Paris-Roubaix, a hell of a legend
Vienne e Perez, two textile entrepreneurs from Roubaix were responsible for creating the velodrome in their hometown in 1895. We’re on the French border, in the north, no distance from Belgium; an area known for its coal and cobblestoned streets, a hell of a place that would become legendary in the cycling word just a year later. On 19 April 1896, in fact, the pair proposed a road race which would finish in the velodrome, drawing a large audience. The Paris-Roubaix was born.
Fortunately on a sunny day because rain might have ended the race before it had even begun. Fisher won because Garin, the favourite, was involved in a fall and only managed third place; the "little chimney sweep" made up for this the following two years and, as is well known, was also the first winner of the Tour (1903). Let’s take a look at an extract from the 1981 edition of the extraordinary history of the Roubaix, which was won by one of the greats of France and of cycling history in general: Bernard Hinault. The cobblestone race, whose entire route runs through France, is typically Flemish in concept. After the first editions, which were mostly won by French men, Belgian riders started to feature on the podium.
Before 1981 and Hinault, the previous French winner was Luison Bobet in 1956; a quarter of a century earlier. The Breton had no great love for the race, nor did he hide the fact; he considered it old-fashioned and he would have tarred over all of those cobbles that covered the manure in the countryside around Roubaix. It didn’t suit his ideal weight of 66 kg which was too light for all those jolts. But he was missing this title and this was his year. Moser who had won the previous three editions took part, but it wasn’t a good year for him, as did De Vlaeminck or "Monsieur Roubaix" as he was known by then because he had already won four, one of those in front of Merckx! But that year Hinault, wearing the rainbow jersey, had trained with his proverbial determination, he stayed in front for the entire race, he reacted immediately to the unexpected and in the end, he was with the small elect group of six in the final sprint in the velodrome; he had a decent win over De Vlaeminck and Moser, the most noble podium possible.
As soon as he got off the bike, surrounded by indescribable festivities and a multitude of journalists, he left this phrase to posterity: "Vous ne me ferez pas renier ce que j'ai deja dit à propos de Paris-Roubaix... c'est una connerie (una cazzata)!" – “You won’t get me to deny what I’ve already said about the Paris-Roubais… it’s messed up!”
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