The weather gods were smiling as 21 riders rolled out from Armidale on what has now surely become an annual fixture – the Thunderbolt Roubaix 0 which took place under blue skies and cool autumn conditions. This year sophistication levels went up a notch as we had a backup support vehicle with Mark Bullen at the wheel courtesy of Armidale Bicycle Centre – and it certainly came in handy on the NSW pavé.
Swanny had created a fairly challenging 94KM route featuring an increased number of ‘cobblestone’ sections and an early taster was experienced on Old Inverell Road where we hit the corrugations at speed and immediately the orderly bunch was fragmented with the lighter equipment surging on ahead, not helped by sheep straying across the course leaving one lone maverick stranded who of course decided to make a bolt for it underneath an approaching wheel. As is often the case in these events, the sight of grown men and women trying to wrestle their bikes through rutted gravel at speed provided plenty of distracting entertainment for those towards the rear, compounded with the blurred vision and RSI from the vibrations it was quite impressive that everyone stayed upright.
Luke “San Remo” Milan was riding a very modern-looking white Bullen steed straight out of the back of the shop and quickly hooked up with about 6 other retro riders who between them were carting around a few hundred KG of BHP’s finest steel. The Bourke boys had paid a visit to the local museum (tip) the week before with Clint appearing to have come off slightly worse with his ‘hearing aid beige’ steed requiring him to punch out around 1,500 watts just to get the thing underway. Once rolling it was then a bit challenging to arrest the progress and consequently there was a bit of a concertina effect at the back of the peleton, particularly on some of the steeper descents although the grinding of rusty bearings in the the original cast iron hubs stopped any serious problems.
We had a pit stop in the Forest of Arenberg (Gostwyck) where the extensive avenue of elms was put to good use for a rolling comfort break. A quick photo and a bit of adjustment with large imperial spanners from Bullo and we were off again and quickly spread over about 2KM as the road pointed upwards. When we made it to the safety of Dangarsleigh Road we thought we’d survived and were on the home straight, only to hear Swanny call out a few detours – left, right, left again just before the bend, not on the bend, over the second grid, dogleg turn and then sharp left before the tree and then down through the bend and right at Dead Cow Corner and watch out for the gravel!
Somehow, and only 2 punctures later, we emerged back on Dangarsleigh Road at the monument and after a brief pause to regroup, we tackled the Run for Home at a much more pleasant pace than many of the group had witnessed less than 24 hours earlier during Saturday’s handicap race. With our ‘velodrome’ out of action due to the ongoing council experiment of fertilizing the road surface with cow manure to see if it produces a hotmix-like surface, we headed for the CBD, taking in the only cobbled roundabout in town. Two rather steady laps had everyone puffing and wheezing and so it was with great relief we pulled off the circuit and wheeled back onto the bike shop forecourt without a sprint finish and with honours even. Lois and Jock had put on a fantastic spread in the shop with cakes, tea and coffee for the survivors and even a sweepstake for the best placed teams in the real Paris Roubaix race later that night which Jo Wauch won (Omega Pharma QS), Ken’s wife Mary was second (Giant-Shimano) and Luke claimed third (Trek).
Thanks to Swanny for planning and leading the ‘race’, to Mark for organising and driving the Broom Wagon, Lois and Jock for the refreshments and to all the riders who took part in what was another ACC Autumn Classic. Pictures up on the Gallery Pages.