Probably the biggest one-day race on the cycling calendar is the Paris-Roubaix. It’s a 260 Km (162 miles) race from, you guessed it, Paris, finishing in the velodrome in Roubaix in the North East of France
On April 14th, it was the 106th running of this classic race, and the distinguishing feature is the inclusion of many sections of traditional paved roads, or pave. These sections traditionally sort out the winners and losers. The riders all use special equipment for this race, which strangely enough usually means going low-tech. They trade in their super-light carbon frames for heavier versions, they double-tape their handlebars and use heavier wheels.
My ‘man of the moment’ Fabian Cancellara came 2nd, which is quite a result, but he lost out to ‘Tornado’ Tom Boonen, a hero in Belgium, a previous winner, and also the winner of the first ever Tour de France stage that I watched in Angers.
But, my personal highlight from this year’s Paris-Roubaix was the appearance of my absolute favourite piece of bike equipment. The humble jubilee clip, or hose clamp, known in France as a ‘collier’, or collar.
An old boss of mine, when as a student I worked in a bulldozer repair yard, told me you need two tools. A torch (of the oxy-acetylene variety) and a sledge hammer. With a torch and a hammer, Albert Curwood reckoned you could fix anything. That might be true on a bulldozer, but for my own personal tool collection, you have to add a jubilee clip.
Years ago, in the early nineties, I set off to cycle around France one summer. I was planning to be away for about 3 months, but less than 25 miles after getting off the ferry in Roscoff, one side of my pannier rack broke. All I had to fix it with was string. At the 40 mile mark, the other side broke. This was a Blackburn rack, guaranteed for life, apparently! I made it to the house of a friend of mine, Ken Dalton, in Broons near Rennes (twinned with Exeter, so a decent enough place). He’s a wonderful car mechanic, and he prescribed a pair of jubilee clips.
The next day I wrapped a jubilee clip around the broken end of the back rack and the frame and just tightened it until nothing would move. I cycled across France and into germany, then south through Austria and Switzerland into Italy. I cycled back over the Alps into Switzerland and into France via Chamonix, and finally back to Exeter via the Roscoff-Brittany ferry. The following week I happened to be in the bike shop in Exeter from which I’d bought the rack. The owner saw my jubilee clips, and offered to give me a new rack as they were guaranteed. Brilliant. My jubilee clips had managed 4,000 miles, and he was offering me a brand-new rack with a proven life of just 40 miles. That was one of the easier decisions I’ve ever had to make. Many Chain Gang cyclists will have seen my little collection of jubilee clips, I wouldn’t want to set out on a tour without them.
Have a look at this photo and you’ll see the professionals agree with me:
Read a bit more about the wonderful race.