The Paris-Roubaix trophy

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Slosse is a family-owned stonemason business from Orchies in northern France, a cobblestone’s throw from the route of Sunday’s race in Orchies. The company was started by 1898 and has flourished since, these days supplying everything from bathroom tiles to tombstones and shiny bank atriums.

But it has a tiny sideline and for the past ten years it has supplied the trophy for Paris-Roubaix. Some races offer gold trophies, some have silver cups, but Paris-Roubaix rewards the winner with a block of stone.

At first our only worry was that the cobble could fall off when the winner lifted the trophy above his head

The company’s Bertrand Duhem goes out every year to look for the trophy, hunting in ditches and roadside verges. These are real cobbles but unlike some hooligan fans looting the countryside, Duhem doesn’t rip the stones out of the road. Instead the countryside is full of fields and many farmers dig them up and place the awkward stones by the side of the field so they can plough, sow and reap without these vast stones mangling their machinery. Duhem only has to harvest these discarded stones. “I get the best, the most square. This year I got them in Tilloy and Brillon“, he told French newspaper La Voix du Nord.

Once back in the workshop, Duhem’s colleague Jean-Jacques Allou takes over.  The first job is the base on which the stone will sit and this is from local stone too, in this case a “blue” stone from the area. Normally grey, when polished the stone does take on a blue tone. In total Allou makes about 20 a year, no word on who gets them but there’s a junior edition, an U-23 race and maybe some VIPs get one as well. But they’re still exclusive, “we’ve got a deal with the Amis du Paris-Roubaix not to sell them” says Allou, even if a few entrepreneurs offer copycat versions for tourists.

Hard as stone

Once a cyclist, these days a runner, Allou says “it’s the only race of the year that I’ll go and watch. After, I go home and turn on the TV“. To make the sure the cobble doesn’t land on the winner’s head?

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{ 21 comments }

Ian April 10, 2012 at 9:48 am

Is there a better or more appropriate trophy in any sport ? Can’t think of one of the top of my head.

Leigh April 10, 2012 at 10:37 am

Whilst I agree it is the most appropriate, the Bell from Bell’s beach (surfing) is a close second.

Ankush April 10, 2012 at 10:38 am

or a better blog in any other sport? I can’t think of any too

ToTheBillyoh April 10, 2012 at 10:39 am

Ian. Well said. Best trophy I can think of. Great race this year, I really appreciated Vansummeren’s spirited defence. Yet another Belgian giving his all for the best race of the year.

David Mclean April 10, 2012 at 11:39 am

“a cobblestone’s throw from the route..” – By my guess that would be about 36cm then!

Good post.

Gavin April 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm

The Trophy and the story behind it is fantastic – has so much more meaning than a lump of semi-precious metal which just wouldn’t do the race justice.

Gatorbike April 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I read your blog to start my day, thank you for yet another GREAT DAY !!!!!!! I always wondered about the trophy. I thank you from CANADA !!!!!!!!

Scott April 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm

What’s an atriuma?! Plural of atrium is atria (or atriums).

The Inner Ring April 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Thanks for the comments, be sure to see click to La Voix du Nord because even if you don’t get the French, you can see a photo of Allou at work on the cobblestone prize.

Scott: don’t know how that crept in. I think my spellchecker tried to change it but I prefer the “S” for plural of latin words.

Mpls TT April 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Another reason to clikc-on the La Voix du Nord Article: A little further down the page, there is a link to 70 pictures from Sunday’s race. Some of these pictures are really good.

Chris April 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Without wishing to detract from the Paris-Roubaix trophy (which is clearly brilliant) my favourite prize in cycling has to be the giant wheel of cheese from today’s race, the considerably less prestigious Paris-Camembert. There’s just something about the absurdity of giving large amounts of cheese to skinny bike riders that appeals to me. I wonder what they do with it all!

Ian April 10, 2012 at 5:27 pm

@chris – they need to ship that Camembert to me I’ll take care of it !

Ian April 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm

@Ankush – good shout

Steve April 10, 2012 at 5:55 pm

As a side, In a particularly wet race they might think of adding some mud on the to top of the “rock” just for effect during the podium event.

In Northern California we have an annual MB race in called the “Downieville Classic”
Pro mens first place gets a gold nugget.

Messenger Dad April 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Fantastic! It’s all the hidden people and stories like this that make Roubaix so special. Thankyou for finding and sharing.

Owen April 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Isn’t there a race, or was it a stage last year, which awards the winner his own weight in red wine?

Now that’d do me, I’m not a cheese fan.

Roadie61 April 11, 2012 at 12:01 am

What could be better than a symbolic piece of the road battled for the win? And that the stone is actually chosen from the discarded cobbles in the fields of farmers pays homage to the actual roads of the race.

Love the history of this race and the story of how each cobble comes to be “the one” to mount on the trophy. Thanks for the background stories of these Classics races that we don’t read elsewhere.

I found it amusing that JV Summeren had a tough time with the “clean and jerk” of the cobble overhead last year; no such trouble for Tommeke:)

I’m also partial to the Tour of Flanders trophy, as this artfully sculpted piece of metal seems to be an appropriate metaphor for the sharp curves and ruggedness of this race.

MrTapir April 11, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Good photos, and fantastic article. I like the fact that Bertrand Duhem goes to look for the trophies in the countryside. Also is there not a race where the winner gets a goat or some sort of livestock?

Ian April 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm

so we’ve got a cobble, a gold nugget, cheese, a goat!, weight in red wine, a bell and some sculpted metal so far. I’m going to put it out on twitter (via @ianstreet67) and see what else.

Messenger Dad April 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm

The winner of the Tro-Bro Léon in Brittany gets a piglet!

Nick Squillari April 13, 2012 at 7:45 am

Come on, Amstel Gold – winner gets weight in beer!

If I’m honest though…would still take a cobble.

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