Paris-Roubaix

Paris-Roubaix (also known as The Hell of the North), takes place on the second Sunday in April and is one of the most gruelling one-day races in the cycling calendar. Over the course of approximately 250km, riders have to contend with numerous sections of cobblestones of varying lengths (many of them more than 2,000m in length). Conditions can vary from blazing sunshine to ankle-deep mud.

The photographs in this gallery were taken in 2010, in the area around the Trouée d’Arenberg – one of the most notorious sections of the race. Because of the year-round tree cover, moss grows freely on the cobbles, making them extremely slippery. In 1998, champion Belgian cyclist Johan Museeuw crashed in the Arenberg Forest, and the leg wound became gangrenous. Despite almost losing the limb, he returned to cycling and went on to win the race in 2000 and 2002.

As I’m not exactly set up to take action photographs, I decided on this occasion to concentrate on the cycling fans that make this such a hugely enjoyable event. I struggle with my confidence when it comes to taking portraits – particularly of strangers – but, seeing as this can be a fairly alcohol-fuelled event, I figured I would find people reasonably amenable to my requests to photograph them. I was right.

I also filmed a short piece about this race for the Filmwasters videocast.