GCN Rides The Cobbles Of Paris-Roubaix | Paris-Roubaix Course Preview

(upbeat electronic music) – We’ve arrived to the
start, for us, at least, of our Paris-Roubaix recon. This is probably the most
famous part of it, isn’t it? The Forest of Arenberg. And when you get here,
you’re reminded very quickly of how mental it is that
they arrive on this section at 60 k’s an hour. – Yeah and it’s all downhill
as well, they hit this, anyways, it’s like really 40
miles that’s 60 k an hour. And it’s actually quite narrow, I thought it was gonna
be a little bit wider. You got the path on this
side, which of course they can’t ride on, and there it is. Head into this, it’s two
and a half kilometres. – We can though. – We can indeed, can’t we. – But we can. – Can we? This was a sector, actually,
that was discovered by Jean Stablinski himself,
a very good cyclist, world champion, no less. But also, an ex-miner, so he
knew these roads very well. And when was it introduced? – 1968. – Yeah. But this has been almost the
end of a few riders’ careers and you can see why. – Indeed. – Right. Should we crack on,
we’ve got 95 k’s to do. To the Roubaix Velodrome. – You got food in? Your bead on’s full in that. – I’m gonna take a run up. Not to 60 k’s now, I bet. – No. – Maybe about 20. – Yeah, a little bit of a trundle. More of a trundle up. – Less 60 k’s now and more 20. – Oh! Crumbs! (upbeat electronic music) – Puncture! – Yep, well, running 28 mil
tyres, only about 55 psi, just shows the brutality of these cobbles. I’ve got a flat only 3-400 metres in. There you go, no wonder
so many riders puncture. Absolutely treacherous. (upbeat electronic music) Round two! Arenberg. He’s lost his bottle! – Puncture!
– He’s lost his bottle! I can’t even begin to describe
how sketchy this road is. Completely forgotten. It’s been quite a few
years since I was out here. Never actually raced Paris-Roubaix. I did do the recon ride
with a couple of teams. I cannot imagine coming on
to this at the speed they do, I just couldn’t do it. (intense electronic music) How was that? I don’t know what to say. I kinda know how bad Arenberg
Forest is in my head, but it was still worse
than I was expecting. He’s cheating, look! Oh, he’s punctured again. – Yeah, that’s what it was. – Is that why your bottle came out? He’s just not as smooth on cobbles as me. – No, I don’t know what it was. I was like 55 in the front, but God, there was that midsection though, Dan. That was unbelievable, wasn’t it? Well, Dan, just the same
time as I punctured, my bottle pinged off so
Dan’s been kind enough to go back and get it. 55 psi, that’s all it needs. (upbeat blues guitar) ♪ Being a real bad boy ♪ – This big, main road
that comes right after the Arenberg, is a very
brief bit of respite for the riders in the race. Quite often they’re just
kind of trying to find out what’s happened in the
race behind them if they’ve managed to stay in the front. But from this point onwards, the sectors come thick and fast. And actually, shortly,
just before about there, we’ll be taking a right-hand
turn for our second section. We’re about an hour in
now, we’ve done 3 k’s. (upbeat blues guitar) (upbeat electronic country music) – This next sector, 1.6 km
in length, and thankfully, although it’s still pretty
bumpy, nowhere near as gnarly as the Forest of Arenberg, giving us a little bit of a break. – It is, yeah. Just outside of our
lair, but you’re right. It’s just so much smoother on here. – Yeah. – Arenberg really took my breath away. – I know, it took my thighs away now. – Took the breath out of you, Ty. – It took everything away from me. – See there’s sections like
this where you can actually be on the side of the road,
whereas on the Arenberg there was that path on the side. It was completely blocked off. But here, if you want
to, go in the gutter. Just got to be careful
going back onto the road. – Yeah, I’m just gonna stay in here then. (upbeat electronic country music) – Between the cobble
sectors on Talbot Road, you sometimes get a look
into history, really. Here where the road is broken away you can see the cobbles underneath. Now after World War II local
authorities started putting tarmac over lots of the cobbled sectors, and far from trying to encourage the race, local towns and villages were
actually trying to deter it, because they saw the publicity
garnered from the riders using these hellish roads as
a bit of an embarrassment. – Yeah, and if it wasn’t for
Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix that came along in 1977,
the volunteer group that basically kept the cobbles. They maintained the cobbles,
and still do to this very day. And in fact, if it wasn’t
for their very hard work, we probably wouldn’t have
the same iconic sectors that we do now. (upbeat electronic music) (bicycle tyres thudding) – I’ll tell you what, in my own head, because there’s those
three five-star sectors, I kind of think that the others are gonna be quite easy. – That was quite technical
though, wasn’t it? That was a lot of adverse bends, and particularly rotted
sections of cobbles on corners that can suddenly change
your line and throw you out. You gotta be so switched
on, especially coupled with the fact that it’s
just started to rain. And those last couple of sectors were wet. Super technical, super
