Author Archives: Laurie T

About Laurie T

I twisted my knee playing soccer in 2011 & fell onto a bike shoved beneath me by Turnip. Enjoying the new found adventure and challenge I moved up from Bobbin Head to Tour de Hills, 4 Gorges, Ettalong, the Gong, Loop the Lake, Century Challenge, Round the Bay & then 3 Peaks in 2012, 13 & 14 & Fitz's extreme then a ripper of a ride on the Paris-Roubaix. Not sure where this journey will end but am still enjoying it.

Paris-Roubaix challenge – Ride report – 11 April 2015

With the numbness in my body slowly subsiding & my eyeballs finally stopped rattling around my skull, I thought I’d give a ride report to share the exquisite pain endured before during & after this iconic race/ride. Rightly called the ‘Hell of the North’. It was a very tough ride & I feel Like I’ve been riding on a jackhammer for 4 out of 8 hours. The race was 165 kms of which 52km is cobbles – 27 sections rated from 3 to max 5 stars in difficulty. We also did an extra 5kms when following a bunch of Scotts who took a wrong turn.

But firstly my thanks to all who helped me have a crack at the ride. A leave pass from my beautiful tolerant wife who came to watch (shop), another stunning performance by my Giant bike, my old school mate from London who brought my bike to Roubaix, Brownie built wheels that withstood the punishment (unlike me), mtb training from Briony, Admin, binners & Zlatko’s bridge, advice & encouragement from many & disbelief that I’d even survive from others. Having a fellow ER & hobbit –  Highlander join me to share the pain was special & an added bonus.

Although reasonably fit, my preparation was hampered a bit by sore shoulders I’ve had for the past year & annoyingly in the last 3 months has extended to my left elbow & although I can push down I have been unable to lift anything heavier than a beer with it. My main fear was not being able to hang onto the bike as that is a common reason why many do not finish. I also hadn’t ridden for 4 weeks & ate & drank lots of good uk & dutch & french fare. I gained 4 kgs.

Advice from an aussie pro-cyclist who had ridden it was ‘try & hang the f**k on’ – and then he went on to explain he didn’t finish it. A Dutch pro-cyclist I also met said ‘after ze 1st 2kms of cobbles ze will be wanting to make peace with your god’. Encouraging stuff given we had 50km of it!

Anyway excuses out of the way, I was determined to give it my best shot.

Now the Paris-Roubaix pavé consists of centuries-old farm tracks where uneven cobblestones stand proud with jagged edges, while many of the cobbles are missing, leaving gaping holes perfect for buckling wheels.  It all adds up to a very bumpy ride, especially on road bikes. Mountain bikes would of course be more comfortable, but they have suspension & they’re rather frowned upon.  There were lots of these though & around the 80km mark I got bumped off my bike  by one who had swooped up the bank & tangled his handle bars in mine & I landed heavily on my left side & my handle bars got twisted, my hip has a huge bruise but worse I think it broke my timing chip.

This is the 3rd year of this ride & last year 1,500 riders started, but only 900 finished.  300 were never seen again presumed buried in the infamous Arenberg Trench. Of all the cobble sections that one was truely a nightmare – wet, slimy boulders with bikes flying in all directions. We followed an ambulance down the track to pick up one of two people who had i later heard had  broken their legs. 2/3 of the riders bailed before half way & rode down the spectator path. My mtb training held me in good stead & I gunned it (12km/hr) down the middle. I was amazed watching the wheels on the bikes in front of me slip 10-15cm to the side each way every few meters.

What Bike & wheel tyres?

We tried hiring bikes from 3-4 different European/UK sites and soon as you mentioned paris -roubaix they turned us down, I suppose fed up with only getting a pair of ‘Bucky’ handlebars back at the end of the race and not much else.  So we decided to take our own bikes – mine a Giant Defy Advanced 3 (2012 model) and Highlander his Trek Domane (2014 model) which were both supposedly up for the task. Double tape for the handle bars, double gloves, & double nicks to cushion the blows, but most importantly we needed wheels that would withstand such a brutal challenge.

Queue Brownie, some Belgium beers and a ‘grand design’ plan to build wheels fit for purpose. We learned a whole new vocabulary about tubes, tubeless and tubular with a min of 32 spokes, and ‘panzer’ treads etc.  We chose Mavic Reflex wheels with 36 spokes and Vittoria Corsa SC 28mm ‘tubular’ tyres. The wider the better to try and not get caught too much in the crevices and tubular to minimise pinch flat punctures of which stories have people getting 11 or so of these. Thanks mate as we had no punctures & I really punished them by riding every section down the middle.

