When DM Hall heard our very own super cycling champ, Mark O?۪Neill, was taking part in The Hell of The North, one word came to mind??_CRAZY!
After allowing him to recover mentally and physically, we had the pleasure of catching up with him to ask him some questions which we’re sure were on most of your minds.
Q: When did you take part in this years?۪ Hell of The North?
A: Saturday 12th April
Q: How many hours training did you do prior to the cycle?
A: No more than usual would be the truth. I’ve been training all winter as normal. Typically a week consists of 2, one hour hard indoor sessions and a long club ride on a Sunday which can range from 70 – 100 miles. The roads in the west of Scotland are well pot holed and offer plenty of opportunities to replicate the conditions we faced
Q: How much did you raise for CHAS?
A: ?330 – a big thanks to all those who donated!
Q: What was the highlight of the race?
A: Lots of highlights – Belgian beer and frites in the Roubaix velodrome, finishing the last section of pave, flying over the Trouee d’Arenberg section. Beating some of my not so svelte club mates over the timed sections of pave. French tarmac between sections. Exchanging compliments with some Dutch fans while watching the Pros race on the Sunday, all really good memories. However the best highlight has to be entering and doing our finishing half lap of the Velodrome as a group of 13. Felt as close to being a Pro as I’ll ever get. For the golfers out there, think walking up the 18th at Augusta to the applause of the galleries.
Q: Where there any particular lowlights?
A: Finishing the Camphin-en-Pevele section which was full on and having no sensation in my hands to know I still had the Carrefour de I’Arbre section, which is considered to be the toughest section, less than 3 minutes away. Teeth gritted and race face on at that point (see picture below!) and the 3.30am alarm call to go ride a bike was not fun.
Q: How long did it take you to complete?
A: I rode as part of Johnstone Wheelers and we had decided to ride as a group, waiting for the weaker riders to catch up after each section and doing the feed stops properly, rather than every man for himself. I don’t know the exact time however around 8 hours was mentioned for a group time.
Q: “Hell of the North” is a slang term for a one-day bicycle race originally from Paris to Roubaix that includes many sections of cobbled roads, sections that often lead to damaged bikes, falls and unexpected race results. Tell us Mark, did you fall off your bike?
A: No!!! The weather was kind to us and as a result the cobbles were not as slippy as they could have been. I will admit I was concerned about coming off the bike or having a serious mechanical. Generally, there were few cycling mishaps, both machines and riders stood up remarkably well. From a group of 13 we had to content with only 1 puncture, 1 dropped bottle and 1 slipped chain.
Q: Would you do it again?
A: Most definitely NO. That particular box does not need ticking twice. This was a tough one. Not so much for the legs, the distance was never a concern. I finished thinking I had another 50 -60 miles in me. It’s your hands and arms as well as the rest of your upper body that takes the punishment. You are systematically worn down over the course of the route. There is nowhere to hide and no short cuts. I enjoyed the experience and the sense of personal and collective achievement but I have no burning urge to revisit the delights of Paris – Roubaix. Pave is hell.
Well done Mark!
Mark O’Neill is an Energy Performance Certificate specialist based at our Glasgow North Branch, Charing Cross, Glasgow.