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Belgian Spring

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Belgian Spring

The 2017 Barry Roubaix Story.

It's hot, it's dark, and it smells real bad.  That is how I wake up in a hotel in the middle of nowhere Michigan with three other grown adults.  Hotel rooms full of cyclists always have a similar smell to dorm rooms.  As I walk to the window in the dark I'm dreading what I'm about to see, RAIN.  Lots of rain with no signs of letting up.

As I ate my hotel breakfast after a shitty nights sleep, I noticed other cyclists starting to gather for their "continental breakfast" in the hotel lobby.  I think to myself, "why do I keep signing up for this shit".  

It's been a few years since my last "Barry".  2014 was the last time I was in Hastings Michigan, a cute little town just south of Grand Rapids.  I always hear Barry come up when gravel races are mentioned.  Lets be clear, there isn't really any gravel or mud at Barry.  Rather, there is SAND, lots of sloppy sand that destroys bikes.  If you've ever done any kind of hiking, cycling, or camping in Michigan, you're familiar with all the sand everywhere.

This year it was going to rain all day, and never get to 40 degrees.  This ain't my 1st rodeo.  I've ridden in these conditions before, too often actually.  I know how to dress.  Wool.  Wool is your friend and should be your base.  Wool is some magical fabric that man can not recreate synthetically.  When wool gets wet, it stays warm.  Nothing else does that.  Then you need a decent shell.  An actual rain coat.  My weapon of choice has been the Giro Neo Rain jacket lately.  Really a garbage bag would work just as well, something that is basically plastic to keep moisture out and heat in.  Hands and feet are the tricky part.  Shoe covers of some sort were a must.  I had some crappy Specialized ones that I don't recommend, but they worked well enough.  My gloves, my wonderful Bontrager gloves that I've worn all winter saved my life.  I also recently invested in a Gore cycling cap.  Which might be the single best piece of cycling apparel I have ever purchased.  My head was warm and dry, the short bill helped keep the rain out of my face.

Sitting in the starting grid, I took a mental survey of the surrounding riders emotional vibes.  Many were jovial, make jokes and talking shit.  Others, have already lost.  Their faces long and full of dread.  This won't be a fitness test.  No, rather it was going to be test of a persons will and inner strength. 

Making love to the camera prior to the start.  Labok not ammused.

 Rain.  Hard sleeting rain started started to pelt everyone once we hit the 1st pavement section.  My only concern was my vision.  I wear glasses and at some point I had to pull over and gently put them away in my jersey pocket.  Which slowed me down quite a bit.  I had to be more careful of my lines and try to hang with someone who could guide me. perferable with a real fender.

Hard freezing rain.

Despair, fear, loneliness, are how I've been seeing people describe their day at Barry-Roubaix.  Mine could not be further from that.  Like I said, this ain't my 1st rodeo.  Mentally, I fine all day.  Happy even, jamming to songs in my head leap frogging from one quitter to the next.  While everyone was indoors playing on their power pads (Zwift) all winter, I was outside riding my bike.  I'm accustom to shitty weather, and I think that paid off.  I dropped people I had no business dropping.  I also never really pushed it as hard as I could have, for whatever reason.

Eventually the rain let up and I could put my glasses back on and turn the gas back on.  Half way through I started picking up others from Chicago.  Eventually I'd lose them in the headwind.  Yeah, headwind?  I don't remember Michigan having much wind.  WTF.  Towards the end I would end up working with the the woman who would later win the women's Single Speed category until her rear hub started to crap out and I started recognizing more local kits in the distance.  Clicking, scrapping, knocking, my poor bike pushed toward familiar roads and riders.  We were on the roads back into town, and I was on a mission to catch every Chicago rider I could.

With the motivation of seeing Chainlink, Lovestar, and Tuxedo Thunder riders in the distance, it was time to be done with all this.  By which point I could no longer feel my feet, at all.  My hands decided to start getting warm again at the end, letting me eat a little.  Slogging through those last few miles, trying to reach and pass every kit I could recognize was draining me.  The last few bits of gravel/sand were REAL soft, sucking my power like a vampire in a blood bank.  Pavement never felt so good beneath me as I rolled off that gritty spongy road.

I fought that guy behind me all damn day.  He won.

With blocks to go, this one guy caught up to, and passed me.  Who, I had been yo-yoing with all day and thought I had dropped for good a little bit ago.  Dammit.  He beat me.  I was dead.  I was done.  I cheered a few Chicago friends at the finish before I made a B-line to the car to get that floor heater on full blast.

