2017 Barry-Roubaix: Stephens, Williams Win Soaking Titles


We hope blinking through an unbelievable amount of sand to read this is worth it.But probably not. Mat Stephen and Mary Ann Sedor will remember March 25 for a long, long time. A foreboding forecast came to fruition in the opening hour of racing, and perfectly on cue, the racing truly began as the heavens opened.

They may as well have been flood gates. Things were happily quiet and largely dry as riders queued up in downtown Hastings for another edition of the Barry-Roubaix. Admittedly, the rain kept some folks from the line, even a good armful of those who made the drive and thought better of it. Shops and restaurants around the down were crammed with riders seeking a few minutes of warmth before taking off, and a few choosing to order up a ham scram instead of taking on the weather.

They were in for treat to watch, at the very least. A neutral roll out accelerated to a largely controlled assault onto the infamous Three Sisters. A more marked difference from a year ago wouldn’t be possible; 2016’s rolling, thick and choking clouds of dusts were instead a steady spray of sand and dirt as a trickling rain began to grow heavy.

With the cloud burst came Gun Lake Road Climb, and the first accelerations of the day had an impact on the selection. Five riders briefly went clear on the slopes of the ascent, and while they never enjoyed daylight long, their efforts changed the shape of the group for the next 30 miles or so. Dozens of riders, many already on the limit after chasing back into touch after Three Sisters, were pried off the back, leaving a group of around 35-40 riders to contest the day.

While a few peppered efforts from the likes of Cody Kaiser, Cole House, and Nick Glavac, the group was largely compact and rolled along, almost huddled together as the skies truly let loose. Visibility was short and uncertain, and the squeal and scream of brakes called out the turns when cold and frozens finally fell silent.

The women’s race was, as always, tucked into the second wave and a sort of hide-and-seek scenario. Race favorites Katilyn Patterson and Kae Takeshita were lost in the shuffle and ceding ground as the rains came down. Ahead, Illinois import Lily Williams was cruising away through the mud, en route to a win. 

A group of about six moved clear with around 25 miles to go from the lead group, and the drenched field were non-committal at first. The move included the flying Mac Brennan, Ansel Dickey, Stephens himself, Scotty Albaugh and Glavac. The new, more straightforward finish into Hastings made for a picture perfect sprint, with the entire podium coming in on the same time. Stephens, Brennan, and Dickey all slipped under three hours with 2 hours, 59 minutes and 20 seconds. Albaugh and Glavac avoided the front of a flying chase to round out the top five.

Williams won going away with a time of 3 hours and 20 minutes.  She slipped in home some  minutes clear of a hard-charging Patterson, with Takeshita and Jenna Blanford third and fourth. 

Winners or losers, thousands of riders braved the weather and gutted out some chilling, soaking conditions. The temperature hardly sniffed 45 degrees, and a driving easterly wind at 15mph provided a cold slap in the face for the final 20 miles of the 62 mile event, nearly a third of the race. Aside from some gratuitous wear on the drivetrain, brake pads wore down to the metal backing on literally hundreds of racers. In addition, the cold and wet pushed more than a few riders to turn back early and fill the SAG vehicles. Largely, though, a spirit of camaraderie saw few crashes and a tremendous amount of support amongst the racers. The exclusion of the largely submerged Sager Road also kept many more people upright.

It’s the second race in the Michigan Gravel Series, closing March and turning riders’ attention to April 8’s Lowell 50 and Aprill 22’s very important Hellkaat Hundie. Watch for updated standings there on Sunday or Monday.

You can see the full results from Newton Timing here.

Check out Matt Acker’s Beard’s Strava file here. 

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