Andreas Klier never loved Paris-Roubaix when he was a racer. He lived for the other…
Of all the Classics, Paris-Roubaix is arguably one of the most brutal. No other race offers the difficult terrain that “The Hell of the North” serves up every year. Calling the cobble sectors “rough” and “uneven” might even be considered insulting. The unrelenting nature of the course demands to be taken seriously — and offers no respite throughout its 257 kilometers.
An impossible feat to take on, though? Not if you’re prepared. That said, our riders selected for this year’s roster have seriously refined their bike handling skills and mental fortitude ahead of the event. That includes the likes of now somewhat of a Roubaix legend: Mitch Docker. Roubaix will be the Aussie’s last race of his professional career, and what better way to exit the sport he love than with one of his favorite races?
Whether you are looking to take on riding cobbles yourself or just want more insight into how these riders handle them, Docker and our Sports Director Andreas Klier – another cobble and Roubaix legend – have laid out everything you need to know to set yourself up for success on those magnificent cobbles:
Klier: You should kick off your ride with a bit of research on which ones you actually want to ride. With all of the different apps nowadays, you can surely find footage of cobbles themselves. You can also find the variant using Google Maps with a satellite view. Once you’ve done that, you can look at footage of riders in a cobbles race and how they approach them.
2. Get your mind right
Docker: You need to prepare for a war on the bike. Not only with the other riders, but with the parcours. It’s a long and hard 100 kilometers even before you reach the first sector. Then the real race begins.
3. Get in good position
Docker: Keep your hands loose, but in a position to take action if and when needed. Legs driving a slightly lower cadence than normal and the head looking for the infamous banner showing the end of the sector you are traveling across.
Klier: In general, riding in the middle is the best surface to ride on. If you can get yourself all the way over on the right or left side, that would be the second best option.
Docker: I tend to think about how I can move forward, looking for gaps and holes to better my position. Some people go so deep before entering the sectors to gain a good position that they no longer have the power to hold it on the cobbles. You need to move around these potential roadblocks, while making sure you find a good line on the sector.
4. Find your speed and rhythm
Klier: It helps hitting the cobbles with quite a high speed and to keep the speed high. The key here is obviously not to fall but to have a certain set speed and to find the rhythm that works for you. It’s similar to climbing. A higher cadence works a lot once you have the right tire pressure and once you have situated yourself in the middle.
Docker: You need to stay as relaxed as you can when riding the stones at Roubaix. They are rough enough, and if you stress things up as well, then you are fighting the cobbles. Sit back and let the front wheel find its rhythm and apply the power while seated.
5. Adjust tire pressure
Klier: The tire pressure and the general materials you’re working with are also really important.
Did you know a lower tire pressure will actually allow the shocks of the cobbles to be absorbed better, which will help you handle your bike on uneven surfaces more effectively? It also wouldn’t hurt to have plenty of bar tape handy to help with padding to increase “comfort.” Although we can’t really promise that you’ll ever truly be comfortable on the cobbles. And that is perhaps why we love them.