What you missed at the Paris-Roubaix that never happened
There’s no race as ardently mythologised as Paris-Roubaix. Raced through the working-class heartland of France on narrow farming roads and rough sectors of cobbles, the Hell of the North has run for 117 editions, interrupted only by world wars and, this year, coronavirus. With France suffering through an escalating second wave of COVID-19 and the imposition of new restrictions, Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix – which was slated as the closing one-day race of the recast 2020 cycling calendar – was one of the year’s many sporting casualties.
Thanks to Ashley and Jered Gruber, however, the weekend wasn’t a complete write-off. The duo had spent the last few months shooting the peloton’s stuttering progress around Europe, from the hellish hailstorm at the Criterium du Dauphine to the socially distanced Tour de France to a spellbinding Ronde van Vlaanderen. When the plug was pulled on Paris-Roubaix, the Grubers had a weekend free and a standing appointment with the cobbles.
We didn’t shoot the Giro, because we love the Classics. There’s nothing that gets us more excited than the one-day races of the spring (fall).
The combo of Flanders and Roubaix is the crown jewel of the season – and the promise of autumn editions was something we absolutely couldn’t miss. But COVID struck again (and continues, and will continue to) – and Roubaix was cancelled.
We wanted to do SOMETHING though – something to do the wildest one day race of the year some kind of justice…so we figured we would ride it, shoot it, experience it, live it for a day – and pay our respects to the most savage of all the races.
From Troisvilles, Michael Ossieur (in the black) and Jered Gruber (in the red, on the light blue bike) set off to follow the route of the Paris-Roubaix that never happened. As Jered wrote afterwards, “It beat me to pieces, it hurt me, but I felt the magic in it. I felt the echoes of years gone by and the history of this race. I’m so happy we did this. I’m excited for (hopefully) next spring.”
Ashley Gruber followed with a camera, capturing an astonishing glimpse of what a wet, dank Paris-Roubaix raced at the opposite end of the year would’ve looked like. Spoiler: we missed something special last Sunday.
As some consolation, here is a gratuitous gallery of big, beautiful images painted across perhaps cycling’s most iconic canvas.