Sunday 13th saw the welcome return for the fifth edition of Raphas 'Hell of the North' ride. A now annual occurrence on the lanes & gravel tracks of Hertfordshire, the event serves as a fitting tribute to the queen of the classics, the Paris-Roubaix race. 
The day involved navigating with a route card through a sun-soaked 70 miles consisting of gravel tracks, muddy forest trails, winding country lanes and some of Hertfordshires roughest (and smoothest in parts) tarmac.
Perhaps the most notable addition to this years event, which in my opinion has been the very best of all past routes, was the surprise at the feed station... a lap of an outdoor velodrome! With the H-Van duly parked in the centre serving a much needed caffeine kick to tired legs (not to mention those juicy oranges) riders entered the outdoor velodrome at Welwyn Garden City and could live out their daydreams of a lap around the track, in my mind it was sunny and I could hear the crowds of Roubaix! In actual reality Blandine & I just rolled round practicing out victory celebrations :)
Blandine has it dialled!
With the weather being particularly well-behaved of late we escaped any smattering of Belgian Toothpaste, in fact just a modest amount of filth compared to years previous. Admittedly I have to say, I much prefer it this way, im not one for being a mud-junkie, nice to get home with non-claggy mechs and cables! 
Anyway, the event was muchos perfect, id highly recommend downloading the gpx file above from the website and giving it a blast yourself. Of particular highlights were the lanes after Welwyn, super nice through a forest and then out into some peachy lowlands. tasty indeed. 
Ending with a well earned leffe beer & frites at a pub in the recesses of a sun-drenched Barnet is always a decent way to finish a ride. Actually, I indulged in neither, and had another 20 miles or so to get back to the dusky corners of West London, but it was so ace to see a slew of riders kicking back in the sun to watch the possibly one of the most exciting finales to Roubaix i can remember for the past few years. Bravo to our friends over in Kings Cross for putting on such a cracker of a ride. I dearly look forward to the sixth edition!
*addendum - yet again I failed to complete the whole course. A combination of a fashionably late depart from Ponds Sq, coupled with a desire to see the race unfold led to my partner in crime Blanders & I craftily traversing from Velodrome to pub via a secret shortcut. YES we know we suck, and that's the beauty of this event... iv NEVER managed the whole route as there's always an incident, be it punctures, exploding rear derailleurs, or in this case, laziness ;)

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