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Paris - Roubaix

Behind The Lens with Russ Ellis

Paris - Roubaix

Behind The Lens with Russ Ellis

Paris-Roubaix is perhaps the cycling world's most famous one-day race. Starting in Compiègne and weaving up the old Napoleonic cobbled roads to the Belgian border, the race finishes in the iconic velodrome at Roubaix. Famed for it's drama and it's status as an ordeal of a race, we talked to professional cycling photographer Russ Ellis to get his unique perspective on the Queen of the Classics.

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Paris-Roubaix is probably the one race that all classics riders want on their palmares. It’s a mythical and romantic event that is the epitome of bike racing.

Near enough a quarter of the race dishes out suffering over the brutal pavé of Northern France, whilst the weather, wind and dust throw all predictions up in the air. Finishing with betrayal or triumph in Roubaix's old velodrome, it’s the perfect race

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With a race like Roubaix, you just want to capture everything about it. The riders at the start line with their hands and wrists bandaged up ready to try and negate the pain of the upcoming cobbles, the wild crowds of spectators, riders kicking up the dust, and the pain etched onto their faces - it’s all iconic.

Then, once the race is over, the aftermath of riders sat on the grass in the velodrome covered in the dirt of Northern France always makes for a dramatic insight into what this race is truly about.

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Photographing the action on the cobbles is what this race is about. There are the sections that you really try to get you best images because these are the images that people want to see, but largely, they just make the photos a little more epic!

As cyclists know how hard the cobbles are to ride on so when you see images of the pro’s smashing along on them it’s just great.

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The cobbles of Roubaix are far rougher than those of Flanders - they are more uneven, more spaced out and just much harder to ride.

Some teams stick with their standard road tyres for Flanders but will opt for more robust tyres for Roubaix, which marks it out as being something special.

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Weather always seems to play a role in the classics. I’ve never shot a wet Roubaix as there hasn’t been a wet Roubaix since 2002.

I would love and hate to shoot a wet Roubaix; the drama of the images would be incredible, but the prospect of ruining all my camera gear and cornering wet cobbles on the motorbike puts me off wishing for it. Dust add's it's own charm to the race though.

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The Arenberg Forest has got to be my favourite section of pave. It’s just an iconic straight line of the most bone shaking cobbles. It’s really striking in person, but it doesn’t lend easily to photography.

For a wild atmosphere the Carrefour de l’Arbre is probably the most standout stretch of pavé for photography. If I had to make only one stop, it would be there - it's late in the race and the spectators are in there thousands. By then, it's also only really the likely winners that are battling it out.

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The first three Roubaix’s that I photographed I did so by car and for sure that was difficult as the spectators jump around the course so that they can watch the race multiple times.

You end up in traffic jams and it makes it very hard to do more than three or four stops. Because Roubaix takes in old Napoleonic cobbled roads, taking conventional roads and using a car doesn’t really work that well for covering the race.

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_


Last year was my first on a moto and we didn’t really use roads as such. We went through fields and through forest paths and all sorts of crazy roads that aren’t on maps to get ahead of the race.

The key is having a moto pilot that knows the area well and a good plan of where you want to stop ahead of the race. Last year we made 12 or more stops, which means you capture so much more of the race.

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_

The Velodrome finish sets Roubaix apart - it’s just something completely different. It adds a bit of drama I think. I guess it’s a bit like gladiators entering the Colosseum; all the spectators in the arena surround them 360 degrees, cheering while they have to slug it out over one a half laps to secure a place in history.

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Paris-Roubaix is perhaps the cycling world's most famous one-day race. Starting in Compiègne and weaving up the old Napoleonic cobbled roads to the Belgian border, the race finishes in the iconic velodrome at Roubaix. Famed for its drama status as cycling's 'last folly' rather than just a race, we talked to professional cycling photographer Russ Ellis to get his unique perspective on the Queen of the Classics.

_

Paris-Roubaix is probably the one race that all classics riders want on their palmares. It’s a mythical and romantic event that's the epitome & extreme of bike racing.

Near enough a quarter of the race dishes out suffering over the brutal pavé of Northern France, whilst the weather, wind and dust throw all predictions up in the air. Finishing with betrayal or triumph in Roubaix's old velodrome, it’s the perfect race.

_

_

You just want to capture everything about it. The riders at the start line with their hands and wrists bandaged up ready to try and negate the pain of the upcoming cobbles, the wild crowds of spectators, riders kicking up the dust, and the pain etched onto their faces - it’s iconic.

Once the race is over, the aftermath of riders sat on the grass in the velodrome, traumatised & covered in the dirt of Northern France always makes for a dramatic insight into what this race is truly about.

_

_


"Coming from the Southern Hemisphere into a Northern Hemisphere race calendar, I think the only real challenge is not doing too many races throughout December and January when it's peak racing season in NZ. If you manage that well then I think there are only benefits from living down here throughout the European winter. It makes it easy going out for training in sunny warm weather, especially since this is the time for base training with lots of kilometres."

_

_


Photographing the action on the cobbles is what this race is about. There are the sections that you really try to get the best images because these are the images that people want to see, but largely, they just make the photos a little more epic!

Having ridden on cobbles you know how hard they are to ride on so when you see images of the pros smashing along them at twice the speed of an amateur, it’s just great.

