Event Report: Euan Robertson

Event – Paris-Roubaix Challenge
Date – 6th April 2024

Riders – 4500 riders
Bike – Road/Gravel/MTB

This is a sportive event the day before the pro riders take on the “Hell of the North!” There are 3 route options – 70km / 145km / 170km. The 170km route requires a 4am bus to the start so I sensibly opted for the 145km route which starts and finishes in the same place.

I rode to the event from Calais – bike on the ferry was easy and the riding was very flat and scenic in northern France! The day of the event was great – first 50km were flat and was easy group riding on good roads until you then hit the first cobbles – the Arenberg Forest. This is the first of 19 cobbles sections varying in difficulty. When you get on it – it hurts!!! And it is hard to even keep hold of the handlebars. It gives you a true appreciation for how hard it is which really cannot be explained until you experience it yourself. On the Arenberg you can ride down the side and skip the cobbles if it is too much – but not on many of the other sections. This really is a baptism of fire because it is definitely the hardest sector. I used my gravel bike but many were on road bikes or on MTBs for the event.

As the day goes on and you hit more cobbles you start to ease your grip and find your technique, so in some ways it gets a bit easier as you go on but it is still hard going. The tarmac between the cobbles is essentially rest time for the next cobbles.

After 163km and just over 6 hours of riding I arrived in the famous Velodrome. It is a huge sense of achievement when you get there and a great atmosphere. Most of the Belgians heading straight to the beer and chips stands!

One of the best things about the event is then having the pleasure of watching the pro riders on the Sunday. The atmosphere is fantastic. I saw them from 2 locations and rode between them quickly – in Cysoing just as they hit the cobbles there and then at the end of the Carrefour de l’Abre which is the last 5* section. The Carrefour de l’Abre had a big screen up to watch but it was packed so arguably I got a better view in Cysoing where it was much quieter.

All in all a fantastic event and if you make a weekend out of it – you really will love it! Can’t recommend it enough.

Ps. If you wanted a longer trip you could also combine with some of the classic Flanders climbs too. Koppenberg, Pattenberg and Oude de Kwaremont are all close by.