Hell of the Mitten
119 years ago a couple of textile manufacturers named Teddy and Moe started a little race in France called the Paris-Roubaix. Maybe you have heard of it. It is referred to as the “Hell of the North”. Not because of what the riders endure but because, after World War I, much of the route was left in a hellish state, bearing scars from years of shelling and trench warfare. The air in many areas hung thick with the stench of rotting cattle and ruptured sewage systems. The blackened earth in every direction was churned up creating a flat, baron and muddy landscape. Sounds like a real blasty blast huh?!
Well over here in the good ole mitten state we have our own Teddy and Moe. You may know them as Rick Plite and Scott Tencate, and they know how to put on one HELL of race…THE BARRY-ROUBAIX! Are there cobbles? Well…no. Is it 253.5 KM of beautiful northern France? Not quite. 17th century farm houses? Castles? A Velodrome finish? Nope, nope and nope. But you know what it IS…miles of beautiful southwest Michigan gravel, challenging climbs, unpredictable weather, rabid dogs, a mile of 2 track which scares the living shit out of most roadies, some of the most well lived-in double-wide trailers, dozens of full sized Chevy trucks parked on the side of the road while their owners are off in the woods doing god knows what and the greatest post-race party on the friggin planet! It may not be the “Hell of the North” but it surely will challenge you. Oh, and you know what else? IT IS THE LARGEST DAMN GRAVEL ROAD RACE…..IN THE WORLD (read in the voice of Jeremy Clarkson).
Every year seems to be a new experience for me at the Barry-Roubaix. This was my 6th go at it and I can honestly say that each year has brought different road conditions and different weather. I have slogged through mud bogs and two tracks. I have skated on my ass down ice covered gravel. I have been chased by 3 legged dogs trained to kill all the weirdos in spandex. Now, I wouldn’t compare these conditions to those of post WWI France, but mud, ice and 3 legged killer dogs are pretty frickin scary. With the exception of testicle shrinking cold temps in the morning, the 2015 edition was the best yet. Clear blue skies and some of the fastest gravel I have ever ridden awaited me and 3500 other racers. Add to this an extremely well-orchestrated race start, a well-marked course and the greatest group of volunteers/corner marshals around and you have a race experience like no other.
At race start I felt really good. For once, I had a decent amount of training leading up to the race. Also, for the first time ever I was actually able to pace myself in anticipation of the first series of climbs, aka “The 3 sisters”. As Tenner says “You never want to blow your wad before you get to the 3rd sister”. (Despite being raised in a duffel bag in the back seat of his uncle-daddy’s truck, that mop head Tenner is somewhat bright.) The first two sisters came easy (get your mind out of the gutter) as they often do. The real gauge to how the first half of your race will go is the 3rd sister. She can be a real bitch from whom there is no quick recovery. But this time I found myself cresting her with only a fair amount of effort. Hell, my heart rate barely reached 210 bpm! The highlight for me on this beautiful race day was the paved sections on both Gun Lake Rd and the Fat Lady on Broadway at the end of the race (think about it). Fortune smiled down upon me as I was able to hang with a decent sized group averaging well over 20 mph. I did more passing than getting passed and never let off the gas. (until another rider nearly took me out in the very last turn before the finish. But I won’t get into that here.)
I ride my bike for several reasons. Good friends and good beer are two of them and there was plenty of both awaiting me at the finish line. The Barry-Roubaix after-party is unbelievable! It is a huge gathering of bike-minded, beer-guzzling, bad-ass friends all celebrating the start of the nonfat season. If you participated in this year’s race and did not leave with a huge smile on your face….well then you are doing something very wrong my friend.
24- MILE CHILLER RESULTS:
|Gabe Niehof||Founders Racing||Grand Rapids||MI||1:18:38|
36- MILE THRILLER TEAM RESULTS:
1:49:35 Matt Remelts 40-42 Men 36M
1:58:10 Shawn Crowley 35-37 Men 36M
2:09:57 Marnie Tencate 46+ Women 36M
2:10:14 Rob Meendering 35-37 Men 36M
2:13:00 Jane Van Hof 40-45 Women 36M
2:15:25 Joshua Hogeterp 35-37 Men 36M
2:26:04 Jeffrey Jacobi Men SS & Fixed Gear 36M
62- MILE KILLER TEAM RESULTS:
|Jeremy Karel||Founders Racing||Rockford||MI||3:09:09|
|Earl Hillaker||Founders Racing||Grand Rapids||MI||3:15:40|