Race summary via a video (watch the whole thing (it’s worth it) or scroll to 2’20” to watch George Hincapie’s first puncture, scroll to 4’40” to watch a glimpse of what my race was like yesterday – Hincapie alone with two Domo-Frites riders who have a teammate alone in the lead up the road. Then scroll to exactly 5 minutes to watch Hincapie’s second puncture and watch from there until the end and you have a good summary of my race at Rouge Roubaix yesterday. Even the finish placing at the end was the same — we both got a disappointing 4th place.) Disappointed? Yes. Happy? Yes. I have always said that just finishing Rouge Roubaix is a victory.
Race summary in words It was a smaller than normal field with maybe 40 riders and several teams represented, but the strongest and deepest team was clearly Plano Cycling from Texas. With a strong tailwind and constant attacks, none of the early suicide breaks would stick so it was pretty much all together with a small break about 30 seconds ahead going into the first dirt section. I entered the dirt in second or third position and came out of it first after we caught and passed the small lead group somewhere in the middle of the dirt section. I attacked the last hill to get a good 5-10 second gap on the field for the Strava segment challenge. 40 miles and LOTS of attacking later, I was sprinting (and grabbing) the $100 bill at the top of Blockhouse Hill so I think I was fastest on the Blockhouse Hill challenge segment. I was with another rider (Eric in green jersey) and we worked well together for the next 20 miles all the way through the third dirt/gravel section. At the end of the third dirt section, eventual winner Adam Koble (Plano) caught us and just as we were getting into a rotation I pinch flatted my front wheel. The motorcycle neutral support was right behind me, and I was riding again 34 seconds after stopping. I started riding just as a chase group containing two Plano riders and Jason Snow passed. I quickly caught back up to them, but Jason was cooked and the two Plano riders couldn’t work because they had a teammate up the road. I was starting to bonk pretty bad and Jason gave me a Clif bar (thanks!!) which I ate as I sat the front driving the pace hard to try to catch the two leaders. Then the Plano riders started to attack to try to get away so that they would have another rider up the road instead of just Adam. I believe Jason came off of our group during one of these attacks. We were closing in on them when I see Eric pull off to the side of the road just ahead of us with a flat. This motivated me to push the pace even harder because now Adam was having to work by himself as the lone leader up the road. So here I was pulling the two Plano riders back up to their leader when “psssssssttttttt” I get a puncture on the replacement front wheel. The motorcycle wheels were behind us again so I was up and rolling 24 seconds after stopping. Eric caught me right after I got started again so the two of us worked together to catch the Plano riders. This was less than 3 miles from the finish with one more hill left (Mahoney Hill) – I hit the hill hard to try and pop one or both of the Plano riders but only ended up with Eric coming off the pace. I was first wheel going into the sprint when Plano #1 (Ryan Dromgoole) attacked out of the corner with 500 meters to go. He got just enough of a gap that I couldn’t grab his wheel and even as I closed in on him 25 meters from the line, Plano #2 (Corey Ray) who had been on my wheel came around me to take the last step of the podium. Kudos to Team Plano for riding an awesome, aggressive, strategic race. Kudos to the whole team! I wonder if two records were set yesterday? 1) fastest rouge roubaix ever 2) podium sweep by a single team
The detailed report with pictures, short video, maps, and power data
The first 25 miles
Normally in this race, there is a 3 or 4 mile neutral section, followed by a number of attacks that fairly quickly establish the early suicide break. This year we had a strong tailwind and a smaller field so even though there was lots and lots of attacking, nothing would stick. I rode aggressively and tried to get in a move but couldn’t do it – and my legs felt awful – I thought for sure I had a flat or that something was binding in the drivetrain. A few miles before the first dirt section, a break of 3 finally established itself with Stephen Mire (S3), Scott Kuppersmith (Indian Cycle Racing), and one of the Plano riders taking a 45 second gap into the first dirt section.
The first dirt section
The first dirt section was really rough – especially at the beginning with some nasty washboard. I lost a full bottle of gatorade (175 very important calories) here. And even though it was really rough, we were still going fast. Plus, unlike previous years where you had one or two strongmen laying down a killer pace that keeps the group strung out, this year the pace was more manageable opening up the opportunity for attacks – of which there were plenty even on the dirt! I covered some of these moves. Each one would shed more riders from the lead group. Towards the later part on one of the downhills, my speed sensor fell down the fork and was bouncing into the spokes. I thought for sure it was going to get lodged between the spokes and the fork causing the front wheel to stop or breaking some spokes, but within a half mile or so the speed sensor settled down so that is was hanging down sideways outside the hub but no longer hitting the spokes. Towards the end of the first dirt section, I had moved to the front and attacked hard on the last hill to try to get some time for the Strava challenge segment and ended up finishing a few seconds in front of the group.
