One day before the pro riders, an international peloton of 4,500 cycling enthusiasts took on the Hell of the North. Boosted by a proper Wiggo Mania, a strong British presence contributed to a record edition of the Paris Roubaix Challenge.
With a whopping 4,500 participants - up from last year by nearly 1,000 - the Paris Roubaix Challenge was completely sold out. Cyclists could pick three distances: 70 km, 139 km or 163 km. A massive 52% went all the way and chose the longest distance. 38% went for 139 km and 10% rode the 70 km.
The 4,500 participants came from 45 different countries. Ahead of Sir Bradley Wiggins' final road race in Paris-Roubaix, the Wiggo Mania is back in full swing as 37% of all participants was British. The Dutch formed the second biggest group with 16%, followed by the French at 11%.
52.5 KILOMETRES OF COBBLES
The 163 km parcours sent the participants over all 27 cobbled sectors from Sunday's Monument, amounting to a total of 52.5 km of hellish cobbles. Those who chose 139 km (18 sectors) and 70 km (7 sectors) also got plenty of mileage on the cobbles to make it a true Roubaix experience.
The unique experience started on Friday morning when the participants collected their race number at the legendary Roubaix Velodrome. From 5 am on Saturday morning more than 1,000 participants of the 163 km distance made use of the shuttle buses to take them from Roubaix to the start in Busigny.
COMPARING WITH THE PROS
A light drizzle at the start couldn't spoil the party. Timing was provided on three cobbled sectors: from Quiévy to Saint Python, on the Trouée d'Arenberg and on Carrefour de l'Arbre. Most cyclists gave it their all to compare their times with the pros afterwards.
The Facebook App 'Mijn Paris Roubaix Challenge' allowed family and friends to follow their rider's split times from the comfort of their own homes. From next week onwards personal videos will be available as well.
MEDAL AND MYTHICAL SHOWER
At the finish on the Roubaix Velodrome - the same location as the finish of the pro race Sunday - the sun tried to shine through the deck of clouds, but even without it all 4,500 brave participants were beaming. Whether they conquered 70, 139 or 163 km: everyone received a hard-earned medal.
After their epic travails the riders headed to the Velodrome's mythical concrete showers to freshen up and complete the real Roubaix experience.