About 10 days ago, after a long fun day in Northern France hanging out with rabid cycling fans and witnessing Paris-Roubaix up close and personal at four different spots (including the Arenburg Forest), we took a high-speed train from Lille back to Paris. Shortly before our arrival in Paree, Jen notices a lanky guy behind me futzing around with his luggage. He wore a Francaise des Jeux jacket and when we saw a pair of cycling shoes, we just had to ask him: “You didn’t just race Paris-Roubaix, did you, and are now taking the same train we are, are you?” (Earlier, at the Lille train station, we’d seen four or five guys wearing BBox shirts, including one carrying a bike frame but quickly dismissed them as mere cycling fans, albeit rabid ones.)
Turns out yes, and yes—he’d just raced P-R and was now heading home. Yoann Offredo is his name (he gave us his cycling card), a very nice guy who, though he told us he finished 25th or 26th, actually finished 64th out of 71 official finishers. But he’d finished! And appeared as whooped and wiped out as if he’d just ridden down to the corner Starbucks and back. Crikey! We talked for a few minutes—I asked him which was tougher: Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix; he said P-R—and when the train arrived in Paris, he said “Ciao!” grabbed his bag and rushed off without the slightest limp, sign of soreness or anything. Seven hours on a bike across 160 miles of the Hell of the North and not at all the worse for wear. Incroyable!