Billy Kidd

Trouée d’Arenberg – Ride out to the Arenberg Trench by Natasha Rook.

One of the best things about being a member of the SHAPE International Cycling Club is the weekend rides, where we get out on our bikes for longer stretches and discover more of the surrounding countryside. On Saturday, 16th September, a group of us headed across the border into France to visit the Arenberg Trench, one of the famous cobbled stretches of the Paris-Roubaix classic, known affectionately as L’Enfer du Nord or ‘Hell of the North’. We set off in perfect conditions, sunny with a slight chill and, after sadly losing Jason Lack to a puncture after less than 100m, settled into a scenic route taking in a stretch of the Ath-Blaton canal between Srambruges and Blaton. After about an hour of riding, we were joined by the very athletic Billy Kidd who had taken on a valiant chase, averaging 33kph, to catch us after setting off 10 minutes later (passing Jason and his spare inner tube en route!).

Soon after Billy joined the peloton, we crossed the border into France and breathed a sigh of relief as Belgian potholes were replaced by smooth tarmac. Our relief didn’t last long, however, as the route soon took us along some gravel paths. These were absolutely fine on my Trek Domane (built for endurance and comfort rather than speed) (Editor’s comment – the bike, not the author!) but there was a lot of moaning from the men on their immaculately maintained and very expensive racing bikes. Our Spanish companion, Esteban, even declared that Martin Hainz, who had organised the ride, was ‘off his friend list’ for sending us down such treacherous paths, and, succumbing to a puncture soon after, his dissatisfaction could be understood!

As mentioned, the ride had been organised by the wonderful Martin Hainz but sadly, after being struck down with a savage virus, he hadn’t joined us on his bike. We were soon approaching the infamous Arenberg Trench and imagine our delight, when Martin appeared at the entrance to the cobbled sector, with his car boot open. ‘Ravito!’ he declared as he plied us all with very welcome croissants, coffee and full-fat coke! What a legend!

Now came the chance to try out the legendary cobbles. The Trouée d’Arenberg is the first five-star cobbled sector in Paris-Roubaix with 2,300 metres of, ‘the worst cobble stones in all of professional cycling’1. Falling within the first 100km of the race, it is often the scene of its first decisive breakaways. The rough, uneven, slippery cobblestones are approached from a false-flat downhill and hit at ferocious speed, often causing mayhem, havoc and catastrophe with broken bikes as well as bones. I couldn’t resist the challenge, and, as my bike was built for cobbles, I had a go. I was told to ‘hit them fast’ so I got up as much speed as possible on the approach and then rattled around like a washing machine on spin cycle for a few hundred metres before veering onto the path beside them. Definitely fun for a few metres but not something I would want to endure for 55km like those that take on Paris-Roubaix! Still, we got some fantastic photos before heading back to Mons, with a well-deserved coffee stop along the way.


The route for the Arenberg Trench ride can be found at Club Routes. Those with expensive bikes will be relieved to know the gravel sections have been removed!

  1. Cycling News, ‘What is the Trouée d’Arenberg? Paris-Roubaix cobbles at their most iconic in Arenberg Forest’, Laura Weislo, 2023.
  2. This article first appeared in the October 2023 edition of SHAPE Community Life Magazine.
Billy Kidd

Top results for SICC in International 24-hour race

Over the weekend of 22-23 July 2023, the SICC racing team took part in a 24-hour cycle race on the famous Nordschleife of the Nürburgring, also known as the “Green Hell” due to its demanding course through the Eiffel forest. The 24-hour race, named “Rad am Ring”, celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, setting a new record with over 5,800 participants riding in various cycle categories under a registered 1,724 teams. The SICC team participated in the most demanding category, the 4-rider relay 24-hour race, the heart of the event in terms of number of participants and required level of performance, along with 770 other teams, completing 27 laps (705 kms) and finishing 15th overall while scoring 2nd in the Master 2 M (age group 40-50).  

