01:25 - Source: CNN
Welcome to 'The Hell of the North'

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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.

“I get the best, the most square,” Bertrand Duhem told French newspaper La Voix du Nord in 2012, explaining his cobblestone selection criteria.

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.

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To find out how the world’s best tackle such a daunting event, watch the video at the top of this page.