This year was my third time racing the Barry-Roubaix, and the third year in a row. My how this race has grown in a short time. After last year's Barry-Roubaix, I never really know what to expect coming in to this race. I registered for the 36 mile men's race, as I am too much of a sissy for 62 miles at 17 degrees. The extra miles would have been good for training, after all if you don't win, it is just a training race, right?
Two weeks out and I was on the back roads of Barry County, scoping out the new addition and test driving a rather large CX bike on loan from my pal Frosty. At the end of that ride, we were talking 65 degrees and sunny. Maybe it will be a different race after all.
The week leading up to the race was certainly a roller coaster of emotion. It was nearly 90 degrees outside on Wednesday when I took a short bike ride. On Thursday, I planned on getting some gravel miles in as a prelude to Saturday. However, after work the sunshine turned to clouds, and a thunderstorm rolled in. I trudged back to the basement, but it just wasn't the same.
The rain continued throughout the night, and into the next day. Sitting at home on Friday, I began second-guessing the skinny CX tires the next day. Facebook was lit up by flash-flood warnings in Barry County, and talk of riders staying home. In the end, I decided on sticking with the CX bike, as it was a loaner so I didn't care if it was ruined by mud!
Saturday morning arrived and I climbed out of bed earlier than a typical work day. I hate when that happens. The rain had let up, so D-Dubs agreed to come with me to act as my personal photographer yet again. I did have to bribe her with some Biggby in Charlotte, but I was able to get my triple grande as well, win-win!
I wanted to get to the starting site early, as with 3-times the riders, the easy math told me 3 times the cars, and I wanted to park close. I was routed away from my buddy Sean, and parked in a nice swampy area of grass, next to a gentle river. Maybe it was a muddy spot next to a ditch, whatever.
Registration was smooth, and I sat in the truck staying moderately warm getting ready for the kickoff to the season. About an hour before the start, I was geared up and ready to begin my warm up. I was able to walk all the way to the bike rack before my shoes filled with water. At least I was able to warm-up this year. Last year was 10 minutes shivering on the bike before giving up.
I saw a group of other Einstein Racers prepping for their rides, but most of them were the 62 milers, so they would be off before me. I also saw my buddy Trev-Rev from No Boundaries. The kid is fast, and I am glad he was running one gear again, although that never prevents him from beating me.
Back to the truck, time to strip off my warm-up jacket and head to the starting area. I wanted to be near the front at the start to not be held up by sight-seers. This worked out well, as I was near the front of the pack as we made the right onto Hasting road. Apparently the carnage had already begun as there was a rider down on the left shoulder (holding their shoulder) and we were catching parts of the already splintered 62 milers who started 5 minutes ahead of us.
A quick left onto the first dirt, and the idiots start panicking and making their way through the pack, passing on the inside, outside, middle, wherever they can wedge a wheel. On rider came up on the loose right shoulder, cut ahead of me and nearly took me out by rubbing my front wheel. I was going to saw something, then noticed his skewer had popped open during our vehicles interaction. Karma I guess.
Onto Sager road and I was still in the front portion of the group, and we were coming across a surprising number of 62 mile racers. The congestion hadn't really started and I could see the trails in the sand from the earlier racers. I moved over to the leaves on the left shoulder and continued my ride unabated. I did have to dismount on one portion of the flats as one reader ahead had stopped in the sand, and stood there dumbfounded while straddling their bike.
Momentum returning I cleaned the rest of Sager with no issue, said hi and began trying to work my way back up front. Hard left onto Mullen and I almost ate it as the road was pretty churned up, and I came in a bit hot. The next couple miles was hard charging across gaps until I got back on the tail of the second group. I had planned to recover here and help close the gap to the leaders.
Onto Little Pine Lake Road, and still keeping a good pace, although the conditions of the road were less than desirable. The shoulders showed significant damage from the runoff caused by the previous days rain. As I recognized the danger, I was again clipped by another rider, which forced me into the eroded washout. As I tried to recover, that rider and I became tangled and before I knew it, I was on the floor.
The good news was I landed on him (and his bike) which took a majority for the force. Unfortunately chase 2 was gone, and I was getting steadily passed by riders from the group behind. I untangled myself from the heap of metal, asked the other guy if he was hurt, then tried to take off. Damn, the rear brake pad was wedged under the rim during the fall. I work a bit to yank it back into place, and remount the bike. Crap, I also dropped the chain. I threw that back on, yelled back to the guy to check his condition one final time, and was rolling again. I don't know how much time I lost there, since my Garmin auto-paused while I was stopped.. My laps for the miles before and after were 21.5 MPH, and that mile was 15.2, I would guess at least a minute, if not 2.
I was able to catch on to another group on Wilkens road, and regained some speed. There was another Einstein rider in this group. Sorry I didn't remember your name, but I am gonna guess it was John. Up the climb to Cemetery Hill, and the cheering crowd at the top (one car, three people perhaps) recognized quality and yelled "Awesome beard" and the last 6 months of my life again had meaning.
This group stayed together pretty well until shortly after the left turn onto Yeckley, as the three sisters tore apart our relationship. I was a bit saddened to realize that there was no "Eye of the Tiger" on the final climb, but I was not feeling the fight, so I trudged along. The payoff is the downhill after this and I cruised through the section at top speed. This is also the point where I believe Trevor got taken out.
There is another climb near Hubbell, but I was pretty much alone here, so I just spun along at my own pace. About this time another rider hopped on my wheel and was telling me how tired he was as I pulled along the final stretch towards Sager.
Onto Sager road for the final time, I knew from my preride that is was all ride-able until the right onto Shaw. Unfortunately the scene before me was total carnage. The 36ers had combine with the 24ers and there were masses of people trudging through the sand, heads down and souls crushed. I rode halfway through the deep stuff on Sager, then took a jog up to Shaw and around the corner. Once back on the bike it became an obstacle course trying to avoid puddles and squirrely riders. Eventually I had enough, so I went straight through the puddles and made some passes on the water.
Finally, on the last stretch of pavement. Many first timers were relieved, not know what was ahead. I ended up forming a group of 4 riders on CX bikes, so we took turn pulling for the final 5+ miles. We averaged just over 23 MPH on this last part. As we made the left into the state park, one rider made a jump from the front, but the remaining three stayed calm and had reeled him in before the wooden bridge. The speed stayed high and there was another kick as we passed the "bathrooms on the right". I was in 4th wheel riding along, trying to guess when to go. Shortly before the final sweeper to the finish I made the jump and formed some sort of gap on the other three riders. Here is where I would like to end my story. This jump ended up being a bit premature and one of the riders from the group caught me, and ended up beating me by a bike length.
A bit saddened I did a cool down loop of the parking lot, then went to change into some dry clothes. The next step was to get a couple burritos from What the Truck, which I tore through with tremendous satisfaction. They weren't as tremendously delicious as last year, but still terrific. Next it was time to grab a beer, and mingle. This is where I found out about Trev's crash, as he was pulling up his shorts for everybody. He must be fun at the company Christmas party as well!
All in all, it wasn't a bad race, for a training ride. I finished with a time of 1:53:51. This was good enough for 9th place in my age group, and 63rd (of 883) overall, at a rate of 19 MPH. That is roughly 6 minutes and 1.5 MPH faster than last year, with a crash.
Now it is time to hit the singletrack and prepare for some mountain biking, Yankee Time Trial is only a month away!