#ThisIsMyRide - Paris Roubaix Gravel by Thomas Da Costa
“This Is My Ride” is a series where we share the most memorable, unique, or challenging rides from our community. Maybe it’s a first century ride, an epic climb, or a regular Sunday ride with friends: we want to hear about that special something which makes this particular ride epic for you – and your Argon 18. Want to share your ride? Email us at email@example.com.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m a former road cyclist who discovered gravel in 2018. I became an immediate fan, and I love exploring my region of Hauts de France. I also ride into Belgium - I’m on the border - as well as the Massif de l'Estérel (in the Var region) several times a year when I’m on vacation.
Where is ‘Your Ride’ and why is it so unique?
‘My Ride’ stands out both for the ride itself and for the historical aspect. It is Paris-Roubaix, but in a new and entirely gravel version. It’s 430km from the Cipale in Paris (Vélodrome Jacques Anquetil) to the famous Vélodrome of Roubaix. The course was built from scratch to be as close as possible to the first edition of the ‘Hell of the North’ in 1896.
The first goal of this route was to reflect the history of the original Paris-Roubaix: the departure in Paris, passing by the Quays of the Seine, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, La Defense... then passing through the cities of the original route: Pontoise, Beauvais, Breteuil, Amiens, Doullens, Arras, Mons en Pévèle and Roubaix.
The second goal was, of course, to connect all these cities not by the cobbled sectors of the ProTour race (the cobbles were introduced after 1945) but by typical gravel roads of the Hauts de France region. But the truth is, you can’t call it the Hell of the North if you don’t have any cobbles! That would be no fun. Of the 430km, there are about 15km of cobblestones, including the famous sections of the Moulin de Vertain and the Carrefour de l'Arbre.
‘My Ride’ is unique because it is the first time that this course was done on gravel, but also because of the beauty and variety of the landscape in the Hauts de France region.
What makes this ride a challenge/pleasure?
‘My Ride’ is rich in its physical characteristics (the total distance, the cobbled sectors in the last 50km) as well as the challenges - and the company - that made it a real pleasure.
Of course, it is a challenging route, first and foremost. The course has significant altitude gain, the gravel sectors are sometimes technical... it definitely takes some strength on the bike.
But it's also a pleasure to share this beautiful adventure with friends over the course of a weekend, sharing moments of joy, discovery - and hardship too. The bikes (and riders) were put to the test, and the weather conditions (rain, hail, wind...) did not spare us in the final part of the course. But in the end, we only remember the good parts, and that's what made this ride an extraordinary adventure!
When and how did you start cycling? And why did you decide to embark on such an adventure?
I started cycling at the age of 14 in the Minime category. Born in Roubaix, I naturally turned to competitive cycling on the road and track. Our proximity with Belgium makes our region of Hauts de France a mecca of cycling. There are just so many opportunities to race.
The idea behind Paris-Roubaix Gravel was born at the end of 2020. The health context in France did not allow for mass events for amateurs or professionals. And the postponement, then the cancellation, of Paris-Roubaix meant that as fans of cycling, we had to create our own adventure.
It took several months to build the course, to do reconnaissance, to look for the gravel paths... to finally set out on this beautiful adventure at the end of May 2021.
It’s a free course that anyone can do at any time of year, alone or with others, in its entirety or just part of the 430km. That's the gravel spirit: sharing and enjoying!
How well does your Argon 18 fit your ride? 😉
Argon 18 is not an unknown brand for me. In 2012 I already owned a bike from this Canadian brand: a Gallium Pro, a road bike made for competition. I was immediately seduced by its geometry, its simple and clean look, its responsiveness. It’s a demanding bike, but incredibly efficient on the road.
Since I was in love with the brand, my choice was the Dark Matter for my new passion of gravel cycling.
A versatile and foolproof bike, the Dark Matter is exceptionally comfortable and allows you to ride everywhere. It performs as as well on the road as on gravel. Even when kitted out for bikepacking, the Dark Matter keeps its responsiveness and handling characteristics.
I have two pairs of wheels: the first with 45mm tubeless tires, ready for all gravel roads. The second set takes 32mm tubeless tires and is ideal for road or ultra-endurance. Armed with a double 30/46 chainring, the Dark Matter takes me absolutely everywhere, with comfort and safety. For me, it's the ideal bike!
I would like to thank my local bike shop owner, William (Véloclub Tourcoing) for guiding me in my choice of bikes and for always being right with his advice. The VéloClub store is Argon 18's retailer in the Lille area.
Photos by: Thomas Da Costa