Cycling · France · Travel

Roubaix Trip – Day 1: Scramble to Roubaix

It was time for yet another trip. Jacqueline and I were headed to northern France for the weekend, for the Paris-Roubaix bike race. On Saturday, I would be riding the final two-thirds of the course, with the professionals racing through on Sunday. But first, we had to get there, from Cambridge. In the morning, I headed in to the GSCR to print out all of the relevant tickets and reservations for the upcoming weekend. By midday, with out bags packed and ready to go, we headed out to the Cambridge railway station, taking the train into King’s Cross. We would be taking the Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel, but Eurostar makes travelling with bikes difficult. Both of us would be taking bikes, but only I would be riding the cobbles. We had to take our bikes out to a small office near the coach-park at St Pancras International, checking them in to a third-party office. Fortunately, the guy at the desk was helpful, and told us which carriage the bikes would be in for us to collect them on the platform in Lille.

Because of the early requirements for checking in the bikes, we had well over an hour to get some lunch in. The place where we had hoped to get lunch was far too busy, so instead we visited Jacqueline’s friend Kevin’s research institute for lunch in their cafeteria. Finally, we could go and check in through the passport control at St Pancras, waiting around in the busy departure area before we could go and board the train.

The trip to Lille was relatively quick, diving down through the Channel Tunnel, and a little bit of French countryside before arriving at the main station in the northern city. We did manage to intercept the bikes coming off the train, but I had to run off and leave Jacqueline behind. Only recently had the details of the sportive event been posted, and they required me to get to the velodrome in Roubaix to pick up my race number and, most importantly, bus ticket for the following morning. However, we had booked the train journey long before that, leaving a 40 minute window to get a taxi across the city. Unfortunately, this coincided with rush hour in Lille, which meant that my taxi was slow and expensive. I made it to the velodrome with 5 minutes to spare, picking up my number and now ready to ride tomorrow.

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Now, I had to get to my hotel, and meet up again with Jacqueline. I didn’t want to take an expensive taxi back to Lille, but I saw a bike-hire dock near the velodrome, so went and got a hire bike to ride. It was an hour or so ride to near the hotel, but I had to go a little bit away from the hotel to find another bike-hire dock. Not wanting to walk all the way there, I took a tram the last little bit, and arrived at the same time as Jacqueline who had been managing well with two bikes.

Our hotel was not central by any means, instead it was located in a newly developed area halfway between Lille and Roubaix. It was a budget hotel, and after checking in, we took our bikes up to the hotel, and I took the opportunity to prepare for tomorrow. Finally, we needed to go and get some food for the evening. After a bit of googling, we agreed to head into central Roubaix to go to a French restaurant. We took our bikes and rode through the back streets in the evening light, and found a rather nice restaurant in the central street near the railway station. I had myself a rather hearty steak with peppercorn sauce, while Jacqueline opted for a cheesy local dish, with cylindrical bread filled with a variety of meat and cheesy fillings. Finally, we rode back to our hotel to try and get some sleep for the very early start that awaited.

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