Paris-Roubaix is known as the "Queen
of the Classics" and also as the "Hell of the North,"
perfectly capturing both sides of the cycling race that captures the
hearts of the riders themselves as well as the fans. The race runs
over 26 separate sections of pave (cobbled roads) take the riders
through a grueling physical challenge. Sometimes there's mud and
rain; other times there are choking clouds of dust thrown up by the
wheels of the bicycles and the support cars; sometimes the weather is
bright and sunny, making this brutal course through the French
countryside deceptively beautiful, like a Sunday club ride. But no
matter what the surface conditions are, all the riders know that it
will take strength, skill, tactics, and a generous helping of luck to
be the first rider to pass the finish line in the velodrome at
The 2006 Paris-Roubaix turned out to
be quite memorable. The race came one week after the Tour of
Flanders, with World Champion Tom Boonen riding high on his victory
there. George Hincapie also had a strong finish on the podium in
Flanders, and came to Paris-Roubaix in top-notch form, with a killer
drive to win and a strong team to support him. Hincapie has wanted to
add a win at Paris-Roubaix to his palmares for years, but things
don't always turn out as they're supposed to, though; Hincapie's race
ended up being very memorable, but unfortunately not in the way he
wanted it to. The field was both strong and deep. Apart from Boonen
and Hincapie, other strong riders included one of my personal
favorites, Peter Van Petegem, riding for Davitamon; CSC's Fabian
Cancellara; Spanish rider Juan Antonio Flecha, riding for Rabobank;
Steffen Wesemann, for T-Mobile; and many others.
The race itself was an aggressive
one, with a lot of breakaway attempts and efforts by the teams to
bring back the escaped riders. Thanks to super-aggressive riding by
Flecha and Boonen, we got to see a lot of exciting attacks and
counterattacks as well as solo performances. The Forest of Arenberg
was added back in for the 2006 edition (having been resurfaced barely
in time for the race), which was great to see: the Forest is always a
tough section that challenges riders. In addition to its usual drama,
the 2006 edition of Paris-Roubaix was also a race that had more than
the usual share of mishaps. An incoming train blocked some riders,
while others were ultimately disqualified for breaking race rules and
scooting past the railway crossing after the "stop" signal
lights were flashing. Crashes - one of them due to a catastrophic
bike failure! - ended the Roubaix dreams for several of the
favorites, until next year.
The complete race coverage here runs
four hours... only two hours less than the total race time of about
six hours! That's quite complete coverage. Phil Liggett and Paul
Sherwen do the commentary, as always; Sherwen does a nice job (also
as usual) of getting pre-race interviews. He goes out the day before
to talk with the top riders, including a relaxed and confident George
Hincapie, among others. Without the time pressure of the start time,
the interviews are more substantial and make for a very nice start
for the DVD coverage.
Paris-Roubaix is a two-disc set,
with the race equally split between the two DVDs. The discs are
packaged in a single-wide keepcase.
The footage for Paris-Roubaix 2006
is in the usual 1.33:1 television aspect ratio. Colors are bright and
vibrant, with the riders' team jerseys looking clear and easily
visible. The picture overall is crisp, with a bit of edge enhancement
but not too much. Some digital picture break-up appears at times, but
it's not an issue of the DVD, but of the satellite link for the
television broadcast: under the difficult conditions of filming the
riders, it's almost inevitable to get some problems.
The stereo soundtrack is crisp and
clear, with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen's commentary coming across
as clear and easy to understand.
On Disc 1, we get a brief clip of
"Coffee House (Pre-Paris-Roubaix), paired with Disc 2's "Night
on the Town (Pre-Paris-Roubaix)" featurette, two minutes long.
These are very informal featurettes, with Phil and Paul wandering
around and talking to the camera; beer is often involved. If you're a
long-time WCP fan, you'll get a kick out of seeing our beloved
commentators, perhaps a bit tipsy, hanging out with us viewers... a
bit odd, but fun. We also get the start lists for all the teams
printed on the reverse side of the cover insert.
If you've enjoyed Paris-Roubaix in
the past, it's a no-brainer to pick up this DVD. The 2006 version has
a lot of exciting "incidents" in it, as well as offering
the usual thrilling race over the cobbles. It's hotly contested with
a field with a lot of great stars. Highly recommended.