I was inordinately happy to return from an enjoyable cycle around Otmoor this afternoon to find out that Stuart O’Grady has become the first Australian to win what is probably the most important one day professional cycling race, Paris-Roubaix.Little Johnny Howard should be giving everyone a day off work tomorrow because this is as big as Australia II winning the America’s Cup in 1983. I think that’s unlikely to happen though.
If last weekend, Stuart Appleby hadn’t lost his 2 stroke lead in the final day of the US Masters golf tournament and become the first Australian to win, it would have been comparable to Stuey’s effort
The race was first held in 1896 and it starts in Compiègne, outside of Paris and ends in a velodrome in Roubaix 260km/160 miles later. The race doesn’t go up any big hills but it does traverse 50km of hideous cobbled sections.When I say cobbles, I don’t mean a short stretch of nicely laid, cobbled driveway…I mean stretches of road that are basically just farm tracks, as can be seen in this pic. I think the race was dry today, but the slightest rain shower makes the course dangerous, muddy and slippery…leading to many crashes.
The most “feared” cobbled section, the Arenberg Forest stretches for 2.4km. The peloton flies over the cobbles at speeds in excess of 45km/h (say), which is about 30mph. Stuart O’Grady’s average speed for the whole 260km was 42km/h.
Compare this to my ride today. It was only 40km and my average was probably about 28-30km/h…my cycle computer is broken so i can’t say for sure! The longest I’ve ever cycled in one day was just over 200km and my average was about 25km/h!!
Read more about the victory in this article from cyclingnews.com.
Update – Here are some photos of the auspicious occasion