I decided a few days before Rouge Roubaix to race it this year. It's a race i've been putting off. You can't help but not to when you hear it's the hardest race in the state, if not one of the hardest in the country. The Hell of the South as it's referred to is more so related to the large amount of gravel walls you have to conquer. I joined a new team, leaving Raising Canes for Tiger Cycling Foundation.
I got to bed at a good time last night considering how mind boggling it is to try to sleep with nothing but racing on your mind. Got up at 5, but lost an hour since I had to set the clocks back, so it was really like 4. I stuffed myself with some oatmeal, bananas and coffee and Me, Mom and Cary set off to St. Francisville. Temperature in the morning was 34 degrees and was suppose to reach a high of 68, but not until 3:30, long after the race was over. I got my bike together, talked to some Canes riders, called Liz at the starting line, and set off with 150ish riders on the 106 mile race. The first hour was cold and a good just to get my bearings from not racing with a big pack since last season. Luckily it started to warm up and I could shed my gloves and arm warmers. I had 1 teammate with me so we tried to stay in the same area. This being my debut race, AND debut rouge roubaix, I wasn't sure where the important sections were mileage wise. We hit the first gravel section abruptly with little warning and people locked up their brakes left and right to go into the right turn. It was a few miles of yo-yoing back and forth. I was mid-pack and it was not a fun place to be. It was relatively flat though so no problems. About a mile out of the first gravel section i'm near the front of the pack behind my teammate Dustin. Were about 5 back and the rider in front of Dustin goes does. It looked like maybe he locked bars with someone. I saw it happening so had plenty of time to react and get around it. Unfortunately he took Dustin out with him. A break had gone up the road of about 4 riders and were not getting any closer after about 25 miles. Dustin chased back on, made his way through all the riders, and went straight to the front and buried himself for an hour to bring back the break. That guys a machine. We were coming up on a hard left, so I knew a gravel section must be coming up. It's about 72 miles into the race and i'm feeling really good.
Dustin managed to bring the break back to about 15 seconds. I was way too far back so took the corner sharp and ended up in the very front with my friend Ryan Dupree who rides for Canes. We hit the gravel and then comes the wall named the Pond Store Climb. Appropriately named this thing is steep and retarded hard. Me and Ryan absolutely put the hammer down. Were going abloc and catch the break, and spit all but one out the back. I turn around and no one else is there with us. Theres a prime at the top of the climb of a $100 bill. I didn't notice until about 10 feet and the guy in the break that me and Ryan caught snatched it. I was so bloody close I could taste the sushi it would buy me. Either way the climb wasn't over. I averaged over 400 watts for the climb and 450watts for the first 2 minutes of it. There was still alot of gravel to cover so I absolutely floored it and put some distance between me and everyone else. I go through a feed, grab a water, pour it over me and haul ass down the hill. 5 guys behind me formed (ryan and the remaining breakaway) so I sit up and wait for them so we can get a paceline working. Cary radioed ahead and got me some food and water. Radios are sweeeet?! Were keepin a good pace and taking 30second pulls. I had to explain to one guy how to do a proper paceline as he had no idea and while he was strong, he was hurting the break more than anything. I didn't know at the time but the favorite for the race was in the break with me. He was hanging off the back with his mouth hanging wide open. I told he he needs to start taking some pulls or were gonna really crank it up. Suddenly he becomes Mr. 100,000 volts. Tryin to pull a Lance Armstrong fake out eh?! We continued the pace line pulling off to the left, and as I pulled through and off, the guy that couldn't ride a paceline decides to overlap wheels on my left. When I pull over he's right there and he goes down, as well as the other 3 guys behind him (ryan, the favorite incl). Me and the other guy sit up and wait but after about 10-15min of soft pedaling its clear no ones coming back. We start hammering away and suddenly the lead van start pulling further and further away until it's completely out of site. We didn't see any signs for turning and keep going straight, only to end up at the Angola prison... dead end. unbelievable. We turn around ride back about 3 miles and see the grupetto riding through into the turn. I was pissed to say the least and hammered it up the last steep gravel climb section until I made it home to the finish. I come across the line with to a number of "dude what happened?"
It was definately hard to swallow. The break that goes over that 2nd climb first is a sure bet it's gonna make it to the finish. I was feeling so strong and without a doubt could have taken it in the last 15 miles. But I guess more importantly I got to test my fitness. I told my mom going into the race that it doesn't matter if you're one of the strongest riders, you gotta be smart, and to some degree, lucky. I didn't think I was gonna be one of the strongest being so early in the season, but I definately wasn't lucky. Word got around that the lead breakaway rider mysteriously disappeared from the course. The favorite from this year, who crashed out in the break with me, did the same thing last year.
Anyways i'm due to peak in 3 months, so i'm a long way off, but in good. I can't say having my first roubaix a win wouldn't be awesome, or that I totally wasn't looking forward to winning, but I learned a lot and got some really good training in.