Tag Archives: epic

Rouge Roubaix 2014

2014 Rouge Roubaix Pro/1/2 podium - Stefan Rothe (Elbowz), Heath Blackgrove (Boneshaker), Logan Hutchings (Boneshaker), left to right.2014 Rouge Roubaix Pro/1/2 podium – Stefan Rothe (Elbowz), Heath Blackgrove (Boneshaker), Logan Hutchings (Boneshaker), left to right. Wow! Strong podium!

One of these years I’m going to make it onto that podium, but even though it wasn’t this year I’m certainly happy to have raced well against such a strong field. Boneshaker brought a strong team, and it showed with four out of the seven riders in the final selection from their team. Elbowz brought a large, strong team leading to Stefan Rothe’s podium finish. Incycle Predator had a small, but strong, team with powerhouse riders Mike Olheiser, Emile Abraham, Calixto Bello, and Jonathan Atkins. Mike and Calixto made the final break but were outnumbered four against two by Boneshaker. Finish Strong brought a large team and controlled the race all the way to the second gravel section.

The race – start to first gravel

Brian Arne from Finish Strong took off early on a solo move eventually extending his lead to four minutes by the start of the first gravel section at about Mile 25 of the race. The rest of the field entered the first gravel together at a brisk but not insane pace. The conditions for the first gravel section were different than any other year I’ve raced here. The washboard and deep gravel typical of Woodstock Rd were replaced by mostly hard-packed dirt, a bit of gravel, and lots of potholes. This meant that if you could avoid the potholes, you could go really fast. It also meant that if you didn’t see a pothole in time, you either jumped it or hit it. Jumping was an option in some places, but in other places that would just land you in one of several more potholes all in a line. I had wanted to be at the front before the gravel, but when that didn’t work out I drifted to the back and kept as much of a line of sight as possible in front of me.

Ahead of me was a bit of chaos. With the fast conditions interspersed with some massive potholes, the group would be flying along when all of a sudden the front of the group would slow down causing those behind to slam on their brakes. On a downhill leading into a rough section, one guy in front of me locked up his rear brake and slid his rear tire all the way down to the bottom of the hill but managed to keep the bike upright and not run into the people in front of him. A few minutes later one of the most epic wrecks I’ve ever seen happened on a corner leading to a massive mud puddle taking up half the road. We were warned about it ahead of time, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the large group from producing a large crash at this bottleneck. I was far enough back to have time to slow down but I arrived at the wreck maybe a few seconds after the wreck with the following visual image:

One rider’s bike is still up in the air (must have been the last person making his way into the crash). Many riders are on the ground, but some are already trying to untangle bikes. The giant mud puddle is on the left side but the path on the right is completely blocked with wreckage. Some riders are in the bushes on the right trying to get around. Others are riding through the mud puddle or trying (unsuccessfully to ride around it on the left). I end up riding through the puddle on the right-hand side close to the wreckage. I nearly didn’t make it which would not have been good for my speedplay cleats having to unclip and put a foot down in the mud. I squeezed through, though, and was actually one of the first few caught up in the wreck to make it through and start chasing.

The lead riders were not too far ahead, maybe 20 seconds, but their group was smaller and hammering the last section. I helped our small chase group of maybe three or four riders, but I was holding back a bit gambling that we were going to catch the group which traditionally slows way down after the first gravel section. I didn’t want to waste too much energy in the process of chasing back on. Still, when we made it to the road, they had extended their lead a bit but we could still see them. As we continued chasing more people joined our group from behind so that by the time we finally caught back onto the group of 30 or so riders that had made it through the wreck unscathed, our group had probably swelled to 15-20 riders.

The long road section between the first gravel and second gravel

About 50 riders or so had merged, and our pace was slow. Periodic attacks livened the pace briefly, but for the most part nobody was actively chasing because Finish Strong went to the front to cover any chase moves. I stayed mostly at the back trying to conserve energy. When we were a few miles out from the second gravel, I started a long, patient attempt to move up the lefthand side to the front. I made it to within three riders of the front with less than a mile to go. But then I got boxed in when more riders came up the left and right and the middle slowed down. By the time all was said and done, I made the turn at the Ft Adams store in about 20th position. I ended up riding through the giant puddle with no ill consequences but then hit some large potholes and lost a lot of positions.

By the top of Blockhouse Hill, Brian’s lead was down to 1 minute, but it was enough for him to stay away for the KOM at the top of the climb. Meanwhile down at the bottom of the climb people were taking all kinds of risks given the road conditions leading into Blockhouse. I was more conservative and continued to slide back. There was one rider I came on who had crashed and was laying on the ground. Knowing that the medical truck was just behind me, I continued on. I paid for my conservativeness as I had to pass tons of people on the climb itself and yet this still only got me into the first chase group. I helped drive this group and at first it looked like we would catch the lead group. They were only 30 seconds ahead of us! But the lead group was smaller and stronger than our chase group which spelled doom for our group which at first worked really well together, but then as more people caught onto our group people stopped working.

