Barry Roubaix 2014
As you read this recap, keep in mind the following. I have never been one to try my hand at “endurance challenges.” I am a big guy, designed, I think, for middle distance crit-type events without the time to properly train for long hauls. So it was with both excitement and a healthy dose of caution that I signed up for Barry Roubaix 2014.
I was joined by Tom Ferguson, Matt Howley, Jay Bowles, Chris Kravas, Steve Jesanis and Gareth Reeves. Most of us met the night before in Grand Rapids MI and prepared for a long day in the saddle the next day. Code for: beers and good food at Founders Brew Pub.
We had some differing views on how to approach the race – some wanted a fast and furious start, treating it like a race where you might fall back group by group if you bonked before the finish of 62 wet, cold, dirty, hard miles. Some (me) just wanted to complete it. Some wanted to ride steady-hard and certainly had the base miles in their legs to do so. However, it seemed to me that all of us were ready to take on whatever was served to us, and to make a game-day decision. This was highlighted by a last minute plan of “let’s all ride together” that was scrapped within minutes of our wave going off. We had a general plan of trying to stick together in the opening mayhem that was scrapped pretty early on.
I was the giraffe on a mountain bike, while the rest of the crew looked locked and loaded on cross bikes. Our first casualty was Tom. He crashed in a mud slick early, and we thought he was OK- just a soft patch dump into the side of the gravel/mud path. Nope. He had the mechanical of mechanicals. His friggin’ CRANK came off. He thought his pedal was broken, but he lost his whole damn crank. Thankfully a trailing rider had an allen wrench and helped him be back in business within 10 minutes. Still, he rode with a broken, loose bottom bracket and was easily now 12+ minutes behind me, Kravas and Jesanis. Reeves and Howley? Well, they were up the road with the big guns. We never saw them after the start.
I did not know if I had the base to do a 4 hour ride. Jesanis was sick with a cold, and Kravas was coming off broken ribs. The three of us stayed together peeking back for Tom thinking he would wheel up at any moment. No such luck for Tom given his mechanical. Then, a long gradual uphill came along and I watched Chris and Steve drift away as I tried to ride within my limits so early in my season and within an hour of the race. That was it for me – I saw them roll up to a group of 15+ riders 100 meters in front of me, and I had a decision – go a little deep to catch them, or ride my own non-race Roubaix. I chose the latter, fearful of late race cramps. I got into a group of 8 that rode a nice paceline pulling their group back slowly, however, and I was pleased that I might reconnect.
Then, Kravas came back to within 50 meters of my group. Was he bonking? Wow- we were only another 50 meters behind the Jesanis group. Maybe Kravas was bonking with 2 hours + to go? Then 2 things happened. Jesanis group started a long climb and accelerated and Kravas made the right call by going hard and bridging the gap he had just created. I never saw them again. He did not bonk. Rather, he hit it at the right time to reconnect and I made the wrong decision. Their group was visible for a while on straight aways, but it was demoralizing watching them roll away- like a crit breakaway that sticks.
30 miles to go and I was seeing weakness with my co-chasers. I hit a long smooth gravel up hill and got into TT mode. After a few minutes minutes, I peeked back for some help. No one. My group disintegrated with 25 miles to go, and I literally rode over an hour by myself to the finish, picking off popped riders as I got closer to the finish. In the end, I finished only a few minutes behind Jesanis and Kravas. Howley and Reeves? Well, they were among the fast guys up the road from the gun, so I cannot even comment on their race. They finished over 30 minutes in front of us.
Tom rolled in 45 minutes later – tired, solo, but successful given what he faced. Unreal effort. Most would have bagged it. He thought about it at a rest stop but went on. Awesome. A 62 mile, sub 40 degree slog solo challenges the mind and will power. Tom fought through it, and I am confident this deposit in the bank will pay dividends in later tough races.
The course was wet, packed prairie path type of surface with wet sections that favored a mountain bike with water and mud. It also had some seriously steep sections and road that favored a cross bike. I went through 4 bottles of fuel, 2 peanut energy cakes, and plenty of Gu’s. Close to 4 hours in the saddle in March was a huge test for me. Especially to see teammates ride up the rode and to be solo for so long.
Would I do it again? Yes! Would I prefer company? Yes. But would I ever ask someone to hold back for me? No- if you have the legs to test yourself at an event like this, then go for it. I have no regrets, only envy. . . and motivation to work harder to stay with the big boys of EMC2.