I imagine that the overwhelming majority of ya’ll, out there, know that the road race Paris-Roubaix was run yesterday. If for no other reason than I already mentioned the winner, Johan Vansummeren. I’ve been drawn into following pro road racing over the last year, and in it’s good moments has become a far, far more rewarding and time consuming pursuit than other things I’m loath to admit I read (occasionally! very occasionally!) on the ‘net. Once you pass a certain threshold of knowledge and familarity, it really does become quite enthralling.
One feature of Paris-Roubiax is the fanatic, creepy romanticism given over to the race, its mystique, and its history. Other races get comparable treatment, however. A perhaps unique feature of the Roubaix build-up is the obsession with “new” technology, which when combined with more of the aforementioned almost erotic obsession with roundish rocks makes the whole thing a particular event for the fan.
But why all the bother? Why all the obsession with gnarly stretches of the route and equipment? Sounds a lot like mountain biking to me.
And Paris-Roubiax is as close to mountain biking as pro road racing gets: therein lies the appeal, the aura, and the obsession. As numerous pundits, professional and amateur point out, P-R is so hard that more than 50% of the field finishing is considered a good or easy year. It all points to the greatest interest in sport being struggles against obstacles super human. Having a course that punishes lazy equipment choices is good, too.
And one final piece of fetishization (the first scene of Hushovd is a nice instruction in how to ride rough terrain):