There’s one big name that leads the way, but plenty ready to challenge.
It’s just not a bike race if Mackenzie Woodring isn’t in, and for another year, she enters 2014 as the overwhelming favorite at Barry-Roubaix. The Women’s race is tough to call and harder to race; the 44 woman field gets mixed in from the gun into a Men’s field many times its size. The Women’s podium could all be in the same group without ever knowing it, or spread out by minutes all day, never seeing each other once. In that sense, it comes down to the mental drive and focus to just keep racing and just keep pedaling, and having to be content with seeing the end result on paper.
Woodring went out hard last year and found herself tucked in a fast group all the way to the line, keeping pace with some fast men and contributing as well to make sure she was out front. She’ll adopt the same tactic this year, but other riders may make more of a commitment early to stay in a quick group as well. With a bitterly cold winter and bad weather of late, no rider man or woman has the miles necessary to be confident of form over 62 miles. It’ll be a gamble to go out hard and stick, but if anyone wants to challenge, it will have to be the game plan.
With no Sam Brode or Kim Chapman, the next closest returning challenger is Janet Edwards, who was fourth last year ahead of Lauri Brockmiller. The pair were a little over 20 minutes back, but if they can make some early selections, they could stay in touch late in the race. SpiderMonkey’s Kelley Clarke was outside the top fifteen, but she has some solid time in the saddle and ambitions of top ten in 2014.
The team with the most riders on the Women’s side is Einstein Racing, now starting Beth Collins, Chelsea Strate and Stacy Smith. Strate was in the top twenty last year, and with more training this winter, including a number of Great Lakes Fat Bike Series starts, she has the miles in her legs now to try for a top ten.
Amanda Schaap and Julie Whalen will try to keep the podium celebrations local as well, as the GR-area natives look to keep pace with Woodring. Whalen is a proven performer on the big stages and typically arrives in the spring with solid legs, even over some massive distances like BRX.
For the women, it’s not tactics or aggression that will decide the race, but the ability to stay on their limit as long as possible. It’s very possible some of these women will spend over three and half to four hours in the saddle and never see a single competitor mixed in with the hundreds of other riders. They’ll have to rely on their willingness to latch on, work, and suffer, and see if it was worth it at the end.