de Rooij: “It’s a bollocks this race! You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping, it’s a piece of shit…”
Tesh: “Will you ever ride it again?”
de Rooij: “Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!”
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 headThe 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.