As another Tasmanian town turned to mountain biking to crank economic prosperity, die-hard cycling fans prepared for the greatest one-day race in the world: Paris-Roubaix.
The 'couch peloton' assumed its customary position but this time over two evenings instead of one.
Outside of the Tour de France, the 'Hell of the North' is the most famous of all with sheer determination and guts required to conquer 30 sections of pavé - pavers or cobblestones left behind following modernisation of France after World War II.
The removal of pavé was halted in 1977 ensuring the uniqueness of a race that was first staged in 1896 remained.
For the men, the 118th edition of Paris-Roubaix was a war of attrition over 257.7 gruelling kilometres with 55 of those over pavé of varying condition.
The cobblestones are ranked in order of difficulty from one to five with the nineteenth cobbled sector: Trouée d'Arenberg (Trench of Arenberg) over 2.3 kilometres at the 164.4-kilometre mark arguably the most famous although that may be a biased view based upon our love of McLaren Vale shiraz.
Trouée d'Arenberg was built during the Napoleon period, late 18th Century, and is still used by locals as a thoroughfare. The cobblestones are old and jagged and of various shapes and sizes with gaps between and, although road bikes used in this race are more robust, it presents an extreme bike handling challenge for professional racers.
Those in the know spoke regularly of bike-handling and of competitors from a cyclo-cross background, a discipline less known in this country but just as big as road, track, and mountain biking across Europe.
Cyclo-cross involves using a road-styled bike assembled with thicker tyres to tackle undulating terrain including sand and gravel and ruts and grass and, as suggested, requiring supreme balance and decision-making in the face of challenging obstacles.
Cycling has changed Tasmania, and not surprisingly there was a local connection to 'The Queen of the Classics'.
For the first time in history a new race took place in 2021 - the Paris-Roubaix Femmes. The women raced over 115.6 kilometres with 17 stages (29.5km) of pavé including two five-star sectors.
And competing in the inaugural event, Nicole Frame, of Launceston, who finished 63rd of 129 starters, although she crossed the line just 20 seconds outside the cut-off time highlighting the brutality of the race.
Ms Frame took to Instagram to share the experience of her day in the saddle: "My hands with blisters made riding the cobbles so painful I could grit my teeth and hope for the end of each sector soon. But I didn't even feel the last one, riding into the velodrome was surreal," she eloquently posted.
There is a 25-metre section of the Archery Fire Trail at Trevallyn Recreation Area that we fondly describe as Paris-Roubaix - navigated on mountain bikes with heavy-duty suspension in the rear and significant travel in the front protecting our frames over a very short distance.
There are also sections of Derby's Return to Sender enjoyed after a decent climb that we describe fondly as the cobblestones when in fact they are giant slabs of uncompromising North East granite. Traversing a five-star sector of pavé on centuries old roads is incomprehensible and must be full of pain no matter how well trained.
Grand Tours such as the Tour de France and one-day bicycle races like Paris-Roubaix continue to ignite the imagination of onlookers and tourists as much as they do the couch peloton.
The built environment of Europe will always be an attraction for visitors with the wine and food and culture and art only adding to the experience which is showcased on SBS Television each year during the classics.
And while Europe may have its old-world charms, Tasmania presents a canvas of natural beauty and the heritage of the world's oldest and most continuous culture caring for country for more than 60,000 years.
While Europe may have its old-world charms, Tasmania presents a canvas of natural beauty and the heritage of the world's oldest and most continuous culture caring for country for more than 60,000 years.
The transformation of towns across Tasmania driven by bicycle enthusiasm and tourism has been extraordinary with million-dollar shacks and fine food combined with Cuban espressos, almond milk half-strength chai lattes, and pizzas and pastries far more decadent than a local meat pie with 'dead horse' but just as moreish.
We have always had pinot and sparkling but now we have craft beers and spirits in places where 15 years ago you would not have dared not ask for anything other than a pot of Boag's Draught.
In fact, not that long ago, you patted the publican's dog before heading behind the bar of a local to serve yourself another drink, leaving your money on the counter to be collected as part of a customary and uniquely Tasmanian honesty system.
The Paris-Roubaix Femmes is an extraordinary addition to a European bike-racing reason that continues to capture the imagination of Australians. However, with the impact of COVID-19 destroying any plans to join the tours on offer to part-experience the 'hell' professional riders endure, we once again turn to the one of the most beautiful places on the planet - Tasmania. Alas, we will just have to settle for continuous shuttles, luxury mountain bike tours, and dining delights just minutes from our homes.
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