PARIS-ROUBAIX SPORTIVE: JAMES'S STORY
How much is enough?
No, not distance – if you’re going to ride 255km, you’re already looking at plenty of that. Rather, how much is enough food and drink?
Accepted wisdom dictates that you should eat and drink regularly. Dehydration is bad, and complete glycogen (sugar) depletion is even worse. We’ve all bonked at one time or another and it’s not always as pleasant as it sounds.
I decided to play safe; instead of little and often I opted for lots and even more often. This began the evening before the big ride at the Restau-Marché in Villers St Paul.
Its cheap 'n' cheerful exterior belied the sumptuous extravagance of the ‘buffet a volonté’ (roughly translated as ‘stuff yourself silly’, which suited my purposes exactly). I only gave up piling it on when things started falling off my plate.
Then there was the 4am breakfast on the morning of the ride. Despite the unseemly hour the chocolate cereal, croissants and juice flowed in abundance.
Of course, I was accompanied at all times by a bottle of water, which I glugged rather than supped.
By the time we got to Cambronne to start the ride I was feeling a trifle uncomfortable. (I’d demolished a couple of cakes and a banana secreted from the breakfast bar on my way).
I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised to find myself struggling on the hills.
To spare you the graphic details, here’s an approximate inventory of the ride:
Top picture: It's 4am. The coffee is out of a machine. It's dark outside. There are 150 miles to ride. No wonder James looks gloomy.
"Enjoying your breakfast lads? Would you like a glass of 'Roubaix' breakfast juice? Eh? Eh?
What James ate
5 x 750ml SiS Go electrolyte
1 litre of special French energy drink (Professional Dental Mouthrinse flavour)
2 x 750ml plain water
3 x small cereal bars
1 x PowerBar Cookies n Cream energy bar
1 x PowerBar Chocolate protein bar
3 large handfuls dark chocolate pieces
2 Emmental & Crudites sandwiches (taken in one go, this was a bad idea)
4 waffle biscuits
4 Laughing Cow triangles
A few bits of salami
And one Stella Artois to finish.
Initially, this looks an awful lot. Bordering on barefaced gluttony even. But I reckon it makes around 3,700kcals, which is considerably less than the 5,000-odd kcals burned in 10 hours of riding.
I think I’ve had enough energy drink for a little while though.
The lights are on, but no one’s home. Imagine how James would have looked if he hadn’t fuelled and hydrated properly
I rode a Time Edge Racer with a carbon frame and Mavic Askium wheels. In preparation for Roubaix I double-wrapped the bars with Bontrager Grippy tape, and shod the wheels with Specialized's Roubaix Pro tyres, which offer a 25c depth with a 23 width. I was assured by the Tech team that these would do the job, and so they did, yielding the grand total of zero punctures.
Thankfully, everything else on the bike also held out. If there was ever to be a next time, I think I'd try fitting 28c tyres (perhaps by using a cross bike like Ian) and I would slip some foam padding under the bar tape.
Training-wise, I'd do at least a couple of 120-mile-plus rides and, if time and financial restraints allowed, I'd head over to France and train on the cobbles at least once before the big day.
Paris-Roubaix sportive home page
Ian Cleverly’s Paris-Roubaix sportive experience
Lionel Birnie’s Paris-Roubaix sportive experience
James Shrubsall’s Paris-Roubaix sportive experience
The readers’ Paris-Roubaix sportive experience
Official Paris-Roubaix cyclo-sportive site