Roubaix: There and Back Again, barely

Last weekend I took Shoko up to Tourcoing, an old industrial town planted right on the Belgian border and, more importantly, a short spin to the Roubaix vélodrome. I didn’t have my bike, so after dropping Shoko off at her first day of school (Le Fresnoy), I hired a Lille city bike, stuck it in 3rd, and pedaled over.

2015-09-28 09.59.04

I even rode a bit of pavé on the way. There’s a sort of ceremonial stretch right before you turn into the stadium grounds that is pretty tame, especially for the huge, indestructible 38 mm Schwalbes I was riding.

2015-09-28 10.03.37

I’d been here before, way back in 2011 on a ‘press trip’, but this time I was alone and had the freedom to do what I liked. And I liked to have a coffee.

2015-09-28 10.20.16

This is the Roubaix-Lille-Metropole Vélo Club clubhouse, filled with Paris-Roubaix posters and paraphernalia…and not a soul in sight. Oh, they also have those famous showers ‘out back’, but I was told that I’d need to go to the tourism office to get the key. I was on a mission this day, however, and wanted to get my money’s worth out of the Lille bike, so I took off in search of the Carrefour de l’Arbre.

Oh, but not before walking around the stadium once (the Hajj of the cycling religion, I would say…and nobody got hurt even) to see how much ‘epic’ would wear off on me.

2015-09-28 10.08.55

2015-09-28 10.07.56

2015-09-28 10.12.20

After this little pilgrimage I straddled my rental and followed my Android out into the countryside.

Ever wonder why the people of Le Nord eat so many frites (I even saw them on a pizza)? Now you know – I saw 3 or 4 of these overflowing monsters in the span of a few minutes.

2015-09-28 11.07.46

My phone took care of me well till a couple of kilometers from the Carrefour, but I had those giant Schwalbes, so a little gravel didn’t worry me.

2015-09-28 11.31.33

But that road quickly turned into something different – a combination of mud, cobbles, and mud-covered cobbles. And then I got that flat you knew was coming all along.

I walked the last 15 minutes, trying not to think about where I was and how far a bike station might be, being consoled by the thought that the restaurant at the Carrefour would cheer me up.

And the restaurant was closed, but you knew that already, too.

2015-09-28 11.47.13

2015-09-28 11.47.45

I began to understand that city bike rental schemes are meant for people who are always going to be near a bike station, i.e. in the city. Well I wasn’t, but it was sunny and I really needed to burn off some of those burger, fries and beer calories from the night before, so I set off walking my big red rental bike through the potato fields till, 3 hours later, I reached the first bike station, near the football stadium, on the outskirts of Lille.

Then I had a burger, fries and a beer.

2015-09-29 15.24.54

Working off that last burger at the train station yesterday.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Roubaix: There and Back Again, barely

  1. Now there’s a story, funny! What’s that apparatus in the last photo … working off the last burger at the train station …. a sort of stationary setup at a table with steak frites? If so, I need some variation on the theme for my desk at work.

    • Suze, it’s a stand for charging batteries, but you have to pedal first. Not enough resistance to get a good workout, but a nice way to warm up for a 5 hour train ride.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s