Monday, March 11, 2013

Barry Roubaix course reconnaissance

(all photos stolen from Joe)

This past Saturday, a few of us decided to ride the Barry Roubaix 36-mile race route. Seemed like a good idea since most of us have never raced Barry Roubaix. The plan was to have all my gear ready on Friday night, pack up most of my stuff, for Danielle to arrive at my place by 7:00am to fit her on my Soma, pack up the bikes and anything else we need, for Joe and Charles to arrive by 7:30, and to depart soon after.

"The best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry"

On Friday night, I went out to dinner with Dan at The Last Word (a sort of gastropub). The food was amazing! And their scotch selection was great. Problem is, I consume alcohol about 3 times per year. So after I had 2.5 glasses of scotch (plus all the food we ate), I was very sleepy when I got home. But my Motobecane Fantom Cross Ti was in pieces...and the Soma Double Cross needed a bit of adjusting as well. Luckily, I thought to set my alarm for 2am.

2am alarm. I wake up. Wash and dry all my cycling clothes (they were dirty from my last outdoor ride and never washed). Chang out wheelset, tires, tubes, and cassette for the Motobecane. Adjust brakes and brake pads for alternative wheelset. Adjust rear derailleur for alternative cassette. Change wheelset, tires, tubes, and cassette for Soma. Adjust front and rear derailleurs for Soma. Shower. Get dressed. Put rack on car, pack up bag with all needed gear/equipment/food/water, put Motobecane in car. Eat a quick breakfast.

Done! Awesome! 6:50am! 7:15am. Problem: no Danielle. Just as I was considering sending her a text, I get a message from Danielle. She stayed up late writing a paper for a grad school class and just woke up. Doh! She offers up the idea of meeting in Hastings and adjust the Soma there. I tell her that should work, or if she has stuff to do for class we can figure it out later.

Joe and Charles arrive. I pack up both the Soma and Motobecane in case Danielle can meet us up there. Soon after we leave, she decides it might be better to figure out the Soma for her another day.'s a trio! Other members of our humble team could not make it due to work (Kendal and Dan) and a 5k Shamrock run (Geoff and Mary).

After arriving in Hastings, we prepare to ride. I decide to ride the Soma since Danielle wasn't able to make it. And this turns out to be a fantastic idea.

I normally have a lot to say about a course or race because usually there are a lot of distinct impressions that a course leaves on me. But not this one as much! This was because my focus was more on staying upright and concentrating on the terrain I was riding on, less on the course in a more general sense.

There were very few portions of dirt that reminded me of the dirt roads in Ann Arbor, very little hard packed surfaces. Everything was either sheets of ice, snow, or mud of various depth and viscosity. The worst 'feature' were the ruts left in the road by cars. Once your bike enters a rut, it is difficult to exit. If you're lucky, the rut levels back up to the same height as the surrounding road surface...and you can change your line. Otherwise, you fall. Seriously, those are your only two options. And it's hard to avoid ruts on some of the roads because there are so many of them. And in many cases, you can't even follow the line/path of the rut because they meander as if the car was swerving around.

(Above is the easiest mud we encountered, a pasty consistency that really sapped energy and speed.)

I fell twice. I THINK it was on Hubble Rd...but don't quote me on that. I made it up the sloppy hill. But on the way down, I got into one of those ruts and couldn't find a way out as the rut was leading me off the road. And when I tried to stay on the road, I crashed. After picking myself up and getting on the bike, I crashed again 10 ft further down the road. Same situation: couldn't avoid the rut, couldn't get out of the rut. I was on my Soma Double Cross cyclocross with Michelin Mud2's running around 50psi. I saw two guys with much fatter tires on mountain bikes also bite the dust coming down the same hill as me.

This happened within the first 10 miles...and I was on pins and needles for pretty much the duration of our ride! I rode careful, not hard/fast. And even then, I almost wiped out a dozen times but was able to avoid actually falling. As a result of my skittishness, I trailed both Joe and Charles for much of the course. I think with around 10-ish miles to go, I started feeling SLIGHTLY better and was SLIGHTLY less afraid to ride a bit faster.

(I think this is the infamous Sager Rd two track section. All snow and ice, with fallen branches.)

The course was very hilly. My Garmin recorded 2500 feet of climbing over 36 miles. The actual course is probably less though, because we got lost...went down a wrong road...and had to climb hills to get back to where we should have been.

The hills, combined with the mud, made for a grueling course. Joe started to bonk. And there was another guy we ran into that asked us if anyone had food for him! Poor guy looked like a zombie. lol Joe was kind enough to lend him a bar. I, on the other hand, despite trying my best to be ultra prepared, forgot to bring any nutrition (left it in the car)! Luckily, I didn't bonk!

Speaking of getting lost, we were on the course like three and a half hours! We only got really lost twice (missed a turn and accidentally took a short cut once, went down a wrong road once)...but we probably stopped at every other intersection trying to figure out if we were lost yet and which way to turn!

 (Figuring out where to go next!)

But we were able to navigate our way back to Hastings and drag our tired selves to a place for a bite to eat before heading back home.

After getting home, I read some other peoples reports about their pre-ride of the course. One guy cut the course off to 20 miles to save himself from too much misery. Others reported feeling like it was taking twice as long as usual to do the course. There's some speculation as to whether the roads will be graded or not prior to the race. Some say yes, some say they don't do that. And some say grading will make riding even more difficult, others saying it'll make it easier. And no one knows if the next 12 days of weather will make it better or worse.

This race is quite the adventure. Who knows what the course will be like on the 23rd!

I also have a equipment decision to make. This course was very rough on the Soma, leaving it with many many new battle scars. Do I want to subject my Motobecane with SRAM Red to such a harsh environment? If not, then what bike do I use? If Danielle races, my Soma will not be available to me. If Kendal races, she'll be on her new All-City. And if she doesn't race, she still doesn't want me to ride her brand new bike. So that would leave me with...Kendal's Trek 7500FX hybrid. I would have to get mud worthy tires on it...and get it to shift and brake reliably. It's heavy as lead...but should actually be a good off-road bike.

Hmmm....what to do?

Stay tuned!

BTW...everything was covered in mud! Had to shower the Soma!

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