No other race on the calender captures my imagination like L’Enfer du Nord. The brutality, the drama, the history, everything fascinates me – I’d swap the hellingen of the Ronde for these pavé secteurs any day of the week.
As much as I enjoy the glory of the victory, it’s those moments from the back of the weary peloton that I remember long after the victor has raised the cobble aloft in the famous velodrome. Every rider fights his own battle, sometimes he overcomes, sometimes the race defeats him.
This video from the 2013 edition of the race by Dutch broadcaster NOS is a favourite of mine. Just that poignant music is enough to convey the race’s bleakness. And the stalking of Europcar’s Jérôme Cousin by the voiture-balai is quite chilling!
The Saxo Tinkoff rider featured in the video is Chris Juul-Jensen, by chance he also appeared in a 2013 interview with Rouleur about his first experience of this toughest of challenges.
“I don’t think there’s any rider here who would voluntarily like to step off the bike, especially with the finish in this prestigious velodrome. It was the same for me. No matter how fucked I was and how far there was to the finish.”
He was the lanterne rouge that year, crossing the line nearly half an hour after the winner Fabian Cancellera. But he fought and won his own personal battle that day and I love the way his respect for this race shines through.
I can’t wait for the Hell of the North to claim me again… Bring it on!!