As Ive said before- I want to believe that these gods among men are truly
capable of the achievements Ive watched completed with baited breath year
after year, but as every disgrace and scandal rears its head, and the he-
said-she-said finger pointing comes to a climax, Im increasingly unable to
invest the same passions I once was.
You know, except for the Roubaix. We all know how I feel about the
Roubaix... And as long as you're stuck here reading my words, Ill reiterate. I
think that all of the classics, but most especially 'The Hell of The North',
looks down its collective nose at all of the pissant controversy and chuckles as
it casually rolls up all of the doping alligations, the infighting, designer
sunglasses, posturing and the Rock and Republic jeans, and flicks it off
like a booger.
Yeah, that's about right. A race where winning it may cause you permanent nerve damage in your hands, where your steerer tube may just snap, where you may be covered in coal mud and pig shit by the time you win it, is the ultimate "Fuck YOU!" to the technologists, the dopers, the nerdy doctors in skinny glasses.
Every race shouldn't be like Roubaix. If it was, nobody would race. Nobody could take the pounding, the wear and tear, the spiritual beating.
But having one Roubaix is right to remind us of the extremely elemental nature of our sport - it is man plus machine against the elements, and the battle takes place in the squared circle called suffering. The competitor that can stay in the ring longest, wins. There are races where the competitors seem to beat the road into submission - the long, pan flat TdF stages are like that. A walk in the park for a pro. Yet at Roubaix, nobody beats the road. The road beats all, but the last man standing, hanging on by the fingernails of his numb hands, his skinned knees, muddy face, aching back - that's the guy who wins. They're *all* inadequate before that road, but the winner is the guy who is magnificently the least inadequate of the bunch.
In contrast, the TdF is wine and cheese. There are hard parts, none more so than riding mostly pretty hard for 20 days. It's some *long* days at the office for these guys, and the mountains are hell. But it's a carnival and a chess match as much as it is a race.
You don't have to reject one just because you love the 0ther. I remember the races I love and try to appreciate the other races for what they are. The racing in the TdF - it's not exactly hard core sometimes, and when it isn't, I make a point of sitting in front of the TV in a zen state, blissing out watching the scenery, and maybe being social. For Roubaix, I'm glued to the screen, on the edge of my seat and telling the kid and the dog to leave me alone. In the end, it's all good, it's just two very different things.
Like life, variety is what makes it interesting. It's good that the Tour and Roubaix only come around once a year. The variety of the racing scene, the scarcity of each particular race, is what makes it special. Even the best champagne wouldn't taste so good for a while if it it ran from every tap in the house.