Friday, 8 April 2016

Can-do Girls - Annaleena does Paris-Roubaix...in midwinter!

Following on from my post a month ago for International Women's Day I will be continuing my series on women who have done impressive things or accomplished amazing achievements. Those that have been where others fear to tread and have come out on the other side deserving a massive badge of honour as well as a big piece of cake!

These are the Can-do Girls. These women really can. We all know of celebrity female athletes and adventurers who have achieved outstanding feats in sport, and I have already mentioned some of them in my previous posts. This series will focus on Jane Bloggs or Jane Doe who has done extraordinary things.



Today I want to talk about my co-worker, designer Annaleena Piel Linnå. As cycling fans get ready to watch the professionals battle it out on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix spare a thought for Annaleena who rode the cobbles on her own on her 30-year-old steel touring bike all alone in December!

Luckily for her the weather stayed largely clement, but it still didn't get her out of riding on the various cobbled sectors. 

Starting from central Paris, (as opposed to Compiegne where the masses start their ride) Annaleena set off on Boxing Day last year and headed northwards. She recorded her story with nice photos on her blog. Here's how Annaleena summarised her trip when I spoke to her:


Paris-Roubaix was actually my plan B!

I did Rapha Festive 500 for the first time last year [2014-15] and thought this is so good I’m gonna do it every year, so I was looking for a way to get in 500km over Christmas.

I had wanted to do Land’s End to John O’Groats but couldn’t find any accommodation past Glasgow at that time.

Also the floods came and I thought I’m either gonna die or it would be a really miserable week.

Then while on train journey to Paris with my bike thought, why not Paris-Roubaix? So there I was downloading the official route from last year and doing the planning just two days before I set off!

After spending Christmas Day in Paris and I set off on Day 1 from the centre of the Capital to Compiegne, which was about 112km. Because of my recovery from flu and needing lots of rest I ended up leaving Paris around noon so I didn’t arrive in Compiegne until around 7 o’clock that night. So the last 3 hours was spent on unlit roads with loads of drivers beeping at me through the dark, shouting “Crazy girl, what are you doing on the road?!”

The next day the weather was sunny all day long and the temperature was 14degC, which was so lucky.


There were around 52.7km of pavé but I did about 12 sections of them and I don’t know exactly which ones I did because a lot of them were ridden in pitch black! I’d be riding along, barely able to make out what was coming – then it would go all bumpy and I would realise “Ooh, I’m on the pavé!” The worst one was more than 2km long and it hurt my head so much.

I had wanted to do all of the pavé but many of them were being reworked. I’d get to a few of them and there’d be a dozen old people there, The Friends of Paris Roubaix, with their tools fixing the road!

My tactic throughout was to keep calm and keep going. People had given me tips to go really fast on the cobbles and weigh down my bike. That wasn’t difficult as I had 12kg in the saddle bags!

It would have been nice to stop for a long lunch during the ride but nothing was open. I even had to go to a nursing home to use their toilet, and that was an adventure in itself!



Arriving in Roubaix I felt so jubilant. The ride felt so much better than everyone had told me. My ride didn’t end in Roubaix though as afterwards I had to ride another 18km to Lille, where I was staying and do another 120km to make it 500.

I have lots of great memories from the trip and would absolutely recommend doing it independently. If you are riding over Christmas bring loads of food, because at that time absolutely everything is shut and I ended up riding around starving!

Just get on your bike and do it!

Photos by Annaleena Piel Linnå
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