Friday: Arrival.  On a windy Friday afternoon, the SICC team consisting of Kenneth, Nils, Pete and Mateusz traveled to the Nürburgring racetrack to set up the campsite for the next two days. The different teams each had a small lot along the racetrack, which would also be where the teams could change riders during the race. Pete’s caravan provided a nice base for the upcoming event with the possibility to sleep inside – for almost everyone. The evening included a tour of the track, final adjustments to the bikes, and team strategy discussions. With the length of each lap being 26 km and with 580 m of altitude, we decided on changing riders each lap, which turned out to be the same strategy as almost all of the other teams.

Saturday: Race Begins.  Despite never having participated in a race like this, the SICC team felt confident and positioned its starting rider Pete in the front row between similar teams with winning ambitions. Pete started the team off strong, completing the first part of the race while remaining in the leading group of the race. Each SICC team member that followed kept the high pace. In the beginning, there were big groups of riders together, but as time went by, the separation between the different levels of riders started to set in. It became important to look for riders of similar ability in order to draft their wheels and save energy. It also allowed the possibility to ride really fast on the descents reaching speeds of up to 103 km/h.

Saturday: Nightfall.  With darkness falling across the racetrack, the motivation and performance of the SICC team remained high. We were still among the top teams and the app showing the results and position of the different riders in real-time was checked constantly. Although we were becoming familiar with the route, 100% concentration was needed when riding up to 90 km/h downhill in the pitch dark night, with only our bike lights to light up the racetrack. Due to the combination of constant change of riders and adrenaline in the body, it was hard to fall asleep and no one on the team slept more than couple of hours combined throughout the night.

Sunday: Overcoming Fatigue and Finishing Strong.   The early morning of the second day was mentally the biggest challenge for the SICC team.  Temperatures dropped significantly during the night to a low of 12 degrees centigrade with wet wind in the Eifel. With these challenging conditions, the SICC team began to slightly struggle on the lap’s 5 km-long category 3 climb from Adenau to the Hohe Acht. However, the other teams were also getting tired, and the SICC team never lost faith in overcoming this most challenging portion of the race, digging deep to maintain our position in the race.  Kenneth, in particular, was able to impress his opponents and maintain fast laps until the end of the race.

Unfortunately, the rain showers and windy conditions in the end, regrettably, resulted in one fellow team’s member crashing on a fast descent requiring medical airlift and forcing the race’s organizers to make a hard decision to conclude the race after approximately 22 of the 24-hour race being completed.  Race conclusion saw the SICC team unwavering determination achieving an outstanding 2nd place in the Master 2 M (age group 40-50) competition, falling second to a team led by professional rider Karl PLATT, and placing 15th in the general classification of the 4-rider relay teams.

Team captain Nils expressed his satisfaction after the race: “We came here with 4 very strong riders, but we had little racing experience.  In the end, we played our cards perfectly. After a strong start, we deliberately kept the pace very high, which gave us prominence in the field and put the other teams under pressure.  The night was tough mentally, but we were fully motivated. We were expecting a plummet every lap, but we all had very strong legs today and were even able to respond well to the attack from the team in third on Sunday morning.  Thanks to everyone who cheered us on!  An amazing result, especially when you look at the starting field.  We’ve beaten a lot of the semi-professional teams.  Some of the other team’s had riders who had won international races and national titles in their careers, some even continental, or international titles.  We can be very proud today!”

The SICC team covered 27 laps in 22:07:30, which corresponds to a distance of 705 kms, while climbing an altitude of almost 16,000 meters. However, you do not have to be a top rider on a top team in order to participate in this event. There were riders of all abilities, and everyone was challenged during the race whether you were in first or last or last position. There was also a great social atmosphere among the teams, and many of the teams had participated in the event for several years and helpful in providing advice to us newcomers.

This article, written by Nils Tonndorf, originally appeared in the August 23 edition of SHAPE Community Life Magazine.