Paris-Roubaix: Blood, tears, cobbles -- how to ride the 'Hell of the North'

Welcome to 'The Hell of the North'
Welcome to 'The Hell of the North'

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    Welcome to 'The Hell of the North'

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Welcome to 'The Hell of the North' 01:25

Story highlights

  • Paris-Roubaix is a one-day road race
  • Cyclists race across northern France
  • Race is nicknamed the "Hell of the North"

(CNN)Cobblestones, crashes, mud and blood. It is a race riders love to hate it that has been dubbed "the Hell of the North" -- but how do you negotiate one of the world's craziest cycling routes?

Paris-Roubaix is a bike race like no other. It's a bumpy 257.5 kilometer ride from the north of Paris to Roubaix, near the Belgian border.
The Napoleonic cobblestones that line roughly 56km of the race make for a rocky ride, while the thousands of flag-waving fans who line the route create a carnival atmosphere.
    Netherlands' Niki Terpstra sits after falling during the 115th edition of the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic.
    This prestigious one-day road race, first held in 1896, finishes in a 500m outdoor velodrome, ensuring a thrilling finale.
    It was a spectacular sprint finish which decided this year's race, with Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet -- who recovered from a crash with 100km remaining -- overtaking Czech Republic's Zdenek Stybar in the final meters.
    "I felt very good all day, even though I suffered a lot," Van Avermaet, the Olympic road race champion, told reporters. "With the victory now I don't feel the pain."
    Zdenek Stybar, Greg Van Avermaet and Sebastian Langeveld are pictured in a breakaway.

    Cobble on a plinth

    For his pain Van Avermaet also gets to take home one of sport's more unusual trophies -- a block of stone made by French company Slosse Marbrerie since 2002.
    After ditches and roadside verges have been scoured for the most appropriate piece of slab, a mason places the cobble on a plinth.
    Greg Van Avermaet kisses his cobble trophy after winning the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic cycling race.
    To find out how the world's best tackle such a daunting event, watch the video at the top of this page.