Race day: in ER lingo the PARIS-ROUBAIX for me was slightly more strenuous than a 3 Peaks challenge, but with 50km of it on rubble only fit for a mtb. Unlike the 3P though I feel like I’ve been run over by a French tractor, & my thumb & middle fingure of my right hand are swollen & feel like a hammer has hit them & I cant grip anything with it. Ironically the pave therapy seems to have fixed my left elbow. The race does not ride from Paris but starts well north of this at a place called Busigny. It does finish in Roubaix though.

Conditions were fine all week but on race day the nightmare unfolded & it rained, was a bracing 7 degrees and winds hit a gusty 25 knots. I was up at 4am & rode through Roubaix in nice weather to catch a 5am bus to Busigny. But 4 kms from busigny it started raining. I met Highlander at the start line at 7.30am. I wore thermal socks, booties, leg & arm warmers, long finger gloves & a waterproof gillet with zip back pocket so phone, pumps etc did not fly out. Some riders were just wearing shorts, thin tops and track-mitts in hardy Belgian (Flash/Turnip) style.

The first few kilometres took us through the streets of St Quentin and out into the rolling countryside of northern France. After only 12kms we hit the first pavé & we went from cruising along a wide tarmac road to suddenly hammering down a rough track just two metres across with bottles and pumps flying off bikes and bouncing around on the cobblestones. We heard cursing in 20 languages & added some Aussie of our own. Lots of riders got punctures and were forced to stop and every time we hit pavé another few tyres would go and there must have been a rider fixing a flat every 100 metres. I saw 4 riders crash during the day – 5 if I could’ve watched myself come off. I was travelling at 20km/hr – but luckily had double niks & a good jacket on so only had bad bruising. There must’ve been many many crashes as everyone else i spoke with either had one or saw lots.

Meanwhile, riders still moving started shaking their arms to try and counter the shockwaves coming up through the forks and bars. The pain and punishment metered out by the jagged stones was relentless. My elbow hurt real bad & had gone numb and I was struggling to hang on. Repeat the above for 20 more pavé sections.

After about 70km, we hit the Arenberg Trench – one of the longest, hardest and most famous treacherous sections of pave on the route.  One pro rider once famously described this as like “riding across a ploughed field, covered in rocks that had been dropped from a helicopter”. Just add water & it was like a slippery slimy rocky river bed.

The cobbled sections kept on coming, and the constant switch from tarmac to pavé to tarmac and back again felt like interval training.

At 85km we stopped for lunch & was looking forward to some French cuisine. i was starving & could’ve eaten a meter long baguette. They only had quartered oranges & waffles in plastic packets. I inhaled 8 of them.

At this stage both highlander & i thought it wasn’t too bad after all & the rain had stopped.

I was wrong & the relentless pounding started to wear me down. Highlander though was still strong & it was good to have him with me. I cramped up bad & had to get off to stretch. Both legs cramped on every stroke for the next 40km & i was starting to doubt I’d make it.

I had one last card to play- the Z card. As we rode through the pretty town of bourghelles i spyed a pub & rode up the footpath into it. Highlander came back to find me ordering 2 belgium Leffe beers. They worked & the cramps dissipated.

With 20km it started raining with gusty winds that at one stage blew me off riding along the crown & into the tyre rut beside it. We then hit the other famously long and hard pave section the Carrefour de  Arfour which wasn’t too bad but at 3.7kms long was very very tiring.

With the Carrefour done, it was just 15km to the finish with just one last stretch of pavé and the ride finished with a half-lap of the legendary Roubaix Velodrome. To my delight my wife, and mate & his wife were there to cheer me in. We were exhausted but elated.

A little swoop up the concrete banking & the intention was to finish together so I stopped peddaling so we could join up but heard highlander say thats not a good idea so dropped down to finish over the line. Before i got off my bike my mate handed me a Belgium beer & it tasted so good. A kiss from the wife & then I visited the open shower cubicles where all the greats have a plaque on them. I was in awe.

We’d covered the course (& it covered us) in around 8.5 hours. The weather was not ideal but we hadn’t punctured and we made it safely. Highlander had to leave with his tour group whilst my mate had booked us into a restaurant over the border in belgium. I could hardly sit down on the train to it & was very very weary.

Blue & pink we saw a tandem doing it so you’re up next. Satnav there were quite a few fixies so book that trip now. The most bizarre though was a cycle scooter. Two normal bike tires with a flat section low down between for one foot & the other pushes like a scooter. No idea if they made it.

The next day we followed the professionals which was a real treat although they got it easy and had good weather. We got a picnic lunch, wine & a great spot on the arenburg trench. I grimaced every time they hit the cobbles & watched one riders wheel break in 2. If only he’d used Brownie I thought. Another rider broke his collarbone & rode one handed the last part.

The next stop my mate had lined up was a pub in a lovely town where he’d stopped in yesterday to have a beer whilst hoping to have seen us go by. Guess what – the same pub I had played my Z card at & we missed each other by just 20 mins!

