Part 1 – Paris to Roubaix Sportive

On Saturday 8th April, Velo Club IVEAGH rider, Mervyn McKeown will take part in a sportive run on the demanding and infamous Paris to Roubaix route. With this quite a sizable step from the normal weekend run, we asked him for some thoughts and details of his plans.

What, Where, When and Why?

The Paris – Roubaix Sportive, offers up to 170km on the same roads the professionals will race and includes all 28 sections of pavé totalling 52km of bone shattering Napoleonic cobbles. The Queen of the Spring Classics or The Hell of the North, has many words often used to describe the professional cycle race. The term, “The Hell of the North”, was coined by Eugéne Christophe one of the cyclists tasked in 1919 with assessing the feasibility of running Paris – Roubaix. Christophe was referring to the devastation of the area caused by The Great War, the phrase stuck and at times has been appropriate in describing the conditions faced by the riders.


 The sportive version of the race offers three distances of 70km, 145km and 170km, with the later being my chosen distance. Starting in Busigny on Saturday 8 April 2017, we join the route whereupon the pros will have already completed 100km. We in the 170km sportive head north and hit the first cobbles within 20km. This will be one hell of a long day for us all and not only because of the challenge ahead. The day will start about 3:30am with breakfast followed by a few miles on the bike to meet the convoy of coaches which will transport us to the start line. I’m hoping to get a nap on the coach, but reckon excitement and anticipation will make this impossible.

So why am I doing this? The challenge, the Iconic resonance  or maybe because I can, though I think the real reason is probably one glass of red wine too many. Having made my decision in Autumn last year, early November saw the start of a new training programme for me and quite often a few questioning thoughts on why am I doing all this through an Irish winter? Not really sure how it all started if I’m honest, but before I knew it, I was suggesting a romantic break in northern France and have to admit my wife Wendy, sussed me straight away asking what race will we be watching? On the bright side it gave her a few easy stocking filler ideas for Christmas. Ian MacGregor’s book To Hell on a Bike, gives a short history of the race, his preparation and then confirmation of a hard day in the saddle. As I continued to rack up some training miles, thoughts of what have I done, were often put right by the justification of one more tick on my bucket list.

Unlike the pro’s, with my ride complete I’m guaranteed to return home with my own little Paris-Roubaix cobblestone trophy and I probably will do the kiss the stone photo. After the traditional bottle of beer, Its off for a shower in the Fabian Cancellara booth. After all he rode the best bikes in the world TREK!!!

Part Two, I will run through my prep for the big day, the cost, training and most important the bike.


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