I do not need to stand with them
In la grande place in Compiègne
Like men before a firing squad
Waiting for the flag to drop:
I know what lies in wait for me
Out on that sunny, flower-fringed road;
The broken pavé of my mind
Holds fears and traps and falls enough;
An endless Arenberg of fears
And sickly doubts; each secteur strewn
With loose, uneven thoughts, all poised
To rip my wheels from under me;
My every bone and muscle braced
For the sudden twist that smashes me
Face-first into the cobblestones
Dry-drowning in the drifting dust.
Yet I’ll go on. This is the course
That life has set for me to ride.
And I will conquer, live to tell
My story from the road through hell.
A poem for the day of Paris-Roubaix, the most infamous of the one-day Spring Classics in northern France and Belgium. Known as l’Enfer du Nord (‘The Hell of the North’) for its fearsome cobblestones, it was immortalised in the compelling 1976 documentary A Sunday In Hell by Danish director Jørgen Leth. Although my ride yesterday was as benign as Paris-Roubaix is brutal, life as it is at the moment ensured I had plenty to think about. N.