Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pavé, Pain, and Pesach: Paris-Roubaix 2009

Like many pro cycling fans, I look forward to Paris-Roubaix the same way an American football fan looks forward to the Super Bowl. My whole day was about anticipation leading up to this ultimate bike race, and excitement in preparing for it.

However, unlike most pro cycling fans, I'm an observant Jew, and since Paris-Roubaix this year falls on Chol HaMoed Pesach (the interim days of Passover), I had to curtail, or at least, customize my race-day party in order to fulfill the dietary restrictions of the holiday.

Luckily I'm married to an awesome cycling-supportive spouse, and in celebration of this classic race and in accordance with Pesach, we prepared kosher l'Pesach steak frites, matza pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil, and in lieu of a fine Belgian Ale (beer is not kosher for Passover), we sipped a nice, crisp kosher moscato. No, I don't think this is how they celebrated at the legendary Cafe de L'Arbre.

As for the race itself, Paris-Roubaix is something special. It's the race I saw in 1985 which first transfixed me and made me a cyclist. It's the race which inspires legions of cyclists and fans alike. It's a race which ignites national pride, especially amongst Flemish Belgian. Whether you know it as "The Queen of the Classics" or "The Hell of the North", the very visuals of this brutal race over the worst cobblestone roads in Europe through the barren farmlands of northern France, through the maddened throngs of fans and a backdrop of merciless rain, wind, mud, dust, crashes, and pain captivate us and draw us back year after year.

And it's what draws back men like Belgian Tom Boonen, who survived the merciless cobbles and stomped his way to an awesome third victory in a race which dates back to 1896. With the rare exception of men like Boonen, Paris-Roubaix is a race which favors nobody - the cobbles are blind assassins, but as Boonen himself has said: "You must be willing to suffer, suffer, suffer, and whomever suffers the most wins the race". Boonen knows how to suffer, but he also has that rare Belgian trait, which allows him to have a finer sense when racing at top speed on harsh surfaces in harsh conditions. And now Boonen has three wins, one away from tying the record of four wins by Roger De Vlaemick, though for right now he enjoys the company of great men like Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy, and Johann Museeuw.


noslo said...

hey buddy,

Where ya been? Cross season's coming up!! Gotta be excited about that! Any way, I hope all is well.

noslo said...

Jason...? Cyclocross season is here... you fired up? my first race is this weekend. Should be pretty good!!

Sasha said...

so the question is... do you know of a kosher source of electrolytes?

bikelovejones said...

I just found your blog. I think you're only the second observant Jew I've found who's into bike racing.
Don'y know where you are but if you can pick and choose your races so you never have to race on Shabbat I'll assume you're not in the Pacific NW like me.

Please blog more! It's great to see the connections between racing and observance.