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Paris-Roubaix: A Journey Through Hell (英語) ハードカバー – 2007/9/28
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Paris-Roubaix, a one-day bicycle race in northeastern France, is known as The Hell of the North for good reason. Although the course is somewhat flatter than the other spring classics, it includes interminable stretches of muddy farm roads paved with rough-hewn cobblestones. The cobbles alone are enough to shake bikes and bones to bits; throw in the notoriously fickle weather, which often includes rain, snow, and driving wind, and the course becomes downright treacherous. Held the third Sunday in April since 1896, Paris-Roubaix is a race of great tradition. The race follows a 270-kilometer course between the suburbs of the French capital and the northern industrial city of Roubaix, and its long history, coupled with its proximity to the cycling-mad triangle of northern France, Belgium, and Holland, means that it has served over the years to confirm the fame of cyclings greatest champions.
All of the history and excitement of the worlds most famous one-day bicycle race is captured and comprehensively illustrated with hundreds of spectacular color and black-and-white photographs in this lavish, oversized format. With authoritative text from Frances top sportswriters, Paris-Roubaix: A Journey Through Hell presents the inside story of the race, its great riders, its traditions, and its secrets.
Phillippe Bouvet, Pierre Callewaert, Jean-Luc Gatellier and Serge Laget are among France's most accomplished cycling writers and historians. The book is translated by David Herlihy.
Paris-Roubaix is a throwback to another age. When it began in 1896, the velodrome ruled the land and road races were the exception: difficult to organize and with only a few racers, unable to compete for the rich prizes of the tracks, available to participate. To enliven proceedings, some velodrome owners promoted road races to end at their tracks. This was the case of Paris-Roubaix, and at the first race was so novel and popular that part of the grandstand collapsed under the weight of spectators. The winner, the German strongman Josef Fischer, completed the race at an average of over 30 km/h. So this race had everything: an international field, a challenging route and an enthusiastic audience. It has gone from strength to strength as the other classics from that year (Paris-Mons? Paris-Royan? Bordeaux-Paris?) are long gone, along with most of the velodromes. This book covers the race from its beginnings, a time when cobblestones were commonplace and men and bikes seemed to have been made of iron, to today's carbon-fiber age but the race has always been brutally hard, a merciless test of men and equipment.
The authors have approached the race in a clever and unusual fashion. Rather than following a chronology, the majority of the eleven chapters of "Paris-Roubaix: A Journey Through Hell" are divided into different aspects of the race These include: the cobblestones themselves; the impact of the weather; messed-up finishes; unexpected winners; the Roubaix velodrome; and a brilliant chapter devoted to the effects of getting a flat tire. There is a gallery of the most celebrated winners and the whole book is stuffed with marvellous photos taken from the archives of L'Équipe. There appear to have been photographers present at every dramatic crash, or else there are always so many crashes that you just have to stand around and wait.
The race has attracted cycling's greatest figures, who seem to have always had a love-hate relationship. Bernard Hinault felt that Paris-Roubaix was a ridiculous race, a lottery where chance ruled but he knew that posterity demanded that he win Paris-Roubaix. He did it in convincing fashion in 1981, wearing the rainbow jersey of the World Champion, and crushing five opponents (four of them previous P-R winners!) in the final sprint at the velodrome. Although the race counts several other Tour de France victors among its winners, including Garin, Lapize Coppi and Merckx, it is more notable for its special "hard men," who have specialized in beating the cobbles, such as four-time winner Roger de Vlaeminck, three-time champion Francesco Moser and the indomitable Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, who participated in the race seventeen times, finally winning on the 14th attempt and repeating the following year. Their stories are all told in loving detail in this book.
Details indeed. For example, there is a section recounting how Jean Stablinski, a former World Champion, suggested a particular section of cobbles to the race organizers and the famous Wallers-Arenberg stretch, a positively medieval piece of road, was added in 1968. The modernization of France meant the removal or paving over the cobbles that are such a characteristic (and feared) part of the race and by 1968 the race against time was on as the countryside was scoured to find more cobbled roads. At its lowest point in 1965, the Queen of the North had only some 22 kms of cobblestones in its 294 km route. Today efforts have been made to protect and preserve the famous roads and the pros can look forward to more than 50 kms of pavé in twenty-six sections. And the mud and the dust are with us always.
And the people who protect and preserve the roads are the subject of the last chapter, "The Angels of Hell." Described as the "guardians of the temple," these include journalists, fans and even the artist, who painted 12 kilometers of cobbles (using 18 tons of paint) as a work of art and a tribute in 1986. This is the kind of insight so lovingly presented in "Paris-Roubaix: A Journey through Hell". There is no reference to the amateur version of the ride, held in September rather than in the third week of April as is the pro race, but the Everyman participants in that ride are given a piece of pavé when they reach the velodrome in Roubaix as a memento, echoing pro cycling's most cherished trophy, the single cobblestone mounted on a plaque, that goes to Cycling's Strongest Man every Spring. A beautiful book about a not-so-beautiful race.
Scandalous and conflicted, victories at Paris-Roublaix don't come easily, "Misfortune, rotten luck, punctures and crashes all afflict the accursed of Paris-Roubaix. If that's not enough, then you can add the finish-line judges. Here,(photograph), in 1927, they decided that Belgium's Ronsse, sprinting in the center of the road was the winner, whereas the Frenchman Curtel appeared clearly to cross the line first. The band started to play "La Marseilles," the French national anthem, but quickly changed to Belgium's "Brabanconne" when the judges announced their decision. Curtel never got over it."
Although the book is about winners and losers the real star of the Paris-Roubaix is the route that survived everything from the shells and bomb holes in World War I, to a disastrous resurfacing in 1939 when the race became much less difficult, the war with tar in the 70's, to slowing down the tarring process in 1982 to preserve the race. The only enemy to the pave now is water. Thankfully, the battleground that is Paris-Roubaix has not lost its mystique, quite literally cobbled together over the centuries.
The book is excellently laid out with a history of the race, profiles on the key winners and special sections on some of the features that make this race unique. For example there is a chapter dedicated to describing the feel and the mood of the showers in the velodrome at the end of the race. Unlike any locker room in any other sport, these showers are a unique character of the race in their own right. It is where the warriors relive, consul, try to forget, and most importantly remove the caked on mud from the day.
The best feature is the 100 years of photographs that capture the pain, glory, and muddy mess that makes up this unique event.
This is a must own for any cycling fan.
I have allways benn a fan of the european classic races, and this one is certainly tue queen of the classics.
I have seen many subjects that I still did not know, and now my knowledge on this race is greatly improved.