Thirteen intrepid racers from Half Acre Cycling ventured out to Yankee Springs, Michigan this weekend for the 2nd staging of the Barry-Roubaix gravel road race. It was fun to have such a big presence of HAC riders there, especially considering some teammates had to get up by 3am to make it there (Tim wins the prize for commitment!) and others were coming off of 5 solid days of volunteering at the Gapers Block Crits (way to go, Erica!).
It was COLD at the start, so the fact the rolling mass start was on the slow side (over 400 riders), helped complete my warm-up. Ariel and I were riding the 35 mile race and caught attention from some other riders with our singing and laughing during the roll out, with one saying, “I wish I was having as much fun as you guys!”
I knew going into the race that there was going to be a lot of climbing, that it was mostly gravel and dirt roads, and that there was one section of loose, rocky, “true” off-road trail. I was surprised, though, to find that that loose n’ rocky section was only a couple miles into the race—and that it started with two fairly steep climbs! That section really separated out the pack, and ended with a heartbreaking series of fast flats that would dead-end into giant sandpits—the trick was to try to pass people in between the sandpits and then quickly move to the sides to avoid the sand. I did that well probably twice, and twice didn’t make it to the edge of the road in time and ended up getting stuck in the sand, getting passed by all the people I just cruised past. Oh well. My ‘cross bike handled pretty well in that section all in all, and that ended up being the only section where it would have been an advantage to have a mountain bike.
Other than that race progressed fairly uneventfully through lots (and lots, and lots, and lots) of rolling hills, fast gravelly corners (thanks to all the marshalls who did a great job directing us) and a couple killer climbs. I was riding in a loose group of folks most of the time—we were too spread out to really work together, but they were good company as we would pass and repass each other. I felt really good for most of the race (except for one nasty fall—shhh!) and though some of the climbing was hard, I could feel my hard work over the winter pay off. That was especially true at the end of the race when we got back on the pavement for the last 5 miles and I put it into the big ring and sped past a bunch of other folks who were tiring out. A big shout out to Kristen Meshberg and her Pedaling with a Purpose class—it really helped!
In the end, all the Half Acre riders finished strong, and we even ended up with three podiums: Jen Kick (her first ever race!), Sean Fitzpatrick, and Zach Thomas. Al Thom, Paul-Brian McInerney, Isaiah Jay, and Michael Hemme also placed near the top of their respective categories. The best part, though, was all the smiles on our faces when the race was over—to the person, everyone had a great time. We headed out en masse to Kalamazoo for some well deserved beer and burgers afterwards, where we dissected the race further and made plans for future adventures. We have a fantastic team of on and off-road riders this year…look out!