“Let’s fu*cin’ do this sh*t!” And with that Jeremy was on his way for the 62 mile portion of the fast and icy Barry-Roubaix followed closely by Shawn Crowley, Ralf Scharnowski and Tim Curtis.
I had been out on the course several times in the weeks leading up to this day. Only once was I actually able to complete it. Even when the mercury did rise above 32 it was never long enough to completely thaw the roads. Often leaving a nice blend of glare ice, frozen tire ruts and crispy, crunchy, slippery, peanut buttery mud. I (like most roubaixers) had gone back forth trying to decide which bike and which tires to run. I knew that my skinny, super fast, file tread continentals were definitely not up to the icy challenge. Which had me leaning towards running my single speed MTB again. But after a brief ride trying to follow a teammate, my 616 had suffered a rear blow out resulting in a damaged rear wheel (lesson 1, when Jeff Jacobi says “no, let’s try going this way instead” take caution).
So, 36 hours prior to race day I was at Freewheeler Bike Shop purchasing some new and much more aggressive tires for my cross bike. They had totally renewed my confidence on the ice covered roads. Enough so, that I decided to tow the line right to the front of my wave with Josh Hogeterp. I shared with him my game plan. Take it easy at the start so I don’t ” blow my wad” before we get to the 3 sisters (wow that sounds really dirty). Then I would grab his rear wheel and hang on for as long as possible. Simple enough plan, what could go wrong. A little fist bump and internal barbaric yelp and we were off. Rolling along on the nice dry pavement at about 21 MPH. I sat right on Josh’s wheel with about 5 or 6 riders off the front. As we took the first left turn towards Yeckley a rider went by on the left. “Oh no you didn’t”. I left Josh’s wheel (mistake 1) and leapt right to the front of the group (mistake 2). Feeling strong now. “BRING ON YECKLEY!” Right turn and the road turns to nice dry, hard packed gravel. Up the first climb and past some riders from the previous wave. Okay, maybe I went out a little too strong. But I can hang. Up the next “sister” and the first few riders go around me. By the time I hit sister #3 my legs start reminding me of my limits “DAMN YOU YECKLEY!”…and there goes Josh. Okay, well….plan B. What was plan B? Oh yeah, stay upright and don’t stop pedaling. Suddenly ICE. Oh shit! I thought they said most of this was gone. But here it was. Glare ice. My butt cheeks clench so tight around my saddle that the Fizik logo now looks like it is embroidered on the back of my shorts. I slow down a bit….a bit more….tire slip, slow even more. Past the ice and HAMMER, HAMMER, HAMMER. This becomes my new “pace”. I pass riders only to have them pass me on the ice. This happens for about 10 miles and I finally decide enough is enough. I have ridden this course in these conditions and I have these sweet new, grippy tires. Time to sack up Meendering. So as I approach the next stretch of ice I relax my upper body and simply maintain speed. It works perfectly! For about 150 yards, and then I get my tires cross-rutted and shoot off to the left shoulder of the road. Another rider whom had been holding my wheel slammed into the side of me. Miraculously, we both stopped upright. “That was neat”, I said and off I was. Now riding even more cautiously than before. Using every bit of dry road and pavement to my advantage. The temps never did climb as predicted and instead of the expected mudfest the course remained a mix of fast dry gravel and slick ice.
Overall it was a great race. Especially the after party complete with Founders beer tent and live music compliments of Sweet J. The Founders Racing Team had some very strong finishes in both the 36 and 62 mile races. And we finished in 4th place out over 40 in the 36 mile team competition. Great job everybody. And special thanks to Rick, Cathy, Tenner and the many volunteers that continue to make this my favorite race of the season. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for my first season with you all.