The Last stop was the roubaix velodrome where we caught the tailenders arrive.

I’m ever so happy.

See you in a few weeks.

Cheers

Le Dopey

ATB – Dopey Style

We had 3 ER’s in a mixed bag group of 7 from my Bobbo Sunday ride group. Me, Lunchie and David Wright. Most had never done more than 100kms and certainly were not fit so my mandate was to help them at least get around the course or to the nearest railway station if needed.

We rolled out just after I said farewell to Magoo’s group (& Jamie thanks for the frozen Cocain bar – yum) and got overtaken in the dark by a chirpy Chipo going up Westgate bridge. I’m sure he had his sandals on. Descending the other side one got a puncture in a very dangerous spot – concrete barrier on left, we took up 1/4 of the only lane for riding & they were coming in masses down the hill in the dark doing 30-40. David took my flashing front light & was shooing them away but I could hear him saying F…off now and then to those determined to ride over the top of us.

We built up a good train but the ones ahead were often too slow & trains too long & you had to venture into the next lane with cars to get past. Then another puncture – David. We took the opportunity to pee over the barbed wire fence until we realised it was Werribee zoo & feared for our manhood. Off again and we passed at speed Boyce & someone with a puncture and then into Geelong where we met Greg Starr with his bike in the workshop. I tried to get him to join us but he insisted we carry on. Just out of there we were heading for a roundabout and the event officials decided to shift the 250km sign back 100m so people can see it. Trouble is they turned it sideways as they carried it and whilst we knew to turn left I suspect Greg was just behind and went straight ahead for the 210km (use this excuse Greg!).

Just around the corner David got his third flat & then we undulated along to Portarlington where one of our group was struggling so we stopped for 2nd breakfast – elevensies (hobbit style), bacon egg sandwich & coffee in a beach front cafe. I eyed off the Galliano but refrained. The scenery along there was beautiful with wheat fields (forgive me BT) and vineyards rolling into the sea.

We then formed a medic train & towed our friend 50kms to Queenscliff for the ferry. There at 11.45am but ferry problems so on the 2pm ferry. Ugggh. We had lunch & then I went for a joy ride around Queenscliff beautiful town & buildings in every street – then I got a call saying come back quickly as ferry now leaving early. Almost got back & they then rode out to me saying the ferry has now been put back again. We found a coffee shop and all ordered milk shakes etc then got a call saying ferry leaving now so put the drinks in our bidon cages & just got onto the 1.30pm ferry.

This is where some low life stole my new red gloves. My 8th dan thai boxing mate was going to check all of them on the ferry & if we had of found them..well I hate to think. Anyway fortunately that low life must have somehow put the gloves back in my helmet after I put it on which is where I found them 100kms later at the finish line :-).

We actually had a good train moving all the way back to Melbourne and like Magoo didn’t know that we’d already rolled over Mount Martha and we were still looking for it. Saw ER Marc Walker along the way as well. As we passed through Frankston where I was born I saw O’Grady avenue which is where I was brought up and we all let out a cheer. I left home at age 5 and moved North to Sydney where my folks joined me.  

After Frankston 2 friends began to struggle as we punched into the wind so we had a few stops before rolling over the finish line and having a few celebratory beers.

My wife also rode and did the 100km Sorrento to Melbourne ride and had worse headwinds than us so big kudos to her. She has discovered the joys of hotfoot, numb butt and sore shoulders and was glad to hear it is not just her.

The great joy was we all worked together as a team and everyone made it well beyond their limits so overall mission accomplished. Man those beers tasted good.

It was also lovely the amount of people who passed by & saw our egg n tomato colours and would say ‘hey – go easy riders’, so we have a good reputation out there.

regards, Dopey

3 Peaks – Dopey’s adventures

To summarise the main ethos of the below report, I (and most others) got around the course mainly due to the extraordinary camaraderie of the ER’s. We chatted, asked each other how they were feeling, formed trains and recruited passengers, offered our gels and winners bars to each other to carry when down to our last 10 or so jammed in our pockets, and in particular waited for others and fell back to help others starting to do it tough. Very proud to be a ER member and part of it all.

BYW I am sitting in bed with my winners jersey on having been ill all night and whilst getting dressed this morning to commute I had a banana and it made a mess of the bathroom. Half a pack of Mr Muscle used the correct way cleaned it up but the good wife who is a nurse has grounded me. Was it overexercise, dehydration, solid food yesterday instead of gels and bars??, or I can’t help thinking back to the stagnant swamp water I got in my water bottles at the official water station just past Ovens. More about that later…..

