In Awe at Carrefour de l’Arbre
Paris-Roubaix is my favourite pro cycling race. By a large margin. It’s probably because it’s completely unpredictable. Dry, wet, in whatever weather condition, it is never dull. Like other races, there are important elements like strategy, tactics and flirting with Lady Luck. Unlike other races, it is the only one on the contemporary World Tour calendar that brings ‘martial’ to my mind. Not just brains and muscles, but a huge measure of brawn.
I finally went to watch it live, at the one spot where I really wanted to watch it, Carrefour de l’Arbre.
The minor dilemma was that I actually wanted to watch the race directly with my naked eyes and not through a viewfinder or a little digital screen on some electronic device, but I wanted a few pics too. I decided to increase the shutter speed, set it on continued blast, hold the camera in front just below the waistband and keep depressing the shutter button whilst I actually watched the action. I got a few half-decent shots whilst I actually enjoyed the action.
Of course, none of the shots capture their speed, the smell of the dusty air, the sound of their bikes bouncing over the cobbles, the cheering spectators, the support cars’ claxon… all the things that make it worth being there in person.
Having parked the car 3km away and walking to the spot, I was nervous about arriving in time, but we got there just moments before Roelandts blasted through the sector. Lucky…
After something like 236km and having gone through 23 cobblestone sectors before hitting the 5-star Carrefour de l’Arbre sector, the pained look on every one of them said ‘destroyed’. Yet, considering everything, the speed at which they were going just seems implausible.
I could not help but be in awe as these guys whizzed by only inches away from my face.
One regret I have about the day is not to have come away with a shot of the last 3 riders just in front of the broom wagon after they exited the sector, onto Pavé de l’Arbre. I was in the perfect spot as we slowly walked through the fields back to the car, but I had already put away my camera. It was perhaps the most beautiful scene I saw that afternoon. John Degenkolb won the 2015 Paris-Roubaix, but I think everyone who finished the race is a winner.