Photo gallery: Carnage on the cobbles

258 kilometres, 51.5 of which are the most primitive stretches of road that professional cyclists will ever face. That Paris-Roubaix is brutal is an unquestioned fact.

Even on an unusually warm, dry spring day, the ancient pavé proves treacherous. Rather than slick with mud, they become covered in talc-like dust that lead to sudden, unexpected and sometimes devastating crashes.

On the smooth, straight sections of pavement riders still aren't safe. A moment of inattention from one rider and three tumble down. Damage that started on the cobbles suddenly erupts into flat tires, broken wheels, broken bikes, broken bodies.

Even those lucky enough to make it to the velodrome in Roubaix, those who hadn't crashed, face days of recovery from muscles battered by jackhammering over the pavé and spent hacking up half the French countryside from their lungs.

It's all part of what goes into making Paris-Roubaix one of the most prestigious and desirable victories a professional rider can ever achieve - it's a tale of survival, perseverance and triumph.

As celebrated as the winner may be, the achievement would be nothing without his foes, so our gallery today is dedicated to the brave men who fell afoul of fate and failed to step onto that podium, wave flowers and hoist up trophies.

Saur Sojasun's Rony Martias, already sporting bandages from a previous crash, broke his fork right off his bike. Photo: Bettini

Kevin Ista (Cofidis) displays remarkable helmet hair and grime lines. Photo: Sirotti

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