stressful, but still weirdly a lot of fun. – Yeah, hey right here. (upbeat electronic music) – Here we are in Tilloy
to Sars-et-Rosières. It’s sector 15 and it’s 2.4 k. It’s where it’s slippery. There’s more cobbles on the menu. – We’re at the corner where
Lars Bak had a rollover. (upbeat electronic music) – Tell you what, this is so
slippery, I’m really nervous of being too close to
the back wheel of Matt. I like to go to the pit of my own line. At least that’s my excuse
to getting dropped. – Ah! (upbeat electronic music) – Another about 25 k’s and
my arms are killing me. My biceps particularly,
or what I have here, where most people do have biceps. – I thought that was
your beer-lifting arm. I thought that would
have served you in good– – Now it’s really hurting. – We’re motor-pacing now,
just to bring our condition on a little bit, up the average speed. We’re not really cheating,
we’re just going faster. (upbeat electronic music) – This is sector 14,
Beuvry-la-Forêt to Orchies, and it’s 1.4 kilometres in length, and Dan has a little
history lesson for you. – Well, I was just thinking,
it’s quite amazing, given how big this race is now, that when it was originally proposed, it was proposed as a warm-up race, when an even greater test of endurance called Bordeaux to
Paris at 550 kilometres. But the first organisers
took place at 1896 on Easter Sunday were Théodore
Vienne and Maurice Perez, textile manufactures from Roubaix itself, and probably no coincidence
that they were also behind the building of the
first velodrome in Roubaix. Not the one that they
use to finish on today, but the tradition was
born that day nonetheless. – Thanks for that Dad, that was great. I’m learning and getting tired. – Yeah, my arms are still hurting. – Yeah. (upbeat electronic music) – Okay, we’re here on the
Mons-en-Pévèle sector, sector 11, and one of three five-star
sectors, three kilometres in length, and just look
at the state of that mud. – Yeah, no we haven’t
had a rainy Paris-Roubaix for many, many years, but it
doesn’t actually need to rain on the day for you to get
very wet and muddy, does it? Last night we had
torrential rain, and in fact up until about five o’clock this morning. You can see how much the mud
from the fields can sweat onto the cobbled corner
here, which would be absolutely treacherous
in a race, wouldn’t it? – It’s super slippery, and you
could feel just down there, the cobbles are very hard down there, but actually covered
in a real thick slime, and also there’s a lot of grass on it. So, actually, there’s almost
like a dampening effect in the mud and the grass
on that particular section. This bit here, this is far more rugged. – Cobbles are hard down there. – They are. – As opposed to the soft
ones we’ve been over. (upbeat electronic music) – This is sector 10, mercifully
shorter, only 700 metres, Mérignies à Avelin. And I think we can nearly
see the end now thankfully. – They come in thick and fast, don’t they, at this point in the race. – There’s a right crown on
this one though, isn’t there. – Yeah, I’m gonna get onto the crown. – Get on the crown. – Be on the camera back there. – Fully crowned up. – 41 k’s to Roubaix. – 41 k’s to Roubaix, woo, woo! (upbeat electronic music) – Well, they’re redoing
this section today, because we have stumbled
across the Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix that
we mentioned earlier, the Friends of Paris-Roubaix. 40 of them on this sector and they are going to
be spending all week, making sure that it’s fit for the race. – It’s pretty impressive,
they’re all volunteers mind you, really, really impressive,
a real spirit about them. I mean, without these people
the race just couldn’t go on, the roads would be literally unrideable. (upbeat electronic music) – We’re not gonna change if– – Yeah, this is quite rough then. Short, but rough. – Bloody hell. – 500 metres, this is– – This is a swell section, ha, ha. – Sector 8, I’d say it’s short and sweet, but it’s still ever do muddy. – It’s short and muddy,
and pretty sketchy. I was getting a lot of, I
was getting a bit sideways on that. Rough, there we go. – Are we done? – Yeah. – Onto the next. – Oh no, I’ve got a puncture now. No I’m not. Sorry, I’m starting to crack. Thinking I’m punctured. It’s just my legs that are punctured. (upbeat electronic music) – Well, it’s turned from
rain into what feels like the first day of spring, which could be more contrasting to what we found in Flanders yesterday. (upbeat electronic music) – Next stop, Cysoing à
Bourghelles, 1.3 k’s. This is sector number 7. – It is. Now we often refer to Paris-Roubaix’ as “l’Enfer du Nord” which means “The Hell of the North.” And it’s easy to assume that’s simply because of the cobblestones
that the riders have to go over, however that is not exactly the case. They took a break during
World War I for this race, and when they resumed after the War, the record of the route,
such was the stench and decimation when they reach
the north part of France, that they referred to it
as the Hell of the North. – Well then today it’s
actually quite pretty. – Yeah, doesn’t smell either. – It’s not smelling either. (upbeat electronic music) – As you can tell, what, Dan
getting out of the saddle, and me changing down a few cogs, this is one of the few
