Paris – Roubaix

This Sunday brings the 2013 edition of the cycling spring classic Paris – Roubaix. I can remember being drawn into the Tour De France on World of Sport in the late seventies, where it quickly became apparent that it was a technical, complex and interesting sport to understand (the sort of challenge I seemed to love as a child. I can remember trying to understand how the scoring in darts worked before I learnt subtraction at school, and spent an afternoon mystified at how they scored points, but their score went down not up!). After a year or two of getting to grips with some of the initial mysteries and wonder of Le Tour, the next thing introduced by World of Sport was Paris Roubaix.

Take the wonders of simple road racing, and then add in several lengthy sections of cobbled farm and forest tracks in rural France. All the pain and hard work of normal cycle racing meets The Hell of The North, these ancient broken paths that sought to destroy bikes and riders proceeding at any sort of pace along them. Dust clouds choking and blinding the riders in good weather, slick cobbles becoming ice-like and dangerous in bad. And then in a final ironic twist, a finish on the ultra-smooth wood panels of Roubaix’s velodrome, a return to the track roots of many of the riders, often for a mere victory lap, sometimes for a proper track race. These are the ingredients that make Paris Roubaix a true classic I think I was sold the moment one of the camera bikes crashed during the race, the biker caught out by the cobbles too.

This year’s race can be caught live on Eurosport this Sunday, but to get a real feel for it, enjoy this coverage from 1988 by CBS, a beautiful package that really sells the uniqueness of the race.

Jamaica runs wild

Well the World Athletics championships got off to something of a flying start. Usain Bolt was just astonishing winning the 100m final in 9.58 seconds. Even more so in that I felt he could have gone very slightly faster, just something in him didn’t quite seem to blast to the very last metre. It wasn’t like his world record at the 2008 Olympics, that was possibly the laziest smashing of a world record anyone has ever seen. But there is just a little more there one senses.

Then tonight Shelley-Ann Fraser took the women’s 100m in 10.73 seconds, boringly (I jest) only the third fastest time in history. A different race, much harder to call beforehand, but ultimately won in style.

This is just the start of the gold medals for Jamaica here, at least the 200m and sprint relays to come, but in a perfect world, Bolt would have a go at the 400m, give us all a treat. I suspect he won’t, but I can hope.

Fingers crossed for Felipe Massa

Today’s qualifying for the Hungarian GP was marred by a horrific accident suffered by Felipe Massa. He was hit in the head by what appears to be a spring from another car, lost control of his car, and went straight off the circuit. He has some sort of skull fracture, and is in hospital. Reports are conflicting as to how serious the injury is, and it does seem that it may be slightly worse than first thought. It’s also worrying coming a week after the sad death of Henry Surtees, whose death occurred after he was hit by a wheel from another car during a F2 race at Brands Hatch. Such bad luck to have two serious accidents caused in a similar manner so close together, and does start to make one wonder if there is some way of preventing them. Thoughts are with Massa and his family tonight.

The session itself finished with Alonso on pole, and massed confusion when the timing failed. Drivers had to swap times when they got out of their cars, which resulted in Jensen Button asking Alonso what his time was on live tv, and exclaiming “Fucking Hell” when he realised how quick he’d been. Will be interesting to see if Alonso can hold on, but he has been fueled very light.