“To the passing observer, the Roubaix showers, located in a shabby municipal building adjacent to the Roubaix Velodrome, would probably bring back bad memories of school PE classes. To the informed cyclist they represent hallowed ground.
This is where every great cyclist who has fought his way over the cobbled farm tracks of northern France in search of victory has found himself post-race. Washing off the mud and grime in this brutalist concrete shower block.
Built during the 1940s in an annex from the main building, the shower block was a rite of passage for those pros who had endured the rigors of Roubaix. For most a place to contemplate what might have been; for those fortunate enough to win the Hell of the North it has added meaning.
Not only does the winner receive a cobbled stone for their achievement but their name is also inscribed on a metal plaque and attached to one of the cubicles walls. To win Roubaix is to have your name amongst the Gods of cycling: Maertens, de Vlaeminck, Merckx, Hinault, Kelly, Boonen, Cancellara ….
Sadly the allure of communal showering has been more recently superseded by the luxury of team buses. Only a few pros now venture over to honour tradition. Philippe Gilbert was one exception in 2018 but he was one of only a few and was out-numbered by journalists wanting to grab a soundbite.
As a photographer the allure is no different, even if the spectacle has lost a little of its drama and importance. The fabric of the building remains the same and the years of grime that has stained the concrete is testament to its history.
Linking a sense of place with history has always fascinated me and Roubaix was no different. It took me back to my first exposure to cycling, watching Marc Madiot, mud obliterating his Renault Elf cycling kit on the way to winning his first Paris-Roubaix. He too probably showered here and has a plaque honouring his win. Sadly the glory days of when the whole peloton showered here are now gone but the history and evidence lives on.”
What’s in issue 19.2?
Our alternative guide to the Hell of the North from start to finish, past, present and future. We’re on the farm with flamboyant five-time winner Roger De Vlaeminck, still pulling no punches.
Chowing down with Prudhomme and company for the race organisers’ traditional pre-race breakfast; a gallery of our photographers’ best images from Roubaix 2018. We interview Edvald Boasson Hagen, exploring the super-talent’s ups and downs.
There’s an enthralling account of a fictional women’s Paris-Roubaix while O’Grady and Michaelsen share bittersweet memories of the 2007 Roubaix. Plus, Desire, Boulting, Bardet, York and more…