Travel by ferry for a weekend of cobbled cycling history

The following post comes from Starley Pro Cycling rider Gaby Leveridge, owner of Go Faster Gaby.

Over the past few years I have raced for both British and Australian professional teams. I specialise in the longer road races and find that tough conditions suit me. I fell in love with road cycling whilst living out in the French Alps, where I rode a lot of the well-known mountain sportives before going on to compete in ultra-distance events before signing for a race team.

Starley Pro Cycling rider Gaby Leveridge

From this I’ve learnt how to dig deep and stay mentally strong in harsh conditions and challenging terrain. In 2015, while racing for Velosure Starley Primal, I was selected to race some of the Belgian classics which was a huge honour.

The Hell of the North

Cycling the Paris-Roubaix
Image by Jack Thurston

The time of year where the top teams in the cycling world battle it out in the tough, one day races known as the “spring classics” is fast approaching. Affectionately titled “The Hell of the North” and the “Queen of the Classics”, the Paris-Roubaix race, although almost totally flat, is renowned for its brutality.

The infamous spring classic is one of the toughest in the world for due reason. Long cobbled sections, farm tracks, mud and rain topped off with a persistent blowing wind all combine to test both rider and machine. The pros who fare best are those with sharp bike handling skills, resilience and raw power, rather than those lithe whippets who make their name scaling up Alpine Cols.

Experience Paris-Roubaix 2017

Gaby cycling Paris-Roubaix
Gaby riding Paris-Roubaix

The Paris-Roubaix was first held on a cold Sunday in April 1896, with 46 brave men on the start line. In those days the course was 280km and designed to break the riders. The starting pistol fired at 5.30am, and the first man, Josef Fischer, crossed the finish line nine hours and 17 minutes later! This year, the elite race will be held on the 9th April and will cover 257.5km from Compiègne to the finish in the historic Roubaix Vélodrome.

The day before the race, everyone is given the opportunity to get into the spirit and ride the iconic routebefore the pros. While many cyclists copy the full course, the choice of distance options draws in a wider audience than those just willing to batter their bodies for over eight hours in the saddle. In my opinion this is the perfect way to enjoy the weekend, experiencing the legendary race first hand before spending Sunday recovering, cheering on the pros with a couple of beers.

Top tips for cobbled classic travel

People cheer on riders at Paris-Roubaix
Image by tetedelacourse

So you’ve decided to make the trip across the channel to take on the Queen of the Classics. Before travelling, make sure you book your accommodation in advance so that it’s in a convenient location. You don’t want to have to pedal any extra kms after your day on the cobbles.

The start of the race is in the commune of Busigny. I would recommend staying the night there so you can have a relaxed breakfast before setting off on Saturday morning.

After the event a shuttle bus will run from the start in Roubaix to Busigny – just make sure you book your place on the bus when you sign up for the sportive.

Travelling with a bicycle

Bicycle by the ocean
Image by James Burke

Travelling with your bike is easy. When you travel by ferry there is no need to take apart and rebuild your bike on arrival. You can cross from Dover to Calais with your bike in your car or as a foot passenger, then it’s about a two-hour drive to the start in Busigny, or three hours by train.

If you live a bit further north you could cross the channel from Hull, arriving into Zeebrugge which again would leave you with a quick two hour drive to the start.

Described as a mix between a bike race and a circus, it’s the spectacle of the whole event that gives the Hell of the North its status as the most beautiful race of all time. The Paris-Roubaix holds a very special place in cycling history, so be sure to take your chance to ride the same roads as the current pros and heroes of the past.

Ready to hit the road? Click here for more information on travelling with your bicycle on a P&O Ferry.

Featured image by tetedelacourse.