The third gravel section

By the time we turned onto LA-66 with about four miles to the next gravel section, there were only a few of us still working at the front including Mark Hyatt (UHC), Derek Wilkerson (Elbowz), Caleb Fuchs (ThinkFinance), John Stowe (Cherry St. Cycles), and maybe one or two other people. I continued working knowing that the chase was somewhat futile at this point, but wanting to make sure that I was at the very front heading into the third gravel section. I led the turn and wanted to lead into the gravel, but Mark came around me. I got on his wheel, though, and hit the gravel in second position. By the top, there was just three of us left – me, Mark, and Derek.

I knew that this was our chance to get away from the large group and form a cohesive, strong chase. I drilled it as hard as possible and led through most of the gravel. By the time we hit the road, we started to chase really well and entered a good rotation. Up ahead we could occasionally see riders coming off the lead group. This was motivating for the three of us chasing and I kept telling Derek and Mark and that the lead group might be playing games, and we might be able to capitalize on that to catch them. Unfortunately, the gap was just too large at this point and by the end of the race they had put six minutes into us!

By the time we approached the low-water bridge and Mahoney Hill, our chase group had solidified at 5 riders with us having picked up two more riders from the lead group that we were able to keep up with our pace. One of those riders, Colin Strickland (Elbowz), attacked and I went with him. Parker Kyzer (Finish Strong) was able to bring the two of us back. Mark (UHC) put in an attack at one point. Then, to start out the sprint for 8th place, Colin attacked again. Mark covered the move with me on his wheel. The two of us led side-by-side up the climbing to the finish line. When we reached about 150 meters to go, I gave it everything I had. I assumed that I would get passed by several people, but only Mark was able to come around right at the line to take 8th with me in 9th place. Great race, grand adventure (including the pre-ride which I will save for another post).

Annotated heartrate data
Annotated heartrate and power data - iBike plot (click to enlarge)Annotated heartrate and power data – iBike plot (click to enlarge)

Speed comparison
This was by far my fastest Rouge Roubaix ever. See the table below for a comparison to previous years:

Year Avg Speed Distance Time Place
2014 23.8mph 101.8 mi 4:15:53 9th
2013 22.4mph 105.1 mi 4:41:34 10th
2012 23.4mph 105.1 mi 4:30:02 4th
2011 22.0mph 105.1 mi 4:47:11 9th
2010 21.7mph 101.8 mi 4:41:59 18th

Update – based on Ed’s comment I wanted to check the 1st place finishing times. I don’t have the distances for years prior to 2010, so assuming they used the long course (105.1) I’ve calculated the average speeds in the list below:

2014 – 1st place – Heath Blackgrove 4:09:57 – 101.8mi @ 24.4mph
2013 – 1st place – Ty Magner 4:23:50 – 105.1mi @ 23.9mph
2012 – 1st place – Adam Koble 4:29:09 – 105.1mi @ 23.4mph
2011 – 1st place – Greg Krause 4:35:00 – 105.1mi @ 22.9mph
2010 – 1st place – Mat Davis 4:29:27 – 101.8mi @ 22.7mph
2009 – 1st place – Christian Helming 4:26:30 – 105.1mi (?) @ 23.7mph
2008 – 1st place – Aaron Boyleston 4:25:53 – 105.1mi (?) @ 23.7mph
2007 – 1st place – Mike Olheiser 4:21:09 – 105.1mi (?) @ 24.1mph
2006 – 1st place – Mike Olheiser 4:31:25 – 105.1mi (?) @ 23.2mph
2005 – 1st place – Jason Snow 4:22:50 – 105.1mi (?) @ 24.0mph
2004 – 1st place – Brice Jones 4:23:56 – 105.1mi (?) @ 23.9mph
2003 – Results link broken
2002 – 1st place – Stephen Viquerie 5:02:00 – 105.1mi (?) @ 20.9mph
2001 – Results link broken
2000 – Results link broken
1999 – Results link broken

Winter Gridlock 2014 – a pictoral timeline

In this blog, I document the events of the surprise snowstorm that hit central Alabama on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014. I have selected several defining pictures to show full size here at the beginning to capture the chaos caused by the storm and its aftermath. Below the full-sized pictures, I have included small thumbnails of some of the videos I uploaded to youtube. Below the videos, I have organized a long pictoral gallery that covers the entire week. There are a ton of pictures, but I recommend that you click on the first one to open a full-size window and then click the arrows or click the picture to advance from photo to photo. If you do that, then when you make it to the end of the

People walk down a completely empty three lane highway about 3 hours after it first started to snow

Tues, 1/28 @ 1:07PM – US Hwy 280 abandoned top of pass. People walk down a deserted six lane highway about 3 hours after it first started to snow.

