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Book Review: Paris-Roubaix - A Journey Through Hell
 
By Staff
Date: 4/13/2009
Book Review: Paris-Roubaix - A Journey Through Hell
 

Book Review: Paris-Roubaix - A Journey Through Hell
The perfect addition to your coffee table to recall your memories of this years race... and more.

by Stephanie Chase

Paris-Roubaix: A Journey Through Hell
By: Philippe Bouwet, Pierre Callewaert , Jean-luc Catellier and Serge Laget

Seasoned journalists Philippe Bouwet, Pierre Callewaert , Jean-luc Catellier and Serge Laget have cobbled Paris-Roubaix’s history together through both journalism and pictures. For those wanting an in-depth and all encompassing view at the doyenne of the Spring Classics, Paris-Roubaix: A Journey Through Hell uses a variety of lenses: the spectators, the victors and their competition, and the cobbles.

The writers chronicle nearly a century’s worth of race photography and writing, using race reports and first-hand accounts along with intense historic photographs illustrating the agony and ecstasy of the wrenching race.

Always more than just about only the winner or a single rider’s persona, Paris-Roubaix is a Greek tragedy played over the several hundred kilometers that make up the race. Both equipment and racers break down, Mother Nature plays an omnipresent and omniscient role, and the famed cobbles enter at a crucial moment to twist fates.


The Tifosi line the cobbles entwined in the yearly drama being as much a part of the race as the riders, cobbles and weather.

From Josef Fischer, the first winner who averaged 30 km/ph for the 297 kilometer race on his single speed bike with a dapper handle bar mustache, to Rik Van Looy, who declared that winning Paris-Roubaix brought him more joy than being world champion, to Johann Museew’s celebratory kick overcoming gangrene and then winning the race, the photos cover this kaleidoscope of emotions experienced at the race by spectators and riders alike.

Yves Gibau, an L’Équipe contributer during the 1950s, captured both the agony and the addiction of Paris-Roubaix when he wrote after the conclusion of the 1955 edition:

Even the strongest of them, those who were presumably prepared for the all the pitfalls, for all the martyrdom… shake their heads like condemned prisoners…ready to swear, if they could have unglued their lips, that they would never do this again.

At least not until the next year.


Bob Roll in the gutter in the Arenberg trench fighting for position.

Chapters
Introduction: The Prevailing Winds
1 A Day Unlike Any Other  - The Queen Of The Classics
2 Beneath The Cobblestones, The North... The Stones Are Eternal
3 Five Stations Of The Cross - The Holy Places
4 In The Mud, The Dust, And The Wind - Storm Warning -
5 To Puncture And Survive  - The Unavoidable Epidemic
6 Hell’s Damned - From Love To Hate
7 The Race Of Miracles - Impossible Winners
8 The Velodrome Is A Cathedral - The Gates Of Paradise
9 The Ultimate Refuge - The Water Of Resurrection
10 A Portrait Gallery - First For All Eternity
11 The Angels Of Hell - The Guardians Of The Temple
Anthology

Paris-Roubaix: A Journey Through Hell
Hardcover with jacket. Full color and b&w photos throughout. Introduction by Bob Roll
10” x 12 ½”, 224 ppages; Published: 2007
VP-PRB
Available at: VeloPress $39.95

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