“A Paris-Roubaix without rain is not a true Paris-Roubaix. Throw in a little snow as well, it’s not serious.” — Sean Kelly

Arenberg CobblesIn just a few short hours, the 106th edition of Paris-Roubaix will depart the streets of Compiègne, heading north some 260 kilometers to the industrial town of Roubaix; along the way, encountering 28 sections of pavé (or cobblestones) covering about 53 kilometers of the overall course.

While the race itself is in France, Belgian riders have won 51 of the 105 editions run thus far; truly a race for the hard-men, the Flahutes.

Eddy Merckx won this race 3 times, as did Belgians Rik Van Looy and Johan Museeuw; and Roger de Vlaeminck won the race 4 times. Collectively, these 4 riders have accounted for fully one-quarter of Belgium’s wins in Roubaix.

Is it any wonder that the Vlaamse Leeuw flies as much along this course in France as it does the week before at the Ronde van Vlaanderen each year?

Oddly, to me anyway, the best quote I have ever heard about the race came not from a Belgian or a Frenchman, but from the Dutchman Theo de Rooy, after the 1985 edition:

“It’s a pile of shit, this race, it’s a whole pile of shit … you’re working like an animal, you don’t have the time to piss and you wet your pants … you’re riding in mud like this and you’re slipping and … it’s a pile of shit, you must clean yourself otherwise you will go mad …”

When asked by John Tesh, who was covering the race for ABC, if he’ll ever ride it again, de Rooy responds:

“Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!”

Tesh, his crew and de Rooy then all burst out in laughter.

Thankfully, the forecast is for rain …