I enjoyed the start and joined the other boy racers hurtling down the hill using both sides of the road. Vigilance was required where some overtook just as a corner approached and started out wide and cut straight across onto your line. Through Mt Beauty uneventfully and taped away up Tawonga Gap but couldn’t find a rhythm as numerous overtook me. I was pleased to see SatNav glide past in unfamiliar territory. I stopped at Tawonga Gap briefly and had the best fruit cake (same as last year) to scoff before a delightful descent to the turn off to Bright. Just one fearful moment where I was cutting the corner on the wrong side and it became corrugated & almost shook me off my bike. Just past there were the legs of someone sticking out of the gutter so suspected he chose the same line.

On the flat bit I found a huge guy gunning it and joined him and we started recruiting members for the express train to Bright. Passed B1/c chatting up some girl rider (sorry recruiting I meant) and I yelled to him as we went past to join. It was fantastic and reached 43km/hr for long sections with all of us taking turns rolling off the front. Thought about going each side of the roundabout at Bright ala Tour de France but traffic was coming the other way which quickly broke the romance of the idea. Brewery noted on the left for next time.

As I started up Mt Buffalo at 9am a bicycle blur came down past with a tag on and in that nano second they sort of looked familiar – it was Steve Cunningham the line honour winner who I rode with on his tours with my wife at the Tour Down Under recently. No one else came down for a while so he was smashing it. About 2/3 way up Stealth came hurtling down like he had just used a Mr Muscle wipe. 2 minutes later NNnnick, 2 mins more Mr Pink & then 2 more & then Satnav and so on. Were they time trialling or something I thought. After that I ground up Mt Buffalo still not in a great rhythm which annoyed me but got me to the top, saw B1M & Simba there and a 20 long cue for water so I turned and took off straight back down behind them.

Lunch was v hot and we decided to regroup and form a train to Ovens so waited until we were all ready. Sadly as we pulled out Danny was pulling in but he had to stop for lunch. We were proud he was right on our tails. We rode along as a group of 6 and the chief recruitment officer B1m gathered lots more as we went. We were riding nicely at 30km/hr when B1m and me got to the front where it went to 32, 34, & then 35km/hr and I looked at him wondering what the B stood for as I tried to keep up beside him. He had a little grin on him when I tried guessing some ‘B’ words on him and he said they were still talking behind so obviously not exerting themselves. (Ivan shut up next time!). We peeled off and realised we had 20 or so on the train and then we caught another train of 20 and whilst fun, cars were getting annoyed they couldn’t pass. As we turned right into Ovens (prophetically named) and stopped for water the heat was blast furnace quality. We refilled water bottles and tried to form a train but it disintegrated in the heat.

The Happy Valley way was anything but. BT started to feel uncomfortable with the heat so I dropped back to ride with him and we backed off a bit. We tried to form a slow train of 3 but that fell apart & BT’s chain came off twice, his food larder was sitting uncomfortably and we stopped for a pee and when nothing would come out I knew dehydration was setting in. I drank from the bottles and it was putrid – stagnant swamp taste with Hydralight in one and Perpetuem in the other. Had to drink them though as nothing else for 30kms and 40 + heat. Some others also complained of this. As we hit the hill climb & a bit of shade BT let me go and after 10kms I caught up with the other ER’s at Running Creek. Quickly refuelled and new water and the old ER train waited for me so thanks guys. BT came in just as we were departing but was going to rest & refuel.

Our train cranked up & was going 25-30km/hr but Simba got rather quiet and started to flag & suffer badly. He didn’t want to stop so we slowed down and then formed a first aid train with Simba the caboose at the back for some 30kms to Mt Beauty. That stretch was v hot also & went on for ages and when we saw someone jumping off a rope into the river beside we nearly all rode off the bank into the river to join them.

Mt Beauty & 30km to go – Simba made friends with the paramedics & we all refuelled with me, Flash, B1m, WBA & Ivan the terrigal heading off for what was less than a return commute with a wee 1,300m hill in between. On the first rise Flash had sniffed home or a XL hill and was off. People were starting to unravel as we kept climbing with one poor chap lying down with his bike upside down beside the sign ‘Pain is temporary, memories last forever’. Yep. At the 10km water station we saw Flash as he was departing. The next 10km I found a strong rhythm finally and cranked away until we saw VD having a nap in the shade beside the road. He was cramping & shot & convinced his ride was over. Flash was there also just getting off his bike & we all stopped to see what assistance could be given. Then Flash said he was cramping & done and lay beside VD (they drew the line at holding hands). Sh**t I thought this can’t be happening with less than 10km to go. After another few minutes they said they work something out and B1m, me, WBA & Ivan pushed on. To their credit & tenacity VD & Flash also pushed on later & finished within time – courageous!

The rest was a grind to the finish and I laughed when SatNav was there taking photos and Stealth was running alongside you for the last 100m but thankfully not dressed in his underpants or a devils suit. That last lift got me in just under 12 hours so improved on last year time by 12 mins and I punched the air as I crossed and said ‘Never again’ – same as I said last year.

Dopey