An ambulance spins out and struggles up the hill with a paramedic and a bystander helping to push it up the hill. People are abandoning their cars, while others try to get around. This is the spot where I started videoing my bike ride up the hill.

Tues, 1/28 @ 1:03PM – US Hwy 280 at Cherokee Rd. An ambulance spins out and struggles up the hill with a paramedic and a bystander helping to push it up the hill. People are abandoning their cars, while others try to get around. This is the spot where I started videoing my bike ride up the hill. http://youtu.be/ZlKTOy0J8WI

Tues, 1/28 @ 1:03PM – US Hwy 280 at Lakeshore Dr. This picture is taken from the same spot as the one above, except looking back down the hill. The highway is completely blocked. There are accidents along the side, and you can see the exact spot where the cars cannot make it any farther up the hill. At this point, the line of cars probably stretches all the way back into downtown several miles away assuming that Red Mountain isn’t blocked.

Tues 1/28 @ 6:08PM - icy blueberry lane. As I head out of the neighborhood, I encounter unrideable sections of Blueberry Lane coated in solid ice. To pass this section, I ride through the yard on the left where you can see all the footprints of people walking ... people unable and/or unwilling to walk anywhere near the crazy slippery road. I took this picture on my return trip after making it successfully to the grocery store to get milk.

Tues 1/28 @ 6:08PM – icy blueberry lane. As I head out of the neighborhood, I encounter unrideable sections of Blueberry Lane coated in solid ice. To pass this section, I ride through the yard on the left where you can see all the footprints of people walking … people unable and/or unwilling to walk anywhere near the crazy slippery road. I took this picture on my return trip after making it successfully to the grocery store to get milk.

Tues, 1/28 @ 9:42PM - city-wide sleepover. People sleep in their offices. Kids sleep at schools. At our house, we have a sleepover with stranded kids whose parents cannot make it to Rocky Ridge Elementary. Over 200 kids spend the night at Rocky Ridge as do 4300 other students across the entire Hoover school system.

Tues, 1/28 @ 9:42PM – city-wide sleepover. People sleep in their offices. Kids sleep at schools. At our house, we have a sleepover with stranded kids whose parents cannot make it to Rocky Ridge Elementary. Over 200 kids spend the night at Rocky Ridge as do 4300 other students in the entire Hoover school system.

Wed, 1/29 @ 8:03AM - first flipped car. I only have to ride 1/2 mile from my house to stumble (almost literally) upon the first flipped car. Rocky Ridge Rd was so icy that I walk stretches of it. I am trying to ride down the middle of the road where there is a little bit of snow (and traction), but graviity pulls me across to the side of the road onto the shoulder where I am completely shocked to be staring at this car in front of me. This moment is recorded 7 minutes and 50 seconds into this video: http://youtu.be/31u73UqPQ4A. I park my bike alongside the sign and run down to the car just to make sure nobody is still in the car (i.e., in case it had just happened while I was biking down the other side of the hill). Nobody is inside, but the contents of the car are strewn everywhere.

Wed, 1/29 @ 8:03AM – first flipped car. I only have to ride 1/2 mile from my house to stumble (almost literally) upon the first flipped car. Rocky Ridge Rd was so icy that I walk stretches of it. I am trying to ride down the middle of the road where there is a little bit of snow (and traction), but gravity pulls me across to the side of the road onto the shoulder where I am completely shocked to be staring at this car in front of me. This moment is recorded 7 minutes and 50 seconds into this video: http://youtu.be/31u73UqPQ4A. I park my bike alongside the sign and run down to the car just to make sure nobody is still in the car (i.e., in case it had just happened while I was biking down the other side of the hill). Nobody is inside, but the contents of the car are strewn everywhere.