_

_


"Coming from the Southern Hemisphere into a Northern Hemisphere race calendar, I think the only real challenge is not doing too many races throughout December and January when it's peak racing season in NZ. If you manage that well then I think there are only benefits from living down here throughout the European winter. It makes it easy going out for training in sunny warm weather, especially since this is the time for base training with lots of kilometres."

_

_

The cobbles of Roubaix are far rougher than those of Flanders - they are more uneven, more spaced out and much harder to ride.

Some teams stick with their standard road tyres for Flanders but will opt for more robust, wider tyres for Roubaix.

_

_


"Coming from the Southern Hemisphere into a Northern Hemisphere race calendar, I think the only real challenge is not doing too many races throughout December and January when it's peak racing season in NZ. If you manage that well then I think there are only benefits from living down here throughout the European winter. It makes it easy going out for training in sunny warm weather, especially since this is the time for base training with lots of kilometres."

_

_

Weather always seems to play a role in the classics. I’ve never shot a wet Roubaix as there hasn’t been one since 2002.

I would love and hate to shoot a wet Roubaix; the drama of the images would be incredible, but the prospect of ruining all my camera gear and cornering wet cobbles on the motorbike puts me off wishing for it.

_

_


The Arenberg Forest has got to be my favourite section of pave. It’s just an iconic straight line of the most bone shaking cobbles. It’s really striking in person, but it doesn’t lend easily to photography.

The Carrefour de l’Arbre is probably the most standout stretch of pavé for photography. If I had to make only one stop, it would be there - it's late in the race and the spectators are in their thousands. By then, it's also only really the likely winners that are battling it out.

_

_


"Coming from the Southern Hemisphere into a Northern Hemisphere race calendar, I think the only real challenge is not doing too many races throughout December and January when it's peak racing season in NZ. If you manage that well then I think there are only benefits from living down here throughout the European winter. It makes it easy going out for training in sunny warm weather, especially since this is the time for base training with lots of kilometres."

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James Fouché - NZL - 20

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"Having won the New Zealand national championships, I am really excited and roaring to get racing to show my new jersey off. It's always been a dream of mine wear the Silver Fern, so for it to become a reality is beyond words."

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The first three Roubaixs that I photographed I did so by car and for sure that was difficult as the spectators jump around the course so that they can watch the race multiple times.

You end up in traffic jams and it makes it very hard to do more than three or four stops. Because Roubaix takes in old Napoleonic cobbled roads, taking conventional roads and using a car doesn’t really work that well for covering the race.

_

 
_


"Coming from the Southern Hemisphere into a Northern Hemisphere race calendar, I think the only real challenge is not doing too many races throughout December and January when it's peak racing season in NZ. If you manage that well then I think there are only benefits from living down here throughout the European winter. It makes it easy going out for training in sunny warm weather, especially since this is the time for base training with lots of kilometres."

_

_


Last year was my first on a moto and we didn’t really use roads as such. We went through fields and through forest paths and all sorts of crazy roads that aren’t on maps to get ahead of the race.

The key is having a moto pilot that knows the area well and a good plan of where you want to stop ahead of the race. Last year we made 12 or more stops, which means you capture so much more of the race.

_

_

 

The Velodrome finish sets Roubaix apart - it’s just something completely different. It adds a bit of drama I think. I guess it’s a bit like gladiators entering the Colosseum; all the spectators in the arena surround them, cheering while they have to slug it out over one a half laps to secure a place in history.

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"On the other hand, getting stuck with a long term perspective often leads you off track in the short term. Because you are focused on a big target, recognising when you're starting to head off track is harder, and it can be a little while before you notice there is a problem.

This is most commonly found when people over-train and don’t realise it until it is too late, by which time they need to take some time off and recover before getting back to the program."

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It’s hard to pick out a favourite moment at Roubaix - as a photographer, you are so busy trying to get around the race and make it to the velodrome that it all blends into one. Shooting my first Roubaix would be a highlight though - it was stepping up.

The best Paris-Roubaix I’ve shot was probably 2018’s. Sagan took the win and it seemed like it was a race that he had been destined to triumph at. Being there to photograph the moment he crossed the line felt special, like watching one of the greats.

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It’s hard to pick out a favourite moment at Roubaix - as a photographer, you are so busy trying to get around the race and make it to the velodrome that it all blends into one. Shooting my first Roubaix would be a highlight though - it was stepping up.

The best Paris-Roubaix I’ve shot was probably 2018’s. Sagan took the win and it seemed like it was a race that he had been destined to triumph at. Being there to photograph the moment he crossed the line felt special, like watching one of the greats.

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Covering Paris-Roubaix once more this year, Russ will be rattling over the cobbles on the back of a motorbike to get the best shots. Keep up to date with his work in the pro-peloton by following him on Instagram. Alternatively, check out his work on our Autumn Winter 2018 Shoot in our Lookbook.

With the team targeting top level performances in the coming year, we look forward to hearing more from our riders throughout the season, with their insight on the pro-circuit and its demands. With the first race of the season approaching fast, we'll be bringing you news of how the team get on at the Tour of Antalya UCI 2.2 race.


Covering Paris-Roubaix once more this year, Russ will be rattling over the cobbles on the back of a motorbike to get the best shots. Keep up to date with his work in the pro-peloton by following him on Instagram. Alternatively, check out his work on our Autumn Winter 2018 Shoot in our Lookbook.