About Me

My photo
Wife (to Shaun), Mother (to Danni), Dog walker of Archie the JRX, improving cyclist, reformed gym bunny, broken runner Collector of exercise DVDs & equipment. Cake is my weakness together with cider (Westons only thanks)and brandy. Noisy spectator of running & cycling events. Owner of Tribby the campervan

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Cobbles - A Road Trip to Roubaix

We've wanted to spectate at the Paris Roubaix for sometime - this race is one of the hardest in the racing calendar and is nicknamed the Hell of the North.  Lots of thrills and spills and great tactical racing over 200kms including some energy sapping cobbled areas.

Not really sure where to start so I'll start from the beginning of the journey on Saturday morning - you may need to bear with me this may take a while.

We had to be at Dover for the ferry crossing at 10am, with a 2 hour drive from home and a need to be there no later than 45 minutes before sailing, we got up at 5am to get ready and pack the car.  In view of the weather we had decided to take full freezing weather conditions spectating kit (woolly hats, scarves, gloves, thermal baselayers etc) so the car was fairly full before the clothes bag went in.  We also took two coolboxes with food and drink in - we had booked the Comfort Hotel in Tourcoing but in the information it said there was no restaurant apart from breakfast.

Shaun had booked us into the First Class Lounge on the DFDS Dover Dunkirk crossing - this entitles you to priority loading (first on/first off!), use of the first class lounge with free refreshments and some comfortable seating, free wifi, and TV.  If anyone is doing this crossing I thoroughly recommend booking first class - it makes the 2 hour crossing so much more comfortable and is a haven of tranquility.

Yes I look a mess when I get up at 5am!
Luckily when we got off the boat in France, Roubaix is only an hours drive away and easy to find (especially when you have a Garmin!)  Checking into the hotel was easy - my O Level French is improving with each visit, although this trip was supposed to be daughter's chance to practice some AS standard conversation (not much of that happened!)   We had a lovely "family room" which actually turned out to be two rooms with a door separating it, a double bed, two singles, 2 bathrooms and 2 lots of tea/coffee facilities - much more comfortable than most family rooms which normally consist of a double with a bunk bed over, or the third bed is a sofa bed.   We got a map of the town from the very helpful Receptionist who said her English wasn't very good (yes the usual - you know more than you're letting on lady!) and asked her how far it was to get to the Velodrome.  I got the impression she either wasn't a walker  or she didn't think it was suitable for us to walk.   She said it was a very long way and we should get the Metro and then walk.   Anyway after we'd had some lunch from our picnic, we decided to explore.  Shaun didn't tell me there was a canal running alongside the hotel - I could've taken my running shoes and gone for a run

We found the Metro, which had a stop opposite the hotel and decided we would use it if the walk got too much on the way back!

The walk down into town was nothing to get excited about until we reached the centre where we found the traditional town square with a very large church

Covering depicts what the church should look like

We also found a very large shopping outlet in the centre of town!    Looking at the map this was the halfway point and had taken us about 35 mins to walk - ok so the total distance was about 5k.   Back to the hotel and time to find something to eat - the only thing near the hotel was a Quick Burger Bar - that was dinner sorted!  We were all pretty tired so went to bed early.

The next morning we were up early to enjoy Le Petit Dejeuner in the hotel - making the most of a good protein laden breakfast of fruit and yogurt, ham, cheese and boiled eggs and some lovely pastries on the side!   There was a really hard frost overnight and it was really quite cold at 8.30am so we decided to layer up and start our walk to the velodrome.  We took the woolly stuff with us just in case!   We really should've gone to the supermarket over the road before we left to stock up on food for the evening but we were all to excited to get to the cycling so that would come back to bite us on the backside (lesson learnt).

We always forget that France don't do shopping on Sundays - the walk through the shopping centre was halted by a very sturdy iron gate!  Luckily we'd left ourselves lots of time to get there and quickly found a different route.   It was very exciting when we finally got to the area of the velodrome, all the signs were up and flags were waving.

The last stretch of cobbles before the entry to the velodrome has recently had the addition of plaques celebrating the winners of the race over the years - it was fun to spot some famous names on them

 Much to daughter's disgust we then walked around the whole of the outside of the velodrome to find a way to get in - apparently only invited guests were allowed in the grandstand!   As it turned out it was way better being out of the grandstand which was in the shade and freezing cold!

Our first spot was at the top of the track sitting on some stairs, but we were ousted by some very raucous Norwegians so we moved to the more comfortable grass bank

By this time we were beginning to feel a bit warm and ran out of water, so Shaun had to go off and find some refreshments.  I did apply some sunscreen but the other two decided against it (which they paid for later!)

The junior race came through about 2 hours before the main pro cyclists - the British boys did quite well although didn't make it on to the podium!

 The velodrome was getting quite busy now so we moved from the grassy bank to the barrier.  We were watching the whole race on a large screen, unfortunately we had French commentary and it was so fast we just about managed to pick out a few words.  As the race leaders entered the velodrome the noise and atmosphere was amazing and made it very exciting - the race favourite Fabian Cancellara was in the lead group with another rider.  They started on their first lap and played a great game of cat and mouse, psyching each other out and gaining advantages to make the final sprint - the two riders were so close to us we could have patted them on the back as they rode very slowly by
Fabian Cancellara

Bernie Eisel (I think)

Geraint Thomas

Not sure if all the photos are in the right order - although they were still arriving when the presentations were being made.

The walk out of the velodrome back to the hotel took us through where the team trucks and coaches were parked and made for great opportunities to mingle with the cyclists

Cleaned up Geraint Thomas
Our walk back to the Hotel seemed to go on forever - yes we should have used the Metro!   With nothing to eat we had another burger for dinner and then went to bed - exhausted and Shaun and Danni both had sunburnt faces!

Monday morning we headed back to Dunkirk - when we arrived we found 6 coaches of foreign students waiting to embark so we booked the First Class Lounge to enjoy some peace and quiet.  There was just us and another family in there - lovely!

 All in all a fantastic weekend away.  The hotel wasn't in a great location and we should've planned food and drink better.  The weather was fantastic and the French people as always were very welcoming.  We will definitely be going back next year to watch again.

No comments:

Post a Comment