Talkingshop: Jon Dibben heading for Roubaix

Hargroves Cycles place two riders in Great Britain Team for Junior Paris Roubaix, Jon Dibben & Sam Lowe

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After fourth last year, one of Britain’s top juniors, Jon Dibben (Hargroves Cycles) heads back across the water in April to try and emulate the achievements of Geraint Thomas, Andy Fenn, Dan Mclay and Ian Stannard who have all been on the podium in the Junior Paris-Roubaix race and are now racing in Europe. Jon will be joined in the team by Hargroves Cycles teammate Sam Lowe. Other riders are Tao Geoghegan Hart, Oliver Wood, Chris Latham and Harry Tanfield.

Jon is currently mixing it up with college and training and VeloUK spoke exclusively to him this afternoon about the race that takes place the same day as the pros ride (April 8) which means the juniors will get to soak up the atmosphere the pros will have a little later in the day.

The race Jon agrees, is totally different to any other race, here or in Europe and because it’s on the same roads as the pros, the junior riders and the result of the race, is given a lot more respect worldwide.

Think Belgium, think cobbles but Paris-Roubaix is different again says Jon. “I’ve ridden cobbles in kermesses in Belgium” Jon explained “but last year in Roubaix was the first time I’d ridden proper cobbles. The way the race panned out last year, it’s the one race where if you don’t ride on the front, you haven’t got a chance.”

“Towards the end, the breaks go and the moves are made but even after only three or four sections of cobbles, the peloton is halved. The race will be lined out across the cobbles and there will be crashes and people just getting shelled.”

“After three sections of cobbles last year, the bunch was halved in size. I remember looking around after five sections last year and thinking where ‘has everyone gone’; they’d all been shelled.”

The cobbled sections are hard for the riders for two reasons; 1, because there is a race for position before the section starts, and then 2, the cobbles themselves are very unforgiving when racing over them full gas.

“You are just racing so hard all the time” Jon says. “In some races, you might roll along for half an hour and not a lot happens but in Roubaix, it’s full on!”

“The juniors do 16 sections of cobbles and in 2011, over the last five, the break formed but before that, for ten or eleven sections you just have to fight before every section to get good position” Jon explained. “Last year it was the first Nations Cup I’d ridden as well and going into the first section of cobbles, it was like a bunch finish!”

Sam Lowe, a teammate of Jon’s who is heading for Roubaix as well.

“During the first 40k with everyone fresh, everyone is going for it and there are crashes all over the shop. The first thirty or fourty k is carnage.”

Asked did he learn from the race last year a technique that worked for him on the cobbles, he replied “grip the bars as loosely as you can because if you hold them tight, all you end up doing is taking every bump through your fingers and hands. There will be times when you’ll crap yourself because you think you’re going to fall off!”

Gear selection is also key and it isn’t just stick it in the biggest gear and roll with it as Jon explained. “On the first section of cobbles last year, I thought I’ll go in on a big gear and I ended up being on too big a gear so you just need to find the right gear and race it across.”

Jon goes on to say that it was a massive learning experience riding it last year. “For Roubaix, you have to ride it to know what it’s going to be like because it isn’t like other normal races. It isn’t just about how fast you can smash it over the cobbles a few times; you have to do it 16 times and you have to be able to recover and keep going over those cobbles and 100k in have enough strength to hold the bars”.

It certainly sounds like a very intense race and for it, Jon will be racing his Hargroves Cycles ‘Specialized S Works’ bike. Not a lot will be different about it for Roubaix he says. Some gels under the bar tape and ‘pave’ tyres that are bigger (25mm) than normal tubs or tyres is about the extent of the changes.

The race though is still three weeks away so Jon will continue to mix college and training with Andy Hargroves. This weekend, Jon will be in Belgium thanks to the efforts of John Barclay, the person who has been taking young riders across the channel for many many years, way before GB decided it would be a good idea … credit to John for all the work he does!


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