climbs in Paris-Roubaix. It’s basically a bridge. – You enjoying that? The fact that the rest
of it is so flat means that this little climb
really saps your legs. It’s actually pretty brutal really. – 20 k’s to go. – 20 k. (speaking foreign language) (upbeat electronic music) – Here we go. Coming to the back end thankfully, we’ve already been vibrated within an inch of our lives back there, but this is the iconic
Carrefour de l’Arbre. It’s the third and final
of the five-star sectors. Only three more sectors
before the Roubaix Velodrome, and Dan I’m glad this
one’s nearly over mate. – Yeah, we’re about halfway
through it, aren’t we, and just like Arenberg at
the start of this video, despite the fact that
we failed on here a lot, you just forget how terrible it is– – Doesn’t get any easier– – This is the speed we go now,
slightly fatigued aren’t we? – Yeah. – Oh, I’m going on the side. Oh, that’s better. – Ah, you see I’m up on the crown now. Ah. (upbeat electronic music) – Well, we had a nice bit of respite after the Carrefour de l’Arbre, over about 30 metres, before
we hit this sector three. – I know, this is quite bumpy. It’s a bit more evenly bumped. This is yeah, sector three as Dan said. 1.1 k’s long and it’s called Gruson. – This ride’s actually
giving me time to think and reflect back what
Sy and I were discussing when we were over in Gran Canaria, about what makes a bucket-list ride. A lot of people in the
comments below that seem to be saying that it has to be hard, no? – Not sure it necessarily does have to be really, really hard, but this is definitely a bucket-list ride doing Paris-Roubaix,
because it just gives you that sense of perspective
when you watch it on tv afterwards. – Yeah, I think, as I said
you can ride it as hard or as easy as you want to, but riding over the
Paris-Roubaix at whatever speed will give you an impression
of what it’s like to ride it a lot quicker. It gives you a real insight into basically how brutal this race is. Hardly any elevation gain at all. All the rough stuff, all
the effort, is on these, and these clinkers. – Now of course for us, it’s
quite easy to come across here either on the ferry or in the tunnel, but if you’re really
true die-hard cyclist, wherever you live in the
world, I think you have to come over here once– – You’ve got to. – And take it off your list. – Definitely, definitely. (upbeat electronic music) – The ultimate sector, 1.4
k’s, from Willems to Hem, but really this is the
proper final stretch of Paris-Roubaix, because
the last stretch, wow, it’s only a couple hundred metres long. – Yeah, Roubaix isn’t it. – Yeah, Roubaix just before the velodrome, that’s not going to split it. This one potentially could, but normally the race is done by now. (intense orchestral music) – Five k’s to go. – Five k’s, only one more
sure token section really, isn’t Dan? – Yeah. – All of Pévèle is now behind us. It’s just the glory of
the velodrome that waits. – Nobody done close the road for us. – I know, I’m disappointed actually. This is what the last little drag before the drop-down into Roubaix. You often see a few last
ditch attempts to get away before the group comes into the velodrome, unless of course when it’s up. – Yeah, it takes 50 k’s to go. (intense orchestral music) – Last sector, it’s just here
in the centre of the road, only 300 metres long, so we
can always divert onto it. But we’re very close now to the velodrome, and to be perfectly honest, I have nothing but cobbles for a day for a few days, so I am gonna
stick to the pavement road. – I think I agree Dan. I’ve got a cobble-based
headache now, you know. (intense orchestral music) – You helped me there, fair and square. I just admit it. – I just used the
banking mate, that’s all. You went in a bit hot. I thought you used up a lot of waltz coming into that corner, but anyway. – You’re a top class banker. – Thanks for that. That was a hell of a
ride though, wasn’t it. – It was, yeah, I really enjoyed it. Now that I’m sat here
finished, I must admit that I’m quite hungry and particularly thirsty. – What was the hardest
part for you? The sector? – Well, straight off, the Arenberg Forest caught me by surprise,
despite the knowledge of how bad it is, I
just couldn’t believe it when I was riding along it. And when you get to Carrefour de l’Arbre and you’ve got 70 k’s on your legs, or 75, that hits you pretty
hard as well, doesn’t it? – It certainly does, I really find it hard to put the watch down. But yeah, no more punctures,
apart from my two on the– – Yeah, got the bad luck out of the way– – Forest Arenberg– – The great thing about
this ride is that in general you can come and do what the pros do, and finish right here on the
outdoor Roubaix Velodrome, which is very cool. How many other sporting
stadiums in the world, in different sports can you do
that on, not many are there? – No, there isn’t. It’s absolutely amazing. I feel a little bit emotional now. (Dan laughs) – Alright, well that brings
us to the end of this video, but if you would like to
see the stark contrast that is Gran Canaria, how
we did a bucket list ride over there as well, you can
find that just down here. – No cobbles on that one, is there? – No. – A lot of sunshine, and no cobbles.

