By Marty Jemison — I think getting sick after Ghent-Wevelgem actually helped me for Paris-Roubaix. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I had the symptoms of a cold/flu. I was deadly focused to be ready Sunday, by being ill I started to focus harder, I believe. I did all that was possible (not much) take an exaggerated amount of Vitamin C with aspirin and multivitamins. Rest was important.
I felt OK on Saturday; my symptoms were reversing and on Sunday even better. My immune system was clearly kicking. I was as ready as ever for Paris-Roubaix, ready for my domestique role.
Cedric, Benoit, and I (Marty) were to cover/make the inevitable break. We worked well in concert. Christian was to stick with George through the first feed (115kms) Eki would take over then, working exclusively for George. Frankie made sure all was ok in the first half of the race and managed control in the last. Frankie was impressive.
I made the break, after the three of us had covered 10++ attacks each.
10 intense intervals.
I then found myself in the break of 12-14, at roughly the 25km mark. We rode into a stiff headwind. For the longest time the gap hovered around 1:00. Everyone except Jackie Durand was pulling through. Tom Steels set a stiff tempo through the first section of “pavé” (cobbles).
We lost riders through each section and by the feed zone #1 we were down to 6 riders, after only 3 of the 25 sectors of pavé. All this time the gap was not much more than 1:00, now though the 6 of us would pull away and get around 4:00.
It was important for me to make it to/through the Arenberg Forest with this break. The Forest is an especially crucial point of the race. This section is terribly rough and breaks the rhythm, it is where a leading group often breaks away. I have seen 10- 40 riders exit together, 75% of the peloton left in pieces.
The Arenberg Forest is 2.7 kms long and comes after 168 kms. It is a very rough section … imagine crossing rough rail-road tracks for 2.7 kms, shaken silly. 6 of us entered together, 3 exited together, Matt White dangled just in front of me and would regain.
When I stood on the pedals, my legs were jelly, vibrated into mush. Slowly I regained speed, but I was now alone. I recovered a bit, ate, and drank. A select group was on its way up to me. I waited. Now on the radio, George was talking to me.
“Get ready to ride on the front”.
Frankie and Eki were there with George on their wheel.
They were leading the group. (The team was riding well!!) When they caught me, I rode on the front, hard, setting a very stiff tempo to set up for the next section of pavé.
I later heard from Cedric, that he was in the back desperately wanting to come up to help, but I was “dialing it up”.
Cedric did not make it up to help. I continued this solo effort for 3-5kms. Frankie knew the sharp turns and coached form behind. I did take one turn too fast. Frankie led the team past me, I then tried to move back up, but the pavé was too nearby. When the group entered, their legs being fresher, they simply rode away, and my role in the race was ending. Now I rode as hard as possible, looking for a teammate who may have had a flat.
When they were far up the road, I knew my race was over. The director’s car passed, and they told me the 2nd feed was not far, indicating to stop there. I had done my job.
I would watch the end of the race in the Velodrome after taking a shower.
Frankie, Eki, and George looked good, the rest is history. George finished 6th. The public would say that Postal were second to Mapei in moving the race. I believe we had done an excellent job, worthy of podium, but …