Cycling is full of hyperbole and cliche. Epic, hell, brutal. It’s rarely any of these. And then you see the images of the first Paris-Roubaix race after World War 1. A ride through hell. This is the origin of Paris-Roubaix’s nickname as the ‘Hell of the North’.
“This wasn’t a race. It was a pilgrimage.”
Henri Pélissier, speaking of his 1919 victory.
This is a short photo story of the 1919 edition of Paris-Roubaix. This blog post was inspired by the great story of the Roubaix local and twice winner of the race, Charles Crupelandt, or the ‘Bull of the North’. This is a must read story of how life can give and take without mercy. Seriously, go read it now.
“They knew little of the permanent effects of the war. Nine million had died and France lost more than any. But, as elsewhere, news was scant. Who even knew if there was still a road to Roubaix? If Roubaix was still there?
…As they neared the north, the air began to reek of broken drains, raw sewage and the stench of rotting cattle. Trees which had begun to look forward to spring became instead blackened, ragged stumps, their twisted branches pushed to the sky like the crippled arms of a dying man. Everywhere was mud. Nobody knows who first described it as ‘hell’, but there was no better word.”