“I think Roubaix is the Hunger Games” – the tale of how Cyrus Monk survived the Hell of the North

Cyrus Monk had only one thing on his mind as he navigated the trenches of his maiden Paris-Roubaix: “Keep riding!”

And ride he did! For six hours, 14 minutes, and 16 seconds, the bulk of it alone, Cyrus battled the punishing cobblestone sectors, the searing pain in his legs, and the looming spectre of the broom wagon on his wheel.

8 April 2024. Author: Eva Tome
@Chris Auld

Almost an hour after the winner Mathieu van der Poel, Cyrus Monk, in the colours of Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team, entered the iconic Roubaix Velodrome. He was the 128th and last rider to complete the 2024 Paris-Roubaix. The result sheet captions his monumental feat as Hors Délai (out of the time limit), but what our resilient Australian did is timeless: he honoured the Queen of the Classics by riding to the bitter end and crossing that finish line.

This is his story.

At the start line in Compiègne, about to embark on his first Paris-Roubaix and second Monument of his career, Cyrus was raring to go and seize the prized honour of racing one of the most gruelling and prestigious bike races in the world. He knew the mammoth challenge that lay ahead: 48 hours earlier, he experienced the first sting of the cobbles as he crashed during the recon of the course and further dented his already heavily scarred body from a loaded classics campaign with plenty of rough hits on the tarmac. His spirit, however, was undeterred. The opportunity to star in the Hell of the North doesn’t come often for pro-cyclists, and despite its daunting nature, it’s equally, if not more, thrilling.

@Eva Tome
@Chris Auld

The best piece of advice I ever got about Paris-Roubaix is to just keep riding!

At 27-years-old, Cyrus was about to tick off another milestone in his career, and he had done his homework:

“The best piece of advice I ever got about Paris-Roubaix is to just keep riding! It was the advice Matt Hayman used to win his Roubaix and the one everyone who has ever won this race has had, I think. There’s always going to be something that goes wrong, you’re going to have some kind of incident, and I don’t think anybody gets through unscathed, but you have to keep riding,” said Cyrus standing outside the team bus. These words, shared moments before departure, would prove pivotal a few hours later when things did indeed go wrong.

After going all out to make the breakaway in the opening kilometres, fate dealt Cyrus a harsh blow with a puncture in the first cobbled sector taking the wind out of his golden mullet and spatting him off the back of the bunch.

Riding the cobbles is an art form Cyrus had to learn to master upon moving to Europe from Australia several years ago to pursue his dream of becoming a professional cyclist. The buttery smooth tarmac of the roads Down Under does little to prepare aspiring classic riders for the roughness of the terrain they encounter on the brutal roads of the classics in Belgium and France.

“You’re trying to ride with the worst airplane turbulence you’ve ever had! You can’t really see much because your eyes are rattling so much in your head. It sounds like your bike is falling apart in every sector, but then you get through it somehow. They really are rougher than anything I have seen anywhere else in the world!”

After riding the full first sector with a puncture, Cyrus got a wheel change from a team mechanic, put his head down, and chased the bunch as hard and fast as he could. He knew that that one mishap had probably sealed his fate in the race, and it was unlikely he would make it back to the bunch as they were flying at over 45 km/h on average.

“I just had one thing in my head: ‘just keep riding’. I had a lot of shit go wrong, which I assume happens to a lot of people, but I didn’t make it this far by giving up when things didn’t go my way, so I figured I’d just keep going. I knew I was going to be a long way behind when I was riding on flat tyres for that long, but it was good to do some recon for next year.”


You can’t really see much because your eyes are rattling so much inside your head”

Cyrus kept pushing the pedals on his Scott Foil with the tenacity that has carried him through many harrowing races. DNF’ing is not part of his DNA, and time and time again, the Australian has battled physical injury, untimely mechanicals, and mental demons and stubbornly made it across the finish line in races that claim countless hard men of the peloton.

For Cyrus, the race to beat the race started on a patch of muddy cobbles on the Troisville sector, and his perseverance carried him through the convoy as he navigated the unparalleled chaos of the Hell of the North. He caught straggling riders that had been hit by misfortune of their own and slowly but surely made his way to the front line.

Things were looking more optimistic for Cyrus as he hit the midway point of the race, but a double puncture on the Trouée d’Arenberg proved to be the proverbial coup de grâce. Forced to ride on the rims, he bled minute after minute in the eternal shadows of the most iconic forest in professional cycling.

“Honestly, mentally it was not that hard. I was just thinking ‘keep riding’, but it was disappointing to not be able to do anything in the race after the punctures, but that’s Roubaix!”

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I think Roubaix is The Hunger Games. Every sector is like the cannon going off and someone gets killed. “

The chase for a result was long gone, but the determination to finish what he started carried Cyrus through the remaining cobblestone sectors. His will to carry on, despite being the last rider on the road, fuelled his resolve to not step into the Broom Wagon. He would not yield. His blonde mullet flying solo, a beacon of resilience amidst the dust and mud.

At long last, 48 minutes and 18 seconds after Van der Poel claimed his second Paris-Roubaix trophy, Australian Cyrus Monk crossed the finish line. With exhaustion etched into every crease of his face and a fine cloak of dust and mud covering his spent body, the warrior from Warragul finally stopped pedalling. The last man standing, the Lantern Rouge.

“I think Roubaix is The Hunger Games. I think everyone at home just wants to watch us suffer, and every sector is like the cannon going off and someone gets killed. For me, that was the first sector, and it was 29 sectors of hell after that,” stated Cyrus reflecting on his gruesome journey.

Paris-Roubaix plays second fiddle to no race. It’s a race of grit, suffering, and resilience. It tests the limits of even the most hardened men of the peloton. Every year it claims countless victims across its merciless cobblestone sectors and windswept farm roads of northern France. This year was no different, but the Aussie mullet of Cyrus Monk refused to stop flying.

Hors Delai is but an asterisk in an inspiring story of fighting against all odds. From here on, Cyrus ‘Monument’ Monk will forever be able to say: I finished Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North.