Sunday, June 28, 2015

2015 Hilly Billy Roubaix

Executive Summary

Even more rain that 2014. Seriously couldn't see crap on any of the downhills. Many more potholes, and deep, deep mud.

Race summary

Tom Snyder, Rob Campbell, and I  awoke to rain at the Euro-trash Suites in Morgantown. After driving to Mylan Park, we stood in the pouring rain on the line during the rider meeting.  I had no will to warm up,  We rolled out to the main road and stood some more in the pouring rain.

Interestingly, I wasn't anxious about the start or the upcoming test. I was worried that I would be too disengaged to go hard enough.

Finally we were racing. As usual we hit John Fox Rd 2 miles into the race, and we were on to the gravel. Even if I had wanted to go too hard, I couldn't do it. I couldn't get a deep breath. I probably lost fifteen places in the first mile of gravel.  To compound problems, the rain was heavy, my glasses were fogged, and muddy, and I couldn't see far enough to let it rip. But I soon settled into good rhythm. I was never particularly anxious during the rest of the race, and I wasn't ever scared of the remaining distance.

I took back some places on the next road section, but soon enough we were back on the gravel on the approach to Lower Indian Creek.  Wait, what's banging against my leg? Crap. The seat-tube bottle cage has unscrewed. I give up another 10 places unscrewing the cage. It seemed like I was standing by the side of the track for hours, but when I reviewed the video, it was only about 40 seconds. I still can't see anything on the next downhill, so I'm riding the screaming brakes,

We cross a hub-deep stream and enter Lower Indian Creek Extension. Now we're on a single-track trail, which accentuates the limitation of the file-tread tires I've chosen. The front wheel washes out, and down I go, in slow motion. I get rolling again, and immediately crash again. And we're not  even on Lower Indian creek proper. I opt to run the next stream crossing. For the next five minutes I go around, and sometimes through giant mud bogs. (After the race I ran into last-year's winner, who went wide to the left and over the edge and down the embankment and taco'd his front wheel.) Finally we're back on the road and I start to make back most of the places I lost on the technical section.

The next 30 miles go by in a repetitive, predictable fashion. I make up time on the road sections, and lose time on the descents because I can't see where I'm going, and am (justifiably?) worried about crashing after hitting mud. After the second aid station, where I get my glasses cleaned, I catch Rob Campbell, which comes as a complete surprise.

Just before the always surreal power plant, I roll up a group of six, and then three more. I'm excited--making up positions after my disastrous start. But I've apparently gone too deep, and on the next gravel up hill, I get popped off again.

Only one section of unpaved road remains, but it's Smokey Drain Rd. I'm reduced to pushing because the mud is so deep and the gradient is so steep. I start to come completely unglued, and then it gets worse. I slip off the lip of a mud bog and plunge into 2 feet of muddy, smelly water. The right shifter is completely gunked with mud and barely works. I pick off a few more shattered guys on the paved section, and enter Mylan Park. One short section of grass and I'm in the chute for the finish. The crew at the line are screaming "Field Sprint'" I look behind and see a guy closing fast, but I manage to hold him off.

I'm not as shattered as I was in 2014. Maybe I should have gone harder...

Video Summary 

Only the first hour of racing:


YearFieldTimePlaceOverallWinning TimeNotes
201550+4:46:03634th3:57:16More epic rain. Course shortened
201450+5:00:15237th4:19:35Epic rain
201340+DNFTwo flats, sheared rear derailleur off
201140+5:17:2913~32nd4:19:25Two front flats, one crash

Interestingly, I can't seem to get better than 35th overall!

Full results:

Strava Map

Gear Summary

  • Crux with hydraulic disk brakes. 
  • 50x34 and 11-28 (?) rear
  • Challenge Gravel Grinder file-tread 38mm tires. I don't know if I would have been faster with regular cyclocross tires. One latex tube, one butyl tube. No sealant in the tubes.
I think that the heavy rain narrowed the difference between riding a mountain bike and riding a cross bike. The road sections on a mountain bike would have been equally slow wet or dry, but the downhills would have been much faster on a mountain bike. I still think that HBR is a road race rather than a mountain bike race.