Five Lessons From Barry-Roubaix

The 2012 Barry-Roubaix has come and gone, lingering a day later in the stinging, heavy legs and bits of gravel still nestled in unspoken crevices. Racers and fans were treated to some awesome racing and impressive feats of two-wheeled mastery from the Elite to the neo-amateurs. Here’s a quick reminder of what we learned at the Barry-Roubaix.

1. Mike Anderson and the Elites are Super-Human. Yesterday was confirmation of something we’ve all long expected. The Pros are not normal homo sapiens, capable of feeling pain or fatigue. The lead duo of Mike Anderson and Brian Matter averaged 21.7 miles per hour over 62 miles of speed-sucking sand and damp roads. The median average speed of the 217 rider Elite field was 18.6mph. They went almost 3 miles an hour faster than the (relatively) normal superhumans. An added congrats to, Dan Korienek, Jorden Wakeley and Alex Vanias, the top three mountain bikes in the Elite race, who all averaged over 20 mph on fat tires.

2. The New Shaw Road Section Can Be Wild. Rumors abounded in the lead-up to the race about the much-feared Shaw Road two-track. With the copious rains the night before, many said the sandy would be all but neutralized, with the sand being wet down and perhaps even washed off. That was not the case. The sand was peanut butter thick, and the ponds formed along the road narrowed down the rideable portion of the trail to a single line in places. For some 36 and 62 mile riders, the section had some other obstacles. First, the 23 milers took a turn at an intersection to join the 36 and 62 milers who were flying down a descent. Due to fatigue and delirium, the 23 milers swerved in front of large groups traveling at high speeds.Later, on Shaw itself, platoons of 23 milers were walking the only rideable (or ‘dry’) sections of the course, sometimes on downhills where other riders were bombing through. For 2013, the race may need to find a way to keep the 23 milers off that section until 36 miler are through.

3. It’s a Cyclocross Race Now, Folks. In the first edition of Barry-Roubaix I attended in 2009, I’d estimated the CX bike to MTB ratio was roughly 50/50. With the ever-rising popularity of KiscrossCross Cyclocross and gravel road racing, CX bikes are becoming the norm for Barry-Roubaix. Extremely unofficially, I’d estimate that it was 85% CX bikes in the 36 and 62 mile categories, and that doesn’t include mountain bikes with especially narrow tires. It’s a huge shift and no doubt explains the increase in speeds and decrease in times.

4. It’s Only Getting Faster. In the 36 mile Men’s 22-29, a 2 hour time would have been Top Ten in 2011. In 2012, with more firepower and more cyclocross bikes, a 2 hour time isn’t even in the top thirty. And that even goes for the Elites: In 2011, Eric Box won with a time of 3:14. This year, a 3:14 time would have gotten you 90th place. And these times are with less pavement, more dirt and about 1,000% more sand than in 2011. It would seem as though everyone is going faster when they should be going slower.

5. It’s Still A Blast. Even without the thrill of freezing temperatures and water bottles of ice, the Barry-Roubaix is still fun. It’s hard, mean and unforgiving, and in spite of your urgent pleas no one ever slows down for you, but it has to be one of the best atmospheres for a bike race on the calendar. It’s a monument of the sport in Michigan, an outstanding way to kick off the season and see all the old pals after a long winter.

One response to “Five Lessons From Barry-Roubaix”

  1. […] One of the things I hoped to accomplish when I rejuvenated my blogging hobby was to write and share stories about bike racing and outdoor activities in general. I don’t think these activities, even as widely attended as they are, get enough press coverage in the local and general media. Well, I don’t think I could do a better job than kolo t.c.’s coverage, so I’m just going to link it here: Course Preview; Rick Plite Interview; Pre-Race Weather Update; Race Recap & Results; and Lessons from Barry-Roubaix. […]

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