Friday 2 October 2009

CCH Trip to Lille & Roubaix

CCH youth riders leaving Lille on the road to the Roubaix velodrome
On the weekend September 20th & 21st two coaches & four riders from CCH enjoyed a trip to nearby Lille & Roubaix in Northern France that was sponsored (again) by Stuart Feakins Trust and the Youth Opportunities Fund. Like the visit to Italy, transport was by train from St. Pancras station on a Eurostar to Lille International. It took 1h 27m to do this which was pleasantly shocking. The weather turned out so warm that when the group got off the train they all had to roll up their trousers like real Brits on holiday. Bike bags folded away and cycles with wheels refitted it was time to check out the 'Hi' Youth Hostel. After that the surrounding area was surveyed, we found a park and had a game of conkers in it. Noticing that across the road a free contemporary art exhibition in newly refurbished disused railway buildings was going on, it was decided to get into that later. After sitting down for an al fresco lunch the party returned to take in some culture from the other side. Back at the youth hostel preparations began for the next day's trip to Roubaix and the famous velodrome there - cycling's home of the blues and the finishing place of the queen of classic races; Paris Roubaix. In the evening a stroll lead to a restaurant near Lille Flanders train station that served the regional dish of mussels & chips, most of the group were on this, the others opting for more familiar fare. Fully refreshed from a fine night of slumber the young cyclists found it difficult to leave their beds but arose nice and early anyway, to gather with their fellow guests in the dining room for a continental petit dejeuner. Replenished and raring to get to Roubaix off they went, heading out into another blessed day of late summer hazy sun shine and warmth.
The conditions helped but each member ensured that any slight personal differences discovered overnight were put away. The road crew all showed the best side of young London whilst passing into Belgium and through historic Flanders without forgetting to muse on the suffering that had occurred on the battlegrounds either side of them. Peace, quiet and freedom now for sporting cyclists in what was once front-line country during two world wars. They rolled on by, giving thought and thanks for liberty and simple pleasures.
Riders comments on being in France & Belgium included noting how courteous the car drivers were to them and at how many times the people they passed would wave at them and look on in approval. On arriving at the velodrome there was not much happening, just a parked team car from the resident club VC Roubaix, however the gates were open, pictures were taken inside. A local youngster said it was ok to ride on the track but like the sign said:
“Pas de chiens ou motos ne sont pas admis dans les motifs” - no dogs or motorbikes are allowed in the grounds. Roubaix is in the industrial north of France.          A lasting impression of being there was the feeling of having visited a place that has weight, grandeur and pride but without so much gloss or luxury as in the Cote d'Azur way down south. The people were decent and kind and seemed to hold racing cyclists in special regard.
Early Sunday evening and it was time to pack up and head back to St Pancras but not before a tour of the city ahead of boarding the train and the quick-time journey home.

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