Yvette Parker


  1. would be handy to have one of those Fold up track pumps for the back pocket ???

  2. Fantastic, GCN again combines cycling education, experience and humor in a very entertaining video. Really enjoyed it, Thanks!

  3. Riding the Paris Rouxbaix sportive a couple of years ago, Arenberg was insane! People tipping off in front of you, etc. Somehow managed to get through with no punctures but the pros the next day were just unreal! Amazing fun!

  4. 'We're not cheating, we're just going faster'. I like that attitude!!

  5. I've ridden the forrest of arenberg (or tried to) and i love my bike to much to do it again…

  6. You are good, really good presenters but so are the editors of the videos… What an amazing video it was this last one!!!!!! I loved it.

  7. This is crazy fun. What would make this crazier? Having all 6 presenters race the cobbled length, with Si and Jon responsible with equipment selection.

  8. thanks gents you have convinced me to enter the sportive version next year !

  9. I can barely ride on smooth concrete so I know I'd be in the ER trying to ride on cobbles 😄. You guys make it look so easy.

  10. I rode the Paris-Roubaix challenge yesterday and now fully know just how tough those cobbled sectors are, respect to anyone that rides them. 😀

  11. You know the way many women forget the pain of childbirth, and go on to have more children: I did the P-R sportif 3 years back, and this video has reminded me that I NEVER want to do that EVER again. Hitting the first few meters of the Arenberg resulted PTSD flashbacks.

  12. They glossed over Matt losing his bottle for a second time at 16:21….

  13. OMG, that is truly savage!!! As ever, next level content and production. No stone, or in this case cobble is left unturned in your pursuit of bringing everything that the world of cycling has to offer. Thanks

  14. Could you really NOT do the legs wide open thing please Dan? I’m having my breakfast.

  15. Those cobbles are nothing. You want to try riding some of the potholed roads around Woking and Guildford.

  16. 2:25 Bottle: "I thought we were going for a picnic! Dammit not this s**t again! I'm ditching you!"

    Poor bottles can't get a break on cobbles, can they?

  17. Absolutely brilliant video! Great mix of history and race preview 🙂

  18. Maybe hitting the cobbles at 60kmh is the way to go. You might just glide over them and not be impacted so much???

  19. History of cobble restoration. In 1996, two million francs given by the government:


  20. I like your humility and sense of humour guys. You never brag or try to show off. In fact, just the opposite.

  21. forget paris roubaix, just have a ride around Herefordshire in the uk and you'll soon wish you were on those cobbles the roads are that bad 😂😂😂😂

  22. Brilliant. One of your best vids. Seeing you guys take on these iconic rides is so interesting and gives great insight into what good riders think and feel on these famous courses.

  23. I am guessing that when you suggested to Emma that she join you, She told you to go away as politely as she could.

  24. 2 punctures and a water bottle hoping out. Those wheels seemed to be ok even though Matt rode on them flat.

  25. I was getting some serious Mighty Car Mods vibes with the music around 16 minutes. 🙂

  26. When will you guys stop making classic videos on cycling??No wonder this race is the, Queen of the Classics!!
    Another great video!!

