Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Barry-Roubaix Awesomeness

This past weekend I traveled to Hastings, Michigan to do the Barry Roubaix.  This race was the second stop for the American Ultra Cross Series and it was a good one.  The Barry Roubaix was first held in 2009 and had around 300 competitors that year.  The race has now grown to a size of nearly 4000 participants from all over the United States.  An event this big can be hard to manage for a race promoter, but Rick Plite and all his helpers put together a great race and everything seemed to go very smoothly from start to finish.  

The course used for the 62 mile length of the Barry Roubaix does not have the climbing and rough surfaces like most of the American Ultra Cross Series Races do, but that doesn't make it an easy race. Basically, it is one big loop on mostly hard packed dirt roads, with about 2700 feet of climbing. This year the course conditions were a bit soft from the snow melt and recent rain, but overall it was still pretty fast with my average speed being 19 mph on a singlespeed.  

I worried before the race that there would not be enough challenge to the course to cause any separation in the large field. I found out soon after the start that my early thoughts about this race were wrong.  What the course lacks in big climbs or technical features is replaced with its requirement for pure speed and a constant power output to maintain forward momentum. Additionally, I found out it was important to stay at the front of the race because of catching groups of slower riders and other road hazards causing splits to occur in the pack.

During one such circumstance, in the first couple miles of dirt road, one rider crashed directly in front of me while negotiating a large mud bog spreading across the road.  I did not hit him, but had to completely stop to avoid impact and was then immediately surrounded by a large group of other racers from behind me.  I managed to work my way out of the chaos, but a meaningful separation had occurred in my race group and I knew it was imperative to regain contact with the lead group if I wanted to place well.  I first bridged up to my ultra cross 40+ geared class race buddy, Ron Glowczynski, and then managed to close the remainder of the gap to the lead group, which had three other SS racers in it at the time.  Soon after rejoining this group the pace picked-up again and when I looked over my shoulder, our group had no immediate chasers in view.

I noticed that one SS rider in the lead pack with me was hammering at the front on a cross bike.  I rode behind him for a bit and noticed his gear was a bit stepper than mine and I wondered how he was going to push it for the entire race.  I've always raced with the "spin to win" philosophy in regards to my gear selection for my SS and it has seemed to work for me so far.  Eventually, I noticed this strong SS rider, Lucas Seibel, was beginning to fade from pushing his huge 44x16 gearing and I also noticed that no other SS riders were in the dwindling lead group.

Meanwhile, I was feeling surprisingly fresh with my 40x18 gear choice and was just waiting for the pace to increase leading into the final miles of the race.  Of course, my speed on such a fast course was somewhat limited by having only one gear and I was completely at the mercy of the pace being set by the lead pack.  I did try making a few moves alone, but couldn't keep my pace high enough on the flats to stay away permanently.  Luckily, I had the help of a few friends in the front pack to keep the pace fast including: Ron G, Jake Wade and Garth Prosser. Without the help of these guys, my race would certainly not have been as easy as it was.

I noticed a few miles before getting to the paved road section leading back into town that Lucas had fallen out of the lead group, along with many other riders.  From that point, I was able to ride comfortably into the finish and enjoy my victory without the fear of being caught.  It felt good to get my second American Ultra Cross Series win of the year this past weekend, but I'm not ready for a rest yet and will be looking forward to doing another long, hard and hopefully well organized event like the Barry Roubaix soon.  Also, I cannot end this post without saying congratulations to my Team Rare Disease Teammate, Stephanie Swan, for her big win at Barry Roubaix!

Happy Trails... Gerry

Thanks to Snowy Mountain Photography for the photos!

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