Wed, 1/29 @ 9:12AM - ice skating. Boris and I decide to head south on I-65 all the way down to AL-119 to buy more water and food at the gas station to hand out to drivers stuck on I-65 north. When we exit the freeway, we discover rather quickly that the ramp is unrideable and head to the shoulder. Just how slippery is it? check out this video of Boris sliding on it - http://youtu.be/KqBRt_vA2z4

Wed, 1/29 @ 9:12AM – ice skating. Boris and I decide to head south on I-65 all the way down to AL-119 to buy more water and food at the gas station to hand out to drivers stuck on I-65 north. When we exit the freeway, we discover rather quickly that the ramp is unrideable and head to the shoulder. Just how slippery is it? check out this video of Boris sliding on it – http://youtu.be/KqBRt_vA2z4

Wed, 1/29 @ 11:05AM - welcome to the apocalypse! By this point, the roads are starting to melt and the middle two travel lanes are moving very, very slowly (0-1mph). But the melting ice makes what is left even more slippery. Instead of solid ice, you now have a thin layer of water on top of solid ice. Boris and I both pick are way very slowly between all of the abandoned cars in this picture and almost fall several times. Every car on the shoulder or in the right travel lane in this picture is abandoned all the way past the hill to the Hwy 31 exit out of sight. Our ride through this is recorded here: http://youtu.be/NDT8zeDPoMk

Wed, 1/29 @ 11:05AM – welcome to the apocalypse! By this point, the roads are starting to melt and the middle two travel lanes are moving very, very slowly (0-1mph). But the melting ice makes what is left even more slippery. Instead of solid ice, you now have a thin layer of water on top of solid ice. Boris and I both pick are way very slowly between all of the abandoned cars in this picture and almost fall several times. Every car on the shoulder or in the right travel lane in this picture is abandoned all the way past the hill to the Hwy 31 exit out of sight. Our ride through this is recorded here: http://youtu.be/NDT8zeDPoMk

Tues, 1/28 @ 1PM - US Hwy 280. http://youtu.be/ZlKTOy0J8WI

Tues, 1/28 @ 1PM – US Hwy 280. http://youtu.be/ZlKTOy0J8WI


Tues, 1/28 @ 2PM - US Hwy 31. http://youtu.be/y3BQokQ5Is0

Tues, 1/28 @ 2PM – US Hwy 31. http://youtu.be/y3BQokQ5Is0


Tues, 1/28 @ 10:45AM - Hwy 31 overlook. http://youtu.be/OgWEwn_UUg0

Tues, 1/28 @ 10:45AM – Hwy 31 overlook. http://youtu.be/OgWEwn_UUg0


Tues, 1/28 @ 2:45PM - Josiah skiing. http://youtu.be/RJAFvI-mSZ0

Tues, 1/28 @ 2:45PM – Josiah skiing. http://youtu.be/RJAFvI-mSZ0


Wed, 1/29 @ 8AM - Mountain biking to I-65. http://youtu.be/31u73UqPQ4A

Wed, 1/29 @ 8AM – Mountain biking to I-65. http://youtu.be/31u73UqPQ4A


Wed, 1/29 @ 8:30AM - I-65 southbound. http://youtu.be/IH3tKdXRqSU

Wed, 1/29 @ 8:30AM – I-65 southbound. http://youtu.be/IH3tKdXRqSU


Wed, 1/29 @ 9:15AM - Boris ice skating on the interstate. http://youtu.be/KqBRt_vA2z4

Wed, 1/29 @ 9:15AM – Boris ice skating on the interstate. http://youtu.be/KqBRt_vA2z4


Wed, 1/29 @ 10:30AM - dollar general truck. http://youtu.be/Ufsg825mdtM

Wed, 1/29 @ 10:30AM – dollar general truck. http://youtu.be/Ufsg825mdtM


Wed, 1/29 @ 10:45AM - Welcome to the Apocalypse! http://youtu.be/NDT8zeDPoMk

Wed, 1/29 @ 10:45AM – Welcome to the Apocalypse! http://youtu.be/NDT8zeDPoMk


Wed, 1/29 @ 10:30AM - I-65 northbound to I-459 overpass on-ramp. http://youtu.be/cxyB3h4TXzc

Wed, 1/29 @ 10:30AM – I-65 northbound to I-459 overpass on-ramp. http://youtu.be/cxyB3h4TXzc


Thurs, 1/30 @ 1:30PM - Hwy 280 to Co Rd 41 - http://youtu.be/E77FVMy1VrI

Thurs, 1/30 @ 1:30PM – Hwy 280 to Co Rd 41 – http://youtu.be/E77FVMy1VrI


Thurs, 1/30 @ 3:30PM - Hugh Daniel descent to Hwy 280 - http://youtu.be/8Vi_Z1DMcok

Thurs, 1/30 @ 3:30PM – Hugh Daniel descent to Hwy 280 – http://youtu.be/8Vi_Z1DMcok


Thurs, 1/30 @ 4:20PM - caldwell mill gulley. http://youtu.be/3iyUGP48X90

Thurs, 1/30 @ 4:20PM – caldwell mill gulley. http://youtu.be/3iyUGP48X90

Below I have created a pictoral timeline of events based on photo timestamps. I have combined what was originally two galleries into one large gallery. Click on the first picture in the gallery and you can advance through each picture at full-size with the captions displayed at the bottom.

Monday – Friday