Last Saturday I woke up at 4am to drive 4 hours to Hillsboro, Il (I know kirksville is in the middle of nowhere, especially in the athletic/outdoor world). I've been eyeing the Hillsboro-Roubaix road race since last year so I made it a point to go race. It was my first race of the year and I was pretty excited. My friend Brian, who is just settling into road biking, decided to come along and join me. So here is the break down:
0430-0930-Drive, yeah nothing special here
0930-Arrive at the race start, check in, get my bike ready and do a nice 3-4 mile warm up ride
1045- Most of the racers do a ceremonial lap around town with the race organizer. It also gave us a chance to scout the finishing mile or two of the race.
1115-Start lining up for the race and watching the cat 1/2, 3s take off
1130-Our field starts (I decided to race the Cat 4/5 field). Our field would do two 22 mile loops on these really cool county roads. Below is the profile of the whole race taken from a friend's garmin:
We started off really quick out of the gun and at first I wasn't sure if I could hold a 25-27mph pace the whole race. Once we got about 4 miles in the group settled down a bit. We ended up doing the whole 44 mile race in almost exactly 2 hours so a 22 mph avg isn't too bad. The first lap was pretty conservative in terms of how I was riding. I sat most of the time in a great position in the front 10-12 riders, conserving my energy and not working when I didn't need to. There were a couple short steep hills that I felt really good on the first lap. The peak right in the middle of the profile above is the feed zone hill followed by another short steep climb. The first lap the feed zone hill was "neutral" meaning that it is common courtesy not to attack then. The second time it was fair game. The first loop was pretty uneventful, someone told me that there was a crash but it was towards the back of the pack so I didn't see it. It was the second lap that things began to pick up.
One hour later:
Brian took this picture as the field came through the start/finish for the beginning of the second lap (I'm in the sweet light blue pirate kit). About 5 miles into the 2nd lap there was a nice little climb that a few of us went off the front. There was maybe 6 of us and we had a nice little gap on the rest of the group. Me and another guy kept telling the small group that we had a gap and we need to work and open it up a bit more. No one else really seemed too interested so we got pulled back in pretty quickly. It was a nice little breakaway for a mile or so. During most of the day there was a pretty strong wind out of the south, and it seemed to get stronger as the race went on. The last 9 miles or so the course took a northeast course which meant that we had a tail/cross wind, but in the last 4 miles the course turned due east which meant that the tail wind became a cross wind. I figured that the deciding factor would be the climbs by the feed zone (once you got over the 150 foot climb it was only one mile to the finish) so I wanted to get in a good position going into the cross wind section. The field hit that turn into the cross wind going pretty quickly. I dropped a few positions in that turn and had to spend a bunch of energy fighting the wind to stay on the end of the front eschelon or about 15 riders. I didn't look back but someone told me that when we hit the cross wind the field blew apart. I was lucky to at least be in the front eschelon. I had spent so much energy that when we hit those climbs 1 mile from the finish I didn't have a ton of reserve left. I climbed the 150 vertical feet as hard as I could and gained a few spots. The finish was pretty cool, you crested the climb, had a nice quick downhill onto 1/2 mile of brick road (hence the Roubaix reference in the name), then the finish. I passed a couple more people on the brick and tried to hold it to the end. I ended up finishing 9th in the 4/5s (I happened to be the top cat 5 in the 4/5s also).
The race was a lot of fun, the roads had this cool northern france/belgium feel to them. I am pretty happy with my effort, if I could have kept a better position going into that corner into the cross wind I maybe could have broken top 5 but oh well. It was nice racing and being able to feel some of my work over the winter paying off.
Next up: I just signed up for a cool race in Lincoln, NB on April 21st. It has a 12 mile TT on sat followed by a road race. It should be a lot of fun.