The Toll Collector

Paris-Roubaix, in its own words

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My name is Paris-Roubaix. Feel free to call me “The Hell of the North.” For over a century, I have endured your pedaled assaults, your attacks, and your childish whining when I’ve scuttled your plans with my rude-edged cobbles. Even after being ravaged by war — a war that scarred me and gave me that hellish moniker — I continued to collect the toll from your kind. I continue to this day. The cost will always be high. You will pay it through the ache in your bones, and the sub-woofer-thumping that clubs the heels of your hands hour-after-torturous hour. I will play you like a human instrument, plucking the strings of every sinew and tendon in your pampered, athletic bodies. For in these fields, no one rides for free.

I am The Toll Collector. Today, you will pay with your body.

My name is Paris-Roubaix. Some people know me as “A Sunday in Hell.” I’m hungry. Starving for your peloton. I will dine on your confidence. I will eat your dreams and belch them upon your agonized faces in a gale-force-wind of choking dust. I will hurl your hopes at you in a heady mix of cow dung and coal-tinged mud. Your ultimate withdrawal will be my goal. Your defeat will be the culmination of all my might, my strength, and my almost intolerable cruelty in wringing every watt and drop of motivation from your body. That whisper in your ear? The one telling you to quit, that you are not worthy of being here — that’s me. These words of doubt are my gift to you. Accept them, pay up, and move on.

I am The Toll Collector. Today, you will pay with your mind.

My name is Paris-Roubaix. I am the Queen of the Classics. A monumental Monument. Despite my best efforts to destroy you, you come back year after year and pay your dues. I confess to be awed by you. Without you, without your persistence and stubbornness, and unwavering dedication to lining up for this one brutal day, I would be nothing more than a stony, ancient memory to be talked of quietly in ale and coffee houses. A relic to be paved over and discarded, destined to become that ‘oh, well, time simply marched on’ footnote to history. A fun fact relegated to the back of a tourist brochure. My name is Paris-Roubaix and I feel you as deeply in my bones as you do me. Don’t think I don’t know my price is steep.

I am The Toll Collector. Today you will pay with your body and mind. All our souls will profit, always.

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