Its almost upon us, we can almost see the dust clouds on the horizon, can almost hear the French Farmers blasting their tractor horns, can almost smell the fear and sweat of the riders and the layer of mud on and around the sections of pave. The Hell of the North is this Sunday. Coverage starts at 0930 on Eurosport! 0930!! This alone shows how great an event The Hell of the North is, never mind all the previous legends who have won it, live UK TV coverage of the full event sticks it right up there with the Grand Tours and the Olympics. Its also shows growth in popularity of the sport and the fact that British cycling fans are more numerous and more knowledgeable than ever before. Roll on Sunday!
Its another brutal one day race, its approximately 260km with 27 sections of pave. Unlike last weeks tour of Flanders its generally flat and therefore tends to suit the real powerhouses even more than the flemish classic. The lack of climbs also means its a real suffer fest, selections generally being made by a grinding down process and riders simply dropping off the back unable to keep going rather than flashy attacks off the front. Having said this however their are always one or two capable of sticking it to the rest!
Some of the Pave sections have become more notorious than the notorious B.I.G over the previous 113 editions, none more so than the d’Arenberg Trench. A particularly dreadful section of huge, uneven cobbles which narrows right down and is usually the scene of at least a couple of full speed crashes. Riders will be hitting this section at about an hour before the finish so be sure not to miss it. The winner wont be decided here but the group with a chance of winning it probably will be.
“It’s the true definition of hell. It’s very dangerous, especially in the first kilometer when we enter it at more than 60kh. It’s unbelievable. The bike goes in all directions. It will be a real spectacle but I don’t know if it’s really necessary to impose it on us.” Fillipo Pozzato
Belive it or not, they actually run a sportive on the course the day before and i like to think i fancy doing it one year but I probably wont as it would almost certainly be a total unmitigated disaster and im not sure id do the legendary pave justice 😦
The French say Embrassant le Galet, now I don’t speak french but im reliably informed this literally means Sucking the Rock so the big question is who will be sucking rock on Sunday?
Degenkolb sucked the rock last year and there are lots of possibilities including Vanmarke, Boom, Kristoff and even the legend that is Tom Boonen all of whom might have a shout, to be honest though i think it will come down to the same one two as last week. Sagan bagged his first monument with his solo win in Flanders and will probably start bookies favorite to do the double. For for me however, without the steep climbs to deal with I reckon Big Fab Fabian Spartacus Cancellara will have too much power over the flatter pave and too much will and determination to go out on a high in his last season as a pro. Im therefore plumbing for Fabian to be sucking Degenkolbs rock at the end of the day. Both Fab and Sagan will be marked men however so nothing guaranteed.
Big Fab sucking his own Rock
Team Zombie will probably struggle for the same reasons as in Flanders, Thomas not really concentrating on the classics, Luke Rowe improving dramatically but probably a few years off really challenging. I think they might have one ace to play however, I’m interested to see how Stannard gets on , he seems to do a lot of work on the front and or attacks at strange moments but he has shown some brilliant legs and raw power of late and like Big Fab the flatter course should suit him so i think he’s a good outside bet.
Also for a crazy outsider look to Yoann Offredo just for a laugh.
Cant wait to see which pro is sucking rock come Sunday!