. And Gravity. And Meaning. And all kinds of Other Integral Shit.
Clearly, Obviously, and probs Unanimously. If you were going to erase Professional Cycling and start all over again—wait, nobody works from chalkboards anymore. If you were going to get a new Racing because your old one lagged and stroked-out and had a cracked screen, you would have to decide what, if anything, you wanted to migrate over from your old Racing to your new Racing.“The Spring Classics, essentially AS-IS, are a form of Racing that would clearly, obviously and probs unanimously be carried forward. No questions asked. They work. They work soooooo good and on so many levels.”MFS
And we’re saying that consensus comes down to two key ideas: Luck and Love. Which because those are metaphors and they kinda unintentionally obfuscate the truth of the matter and the whole point of this Road to Rad exercise is to gain a clearer understanding about what works and what doesn’t, we’re drilling down.
We’re going to unpack Luck and Love and we’re making a list. Of super clear and super basic ideas about how and why the Spring Classics work so well. And the first thing on our list is Cobbles.
Yup. Super obvious. Trite. Cliché. All of that. But here’s the thing:
- They are an undeniable truth. Everybody knows a cobble or a pave or whatever you want to call them (in America they’re bricks basically) when they see one. The cobbles in Belgium may be considerably easier to ride than the cobbles in France (this was overhead several times while riding the Roubaix Sportive; we call that eyewitness testimony) but a cobble is a cobble, is a cobble. They exist. They are unlike any other road surface in the world.
- They’re brutal. They are Brutalism in miniature form.
- They’re difficult to walk on, they will rip the oil pan clean off your rental car unless you’re careful (even if you are careful). Riding on them when they’re dry just hurts and may cause flats and crashing. Riding on them in the rain may and will cause much worse.
- And racing on them in any and all conditions may and will cause even worse.
- Because of the way inertia and momentum work—so, because of Science—you can’t fake cobbles. You either embrace them, and rule them, and become one with them, or they fuck you up real bad. So riding cobbles requires whatever surfing and skiing requires, which is a good thing. Because otherwise, I mean a monkey or a robot or a monkey robot can pedal a bike. My kids could ride a bike when they were three. And the fitness thing is only so interesting. Like, who wants to watch an exercise contest? Nobody. Except for maybe triathletes and the people, assuming there are some, which now that i think about it I don’t think there are any, who spectate triathlons.
- Speaking of skiing and surfing (and mountain biking, and skateboarding, and a bunch of other cool sports), cobbles require finding a line. That’s a talent. That’s a skill. That’s intuition. That’s feeling. It’s emotional. It’s beyond math and reason, it’s metaphysical.
- Speaking of metaphysical sports and skateboarding, and the art of finding a line, once you find one you have to negotiate it. That negotiation is called tricks. And tricks are, at their core, a form of self-expression and style. Both of which make the world as well as sports a better place. Everyone loves tricks. Everyone loves a good move. Case in point, wheelies. They’re so basic, they’ve been around forever. They’re not even strictly speaking that hard, but everyone still LOOOOVES them. People still cheer and chant and get overly excited when they see one. Aaaaand wheelies are so basic, after wheelies you have ollies and lipslides and ballies and slam dunks and nose wheelies and on and on and on. I mean cycling is so starved for self-expression that even some basic shit like body english and bunny hops get people excited. Which, there IS NO WAY to make it through cobbles right without some serious body english and a few most excellent bunny hops.
- They’re unique. I mean, we have some brick streets in Portland, and Italy definitely has some busted roads, but cobbles are basically a Northern European thing.
- They cause devastation to mind, body and soul. And bike. Through Project Y we’ve learned from an artisanal curated panel of experts (a Rabbi, an Anthropologist, a Neuroscientist, a Philosopher and a Sports Psychologist) that personal devastation through self-motivated pain and suffering is one of life’s greatest forms of transformation.
- Cobbles punch you in your metaphorical dick. Over and over and over again. Also, if you’re a dude, and you hit them the wrong way, they can punch you in your actual/physical dick. And if you’re a lady they will punch you in your actual/physical vagina. Guy or Gal you have to watch yourself on the cobbles.
- Crashes are fun to watch. Chaos is fun to watch. Cobbles are fun to watch. Cobble-having races are fun to watch. Schadenfreude. Cobbles are little schadenfreude nuggets, each and everyone, and there have to be what, at least 656,789 thousand of those little fuckers on the Roubaix course?
- They’re unpredictable. They leave (FORCE) room for chance and for luck, both good and bad. They can surprise. AND SO BASICALLY, they are anathema to strategy and micro gains. They mitigate all forms of planning and preparation. They bring the rider, the race, the fans, the competition, all of it, to the present. Anything can and will happen.
In summary: you have to love riding cobbles to race them well. You definitely need good luck. Or you need everyone else to have bad luck. Or a combination thereof. Everyone loves watching the peloton race them. You never know who’s going to win. You can’t point to left field and call it. You can’t Rocky your way to victory. You have to Rocky your way to victory.
- Smallest margin of victory: Eddy Planckaert versus Steve Bauer in 1990. Planckaert won by less than half an inch (.39”).
- Largest margin of victory: Eddy Merckx versus Roger De Vlaeminck, 5:21
- Only Paris–Roubaix winner (that we know of) who went on to become the spokesperson for a hair-plug clinic in Belgium: Roger De Vlaeminck
- Annual cost of maintaining the route’s cobbles by “Les Amis de Paris Roubaix”: $16,000 (US Dollars)
- Highest ranked car for $16,000 or under in the United States: Honda Fit (with 1.5 liter engine and 130 hp)
- First year that the cobble trophy was awarded: 1977
- Price of a replica cobble trophy at the cafe in the velodrome, last time that Manual for Speed checked: $15.00
- Replicas of the cobble trophy contain a sharp wood screw which keep the cobble in place. How did a Manual for Speed contributor explain said screw in the trophy to TSA agents upon arriving to the United States in order to not have it confiscated?: He explained that it was the trophy for a bike race that he had won, and that it meant a lot to him
- Who was mere inches away from said MFS contributor as this explanation was given to TSA agents?: A sideburn-era Jonathan Vaughters
- Number of showers at the Roubaix velodrome: 14 (which also happens to be the name of the first single from Paula Cole’s 2007 album “Courage”)
- Why are showers in Roubaix’s velodrome so seldom used these days after the race?: Because team buses have showers.
- Number of editions cancelled due to World Wars: 7
- Why did the Catholic Church object to the date when the first edition of the race took place in 1896?: Because it was on Easter Sunday, and they felt that riders wouldn’t have time to both attend mass, AND do the race.
- Cruelest moment in Paris-Roubaix history: According to MFS, it would have to be the time in 1988 that a plastic bag got jammed in Thomas Wegmuller’s derailleur, not allowing him to shift, and thus seeing victory go to Dirk Demol.
- Longest winning break: Dirk Demol, 1988, 222km (138 miles)
- Country with the most wins: Belgium, 56
- Country with the fewest wins (but not zero, obviously, don’t be a smart aleck): Three-way tie: Luxembourg, Moldova and Sweden all have one
- Riders with the most wins: Roger De Vlaeminck and Tom Boonen, tied at four
- Prize money given to the winner of Paris-Roubaix: €30,000
- Prize money given to the winner of the US Masters (Golf) Tournament, which usually ends on the same day as Paris-Roubaix: $1.98 million (in 2017)