Words by Alexey Vermeulen, Images by Rob Meendering and Avery Stumm
There is always something special about the first race of the season; a chance to test yourself after a couple months of training, see your friends again, and it’s all better when that race is at home! This year was the 13th edition of Barry Roubaix, a race that attracts 4000+ racers to Hastings, Michigan, 2 hours away from where I grew up, for an everchanging experience. There are multiple distance options (18, 36, 62, and 100) with the unique part of this race being that the 62-mile event is the “competitive” distance. The course meanders over rolling hills through windswept fields and could easily be confused for a Belgian Classic – especially when you consider the weather.
After a warmer event last year in October, I think everyone was apprehensive about what the course conditions would be like as the 10-degree forecast drew closer and closer. Lots of rain in the week leading up to the race meant tire and clothing choices were going to be super important.
After arriving at the start, it was snowing, 29 degrees with 20mph winds. I got my number and slowly contemplated what I was going to wear while sitting in the car with the heat blasting. With cold temperatures and wind, layering is always key especially when you are going to be racing all out. I started with my legs, jumping between just embrocation or embrocation and legwarmers, and finally decided on the latter after a scientific test – I stood outside for a minute with bare legs: it was too COLD! After putting on wool socks, embrocation, bibs, and legwarmers, I decided on a long sleeve base layer (heavyweight), a lightweight jersey, and a lightweight (wind/waterproof) jacket. I was ready to race.
On the line, I stayed in rain pants and a winter jacket as long as I could…shivering takes energy too – before stripping down and getting ready to race. Once the whistle blew it took about 10 minutes for the body to warm up and start pushing blood to my extremities, but I was really happy with how I had dressed. The race starts when you hit the first gravel road with a series of rolling hills that start to stretch the group out. Before you know it you are 13 miles in on an asphalt road as the peloton starts to swarm and everyone is thinking about one thing: SAGER Rd. [Quick side note: Sager Road is a 1 mile stretch of unmaintained jeep road that few would normally ride their bikes on. It is filled with ‘baby heads’ and countless sand traps to catch yourself on or crash into.]
I enter Sager Road about 5th wheel…this is usually where the first split happens and I do not want to have to chase. About 4 minutes later we come out the other side with about 12 guys, as expected no one wants to push right now so we continue on, but it is a matter of time before the 2nd group on the road catches us. I take a glance around and figure out who my competition is: Adam Roberge is here, John Borstelmann, Lars Hallstrom as well as some guys I do not know personally, but I now know they are strong. Around mile 25 the group behind catches us – I keep my eye on who I need and let the rest go…you can’t chase everything and with a group of over 20 riders it is a matter of time until the winning move goes.
It took a while, but with about 7 miles to go the elastic started breaking. We hit a long crosswind section as groups start to get further up the road before being brought back. Chase Wark goes on a daring solo attack and gets over 30 seconds at one point before being slowly reeled back in. With about 4 miles to go the elastic breaks with Adam, John, and myself along with a late join from the strong man, Lars. It is clear pretty quickly that if we all roll this move will go to the line – tactics will have to wait. We push forward and make it to the final turn, a right onto an asphalt road and now we can see the finish. These moments are always somewhat slow-motion, but in the end, Lars decides to put his head down and ride to the finish with John, then me, then Adam in line behind. Everyone is waiting for the final chance to jump with such a long uphill finish. At 200m the race begins, and I quickly realize what I have left. Adam handily takes the win with John pipping me on the line for 2nd. 3rd isn’t what I came for, but the season has officially begun.
We finish the day by standing around the fire and chatting with friends while waiting for awards. I love racing my bike, but second, to that, this is my favorite part of the race. Everyone has struggles, or a story to tell and I love that we can all have different viewpoints on the same course. Until next year BR…thank you for always reminding us what it means to be tough!
Frame: 3T Exploro Racemax
Components: Shimano GRX 48/31 w/ 11/34 cassette
Wheels: ENVE 3.4 AR
Tires: Kenda 35mm Alluvium (AV30 for 30% off)
Sealant: Orange Seal
Clothing: Pearl Izumi
Lube: Silca Super Secret Chain Coating
Nutrition: The Feed (I used Powerbar chews and Never Second 90carb mix)