  27. "Less sixty k's an hour and more like twenty. Urgh! Crumbs! … Puncture!" This is why I love GCN. You guys crack me up. Thanks for another great video.

  28. "We're not really cheating. We're just going faster." I actually truly, literally lol'ed at that. Brilliant Matt. Brilliant vid. Agree with the other comments on how enjoyable these longer vids are.

  29. Did this same ride with a friend two days before the Tour of Flanders this year. Agree with their comments that nothing prepares you for how rough the Arenberg is. Even the easier cobbled sections are challenging, and I rode it on a Ti Gravel bike with 36mm tires unlike these guys who rode it on 28mm Conti’s. Great video was lots of fun to watch and brought back some great memories.

  30. So you're not wearing gloves, in the cobbles aren't you woried of injuries to your hans if you fall?

  31. Do you really think motorpacing in a bike lane is a good idea? At 8:20

  32. if ever there is a good tubeless testimonial it is Roubaix. I rode it yesterday with great success on 28mm tires and running 50psi in the front 60 in the back. It really felt great and I'm not sore today. And I owe the pressure choices to watching GCN. Thanks guys!

  33. Rode the Paris-Roubaix Challenge again on Saturday, then followed the pros on Sunday and found it both as brutal, memorable and enjoyable as ever. How come you pair of lightweights only rode from the Arenberg? There's a distinct difference between the terrain of the earlier sectors of pavé and that of the latter sectors. Once again though, a great video. Thanks.

  34. Rode the Paris Roubaix Challenge this year. 2 sprained wrists and half the skin off my hands later, we made it to the finish. It's a ride everyone should do, but never do twice. Partly my own fault, on an aero bike with 23mm tires run at 100 psi. What was I thinking? However, the feeling of conquering the cobbles and riding around the veledrome is one every rider should witness. So much respect for the pro's that do it. We watched the pros on the Arenburg, the speed they ride at is insane.

  35. hey guys what tyres did you rode? Clincher or Collé or Tubless? And 28mm?
    cheers. great work from all of you!

  36. “No GCN Camelbak water bottles were harmed in the making of this video.”

  37. Mates just done this. Looking at his pics on FB and they are in tatters. Said its the worst thing they've done. Considering that includes a few tours of Iraq and Afghanistan……..

  38. Pardon the ignorance … would choosing a gravel bike with 27.5 wheels and fatter tires kill you in the road sections? You should do a test, Road bike Vs. XC hardtail with 2.0 tires and 80 mm travel with a BIG chainring and a road cassette. what are the restrictions from UCI?

  39. Did this in 2016 and it was a hard day in the saddle. We had amazing weather and and only 100km in the saddle but I was broken at the end. It's hard to convey just how energy sapping riding on cobbles really is. Well done guys.

  40. Hi there i did this race as an amateur in 2013. I firstly did the Tour de Flanders then a week later did this one. A fellow road cyclist at work said he had done it in the past and said “no more cobbles for me”. After doing them both in a week i tend to agree with him – great fun though, definitely an experience worth doing. Great videos GCN!!!

  41. As a cyclist in America….I dream of taking my roadbike to Europe and just riding as much as I can.

  42. Thank you to Matt for determining the low end PSI for cobbles on 28's with clinchers. Couldn't have done it without you.

  43. hey MATT tired of flats yet PUT MORE AIR in your tires to prevent pinch flats but hey its your bike ,,,

  44. Have you been to Lincolnshire, these roads look like billiard tables compared to ours.

  45. Listen to those chains at 16:54. All that muck really got to their bikes!

  46. why ride that on road bikes ?? Go get a hybrid with front shocks and fat tires?? AND BTW USE FULL TIRE PRESSURE dummy ,stops pinch flats LOL
    Here s even a better idea WHY not ride gravel or cyclecross bikes instead ???

  47. 8:15 – "We're not really cheating, we're just going faster" – Lance Armstrong

  48. This is how it should be ridden. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PkTwJ347Vk

  49. paris roubaix is a stupid race. i do not see the point, but then again i ain't 19 anymore. i have no interest in turning myself into a pinball. what did matt use to fix the flats, or was he not on tubbies ?

  50. Don't you feel sorry for your bykes,to punish them on that road?!

  51. Hahahaha you damn fools you don’t how to ride cobbles I live in Edinburgh inside the cobbled sector as a Deliveroo cyclist this reminds me of my first week

  52. I think you guys should do this again with that new Pinarello FS
    and see if you show a difference in the ride. Just a thought.

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