#bikeschool: The Break Away…
As you are probably aware, I am the new guardian angel of the #bikeschool posts here at LovingTheBike.com and wanted to kick things off in a big way this week. I’m hoping to introduce some exciting new content and ideas to these weekly #bikeschool articles and I felt it was only right to treat you guys to something a little special.
A Note from Darryl: I’m stoked to officially welcome Stevie to the Loving the Bike team, and invite you to check out his #bikeschool posts each and every Tuesday. He is also our UK correspondent and will often be bringing us cycling goodness from that part of the world as well.
L’Enfer du Nord
It’s clear we all have a special kind of appreciation for bicycles, whatever shape, size or flavour they come in and I for one am a big fan of professional cycle racing. With that in mind it would be sacrilege to not make a passing mention to one of the greatest one day races in the calender that will hit you right between the goggle-balls this weekend… Paris-Roubiax.
Great riders such as Louison Bobet, Eddy Merxkx and Bernard Hinault have received at least one ‘sett’, a cobblestone from the very pavé that they haul themselves across as well as more recent winners, Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara. True to form in cycling, the great races and the greatest of riders are never forgotten by fans and peloton alike and by early April each year magazines, blogs and Pro-team buses are filled with talk of who will make it to the Roubaix velodrome finish line first.
So who am I to rock the boat!? British Road Race Champion and Team Sky rider, Geraint Thomas took some time to talk to me about what this race means to him and how his preparations have been going in recent weeks.
Stevie Dexter: For many fans, Paris-Roubaix is the pinnacle of the early season classics calander. Where does it fit into your list of favourite races?
Geraint Thomas: Its massive. Paris-Roubaix, Tour Flanders and the Tour are my season goals. I rode them for the first time last year and loved them. I grew up watching them on the TV dreaming of riding them one day. the history in the races adds to the whole thing with the riders that have on there in horrible conditions.
SD: As more and more riders and support staff join the Twttersphere we are getting a better glimpse into the training regimes and techniques of the professionals of the sport. Do one day races feature in your thoughts during pre-season training camps or do you focus on Grand Tour aims and devise a racing calendar that suits those aims?
SD: European fans have a deep affinity with the cobbled classics and their love of all things muddy and treacherous cause them to travel en masse to take joy in watching you guys sit ‘on the rivets’ for kilometer after kilometer. Being truthful now, do you look forward to these cobbled races or would you rather keep the same route and terrain but take out the often dramatically race changing sections for something a little more sedate?
GT: No definitely not!! That’s what the classics are all about. The ‘hardness’ of it all. The race into those crucial sections, and all the build up races where you race over the roads but as soon as Flanders comes it feels completely different. Roubaix is obviously just a one off race, which makes it special and the Arenberg and other dramatic/treacherous section so good. The danger is half the fun!!
SD: Geraint, your ride at Dwars door Vlaanderen saw a gutsy finish which landed you 2nd despite all your attempts to not end up on the front and leading out Nick Nuyens. How much does a result like that help you mentally and physically going in to Paris-Roubaix this weekend? Does it make you more vulnerable to having breaks dragged back as other top riders look at you with more caution due to recent results?
GT: It gives me confidence. Firstly i know that i can really compete with the best guys now. Obviously Roubaix is longer and a bit different, but mentally I know that i’m going well at the minute and all the training and racing I’ve done so far has been worth it. and so i can go into Roubaix relaxed knowing that I couldn’t have done any more.
SD: You won the 2004 Junior edition of Paris-Roubix ahead of fellow Team Sky rider Ian Stannard. Has this experience helped over the years when it comes to the classics season or is it so far in the past now that there are more recent, valuable lessons to be learnt?
GT: Well it was good to race over the same sections as the pros do then. but its so different now. we travel over them so much quicker the race is so much longer and the race into them that much harder and more dangerous. but it still helps having ridden them and having that success, even though it was at junior level.
SD: For those crazy enough to take on the amateur event held tomorrow (6th of June) run by Velo Club de Roubaix, here are some random cobblestone riding questions that fans always want to know the Pro’s answers to:
1. At Paris-Roubaix, what tire pressure do you use?
GT: I think last year i used 27 tyres and had 5bar in them. They lose some pressure during the race
2. What tips do you have for riding the cobblestones?
GT: Spin the legs and don’t force it. People seem to think you have to ride big gears but treat it like a 2 minute prologue effort. Put your hands anyway that’s comfy and if you’re around other people maybe somewhere where you can brake, in case they crash or swerve. Try to relax and let the bike move under you. Try not to be too rigid on the bike.
3. Are there any other modifications to your bike for Roubaix?
GT: We have a new frame for a start, that has a slightly longer wheel base and the triangles are bigger giving a smoother ride. We may have some gel under our bar tape and a gear shifter next to our stem for when we are on the tops on the cobbles, but apart from that nothing else really.
SD: And the $64 million question, why are YOU Loving The Bike?
GT: I love just being able to jump on your bike and go anywhere. Especially on a nice day in Wales. You can go up into the hills or lanes and it just feels great. obviously the racing side is great as well!!
A big thank you goes out to Nick Howes and Fran Millar at Team Sky and of course, Geraint for taking the time to answer my questions.
Disclaimer: Before I get abusive emails and tweets about removing the cobbles from the classics, please be aware I wouldn’t do this in a million years and was merely trying to get an emotive reaction from G!
Don’t forget to join us for #bikeschool, every week, Thursday 9pm EST (Friday 2am CET)