L’Enfer Du Nord / The Hell Of The North

The Paris-Roubaix cycle race has been postponed until later in the year. No surprise there bearing in mind the new lockdown just announced in France. Cobbles are an (almost) every day part of cycling here in the Calder Valley of Yorkshire. My bones have been shaken on a regular basis in recent years since my return to God’s Own County. Perhaps they should have just moved it to the north of England rather than waiting until the autumn of 2021… I wrote about the Paris-Roubaix in Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie;

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Photo by Damir Mijailovic on

“Cobbles. My pre-trip research had warned me about the cobbles that I would encounter in the Alps and Lille gave me an opportunity to practice cycling upon them in a big way. Doing so is hard work at the best of times. Try doing it with four full panniers and a tent and you will realise just what a bone-shaking experience it can be. Not that it should have come as a surprise. There is an annual cycling race from Paris to Roubaix โ€“ the town sandwiched just between Lille and the Belgian border โ€“ which has a reputation for being one of the toughest cycle races in the world. Why? Because of the cobbles! Itโ€™s been taking place for well over 100 years and of the roughly 260 kilometres from Compiรจgneย in the Parisian suburbs to Roubaix, about 50 kilometres are on cobbled road the bulk of them at the Roubaix rather than the Paris end. Spectators line the cobbled sections to watch the small pieces of rock take it out on the poor riders and to rub it all in, in recent times the winner has been given one of the little buggers mounted on a plinth as a trophy! The most miraculous thing is that the cyclists manage to complete the entire course in just over six hours at an average speed of well over 40 kilometres per hour. On my own journey from Boulogne to Lille I could barely manage an average of 20 kilometres per hour and that, until I hit them in Lille itself, was keeping well off the cobbles. The race is nicknamed Lโ€™Enfer du Nord or The Hell Of The North and it wasnโ€™t difficult to see why.”

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1 reply »

  1. This is something I really want to do. My first attempt at Northern European cobbles will be a ferry to Dover, bike on and off and then cycle to, and around, Bruges. Im not sure I could go and do Roubaix as a first attempt at proper cobbles….especially full of luggage like you were.

What do you think?