The long, hard 40 mile road section between the first and second dirt sections
Back out on the road it was constant attacks from many different riders including me, but mainly from Plano riders. I would chase some attacks and try to counterattack, but I think I was being watched too closely. All of the attacks, though, did create a split in the group with about 8 of us in the front split and 10 in the chase group. I was in the front split which worked well together but we were eventually chased down by the chase group. Once the two groups merged again it was attack/attack/attack. This time I instigated a lot of the attacks as I was really tired of trying to respond to the Plano attacks. Nothing was getting away, though. Then as I was sitting on the front pushing an easy 175 watts and admiring the big flood plain off the to right, I turned around saw that I had a 50 meter gap! Once I realized I had a gap, I immediately attacked knowing that the turn was coming up in less than half a mile.
The second dirt section – Blockhouse Hill
I had a small lead and was pushing a steady tempo when Eric Stubbs (GearLink Racing) caught me. He rode my wheel for a second and then attacked hard. I couldn’t imagine what he was doing, but then I remembered about the $100 sprint at the top of the hill. So I pulled it together to try and chase back onto him. I caught him about 2/3rds of the way up the hill. He was still pushing hard though and he came over to my side of the hard-packed mud double track. He was still with me as I approached the man holding the $100 bill, so I had a brief thought wondering if we were going to physically battle for the $100 but I put in a little surge and got there first to grab the money and stuff it as far as I could inside my jersey pocket to make sure it didn’t fall out. My coffee shop cleat covers which I had brought in case I needed to run up any of the hills acted as a nice paperweight. We worked really well together through the remainder of the short dirt section and out onto the paved roads again. I was hoping we had insurmountable lead by this point, but every time I looked back you could see a lead vehicle for a chase group. We got one time split shortly before the start of the third dirt section, which indicated we had a 50 second gap.
The third dirt section – Tunica Hills
I struggled in the 3rd dirt section not from lack of energy but from lack of technical skills. The gravel was kinda rough this year with a bit of mud, too, and I found myself taking the worst possible lines. Even on the opening steep climb, I was on the wrong side of the double track and my rear wheel slid sideways in some gravel about halfway up the climb. Fortunately I was able to push through to the harder packed side, make the nearly 90 degree turn back up the hill and resume pedaling in my 39×28 all on a 12-15% incline at 4-6mph. Across the top it didn’t get much better as I ended up off the road at least twice coming to a near stop before having to sprint back up the next hill to catch back up to Eric who was descending awesomely showing me the perfect lines which I would proceed to not take b/c of some sort of technical brain malfunction.
Flat #1 – front wheel pinch flat
Towards the end of the third dirt section, the lead vehicle that had been behind us was nearly up to us. There was only one rider, though, eventual winner Adam Koble from Team Plano. Just as we were getting into a rotation, I pinch flatted my front wheel on one of the washed out gravel sections that we hit at close to 30mph. The motorcycle neutral support was right behind me, and I was riding again 34 seconds after stopping. I started riding and latched onto a chase group containing two Plano riders (Ryan Dromgoole and Corey Ray) and a third rider – Jason Snow. Jason was cooked and the two Plano riders couldn’t work because they had a teammate up the road. Jason offered me a Clif bar as I was starting to bonk so I was able to drive the pace and begin to close the gap to the leading duo of Adam and Eric. As we got to another hilly section, the Plano riders tried a few attacks, but I was able to chase down each one and even put in a counter attack or two. Jason came off during this section.
Flat #2 – front wheel puncture
So it was me leading the two Plano riders back up to their leader when we went through just a tiny bit of gravel when I hear the dreaded “psssssssssstttt” of a front wheel puncture with less than 10 miles to go. This was an even quicker change than last time (24 seconds from flat to riding again). Eric caught me right as I was pulling out, and the two of us worked together catching the Plano riders again with about 3 miles to go. I pushed the pace super hard on the last hill (Mahoney Hill) hoping to drop one of the Plano riders, but only Eric came off leaving me again with the two Plano riders. I led them into the sprint hoping that they would make some mistake that would enable me to get onto the podium – but when Ryan attacked with 500 meters to go, he gapped me and I spent nearly the entire sprint trying to catch his draft. When I caught his draft maybe 25 meters from the line, he gave it one more burst that not only prevented me from coming around but also allowed his teammate Corey who had been on my wheel to pass me for third.
Kudos and records
Kudos to Team Plano for riding an awesome, aggressive, strategic race. Kudos to the whole team! I wonder if two records were set yesterday? 1) fastest rouge roubaix ever 2) podium sweep by a single team
Pedal force – velocity graph – all over the place even more so than normal