Only in the car do I finally become unhappy.  Not cause I'm cold or didn't do the time I wanted, but the realization sets in that my bike is trashed and will probably need to be over hauled, replacing several parts.  Oh, and my car is now full of sand.  SIGH.  Its a real Charlie Brown moment in that parking lot in Michigan, that I wouldn't trade for anything else.

Until next year Barry-Roubaix.

 

Thank you SnowyMountain for letting me use some photos!!

-Schratz

 

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Kristina's Kelly

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Kristina's Kelly

So some of you have seen this bike pop up on our Instagram here and there and have reached out about it.  This is Kristina's adventure machine.  Kelly Knobby X.  Campy drive train and Ritchey components.  This is her go to for longer mixed road/gravel rides, though it has seen a cyclocross race or two. 

I won't go too into this, your bicycle people, I'll let you take a look at the pictures.  

She will be crushing this year's Midwest Rapha Prestige on this bike.

 

-STAY RAD!

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STAY RAPHA

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STAY RAPHA

This past weekend Rapha put on one of their now legendary Prestige rides/races, it was once know as the Gentlemen's Race, out in the DRIFTLESS.  If you're unfamiliar (who are you), there are tons of videos on Vimeo.  To our surprise, we were contacted by Rapha, through some friends, to take part.  WUT??!!

We've spoken about this region of Illinois before, and even did our ILLmanzo ride out there.  Ten Thousand took place on many of these roads as well.  We're no strangers to this region or this type of riding, 115 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing on mostly gravel/dirt roads, in the middle of July.

Rapha specified that there would need to be teams of four.  Our team was Jon S, Joel H, Jon L, and dark horse Sean M.  None are strangers to adventures such as this.

Those of you living in the mid-west, know it really hasn't been summer yet.  Temps only reaching as high as 85, and rain that would rival Noah's nightmares.  Unfortunately, summer decided to get it's lazy ass outta bed for this event.  The night before the humidity was off the charts and temps into the 90s.  The morning of, at 6am, it was MORE humid and still in the 90s!

Fortunately we started early, second team to leave just after 7am.  The ride boasted about a 65/35 road to gravel ratio.  More than one team showed up on road tires.  We were all on some kind of file tread CX tire.  Really the durability and control on a 20%, loose, rutted out,  grade decents made the tire choice for us.  We saw lots of riders with flats, or went down on some gnarly gravel riding skinnys.  Even a broken collar bone!  Great job Axletree for telling riders to slow and getting a hold of the medic in that situation.  Axletree really are the Green Lanterns of the cycling community, keeping peace and order.     Plenty of cloud cover in the morning, but by mid day we had full sun.  Temps exceeding 100 and still humid as hell.

This played a HUGE factor for all teams involved.  Many teams had riders abandon.  Even us.  Labok was having a trouble early on.  The climbing and the humidity took it's toll on him.  He finally reached a point where he was no longer sweating, but still drinking alot.  It wasn't a good sign. We hung out until the medic picked him up.  It was hard to see him so battered by the weather and the course.  Miles later we saw Half Acre and Axletree with riders in trouble from the heat as well.  

 At this point, the sun started to break through the clouds.  As the day went on, the sun would continuing to sizzle our brains like those old "this is your brain on drugs" egg commercials.  More than once we took advantage of the kindness of the local country folk.  Their garden hoses became beacons of hope to cool our country fried body's.  Finally after yo-yoing with  Half Acre for most of the race, we decided to ride together #radacre.  Unfortunately soon after Jen from Half Acre hit her breaking point, after sprinting up hill past us.  She pulled into a yard to make the now dreaded call to the organizers.  Sean pulled up next to me looking pale and beat, he was done too.  This pale young man was about to turn to ash, and I wasn't going to argue with him.

We were then down to four.  Two Stay Rad, two Half Acre.  We weren't far from the final check point, a gas station/Subway.  Those last few miles became a blur to me as I blasted down a really sketchy hill.  Some how I had gotten really far from the others and dialed it back.  I could tell Joel was reaching his limit.  I was beating him up hills, which NEVER happens.  Almost there we found a rider who had had his soul crushed.  Laying in the shade, he told us he was fine, and I high fived him.  The broom truck was right behind us to sweep him up.

Once at the gas station I had a plan.  Re-hydrate and EAT.  When you're this hot, it's important to keep eating.  Drink all you want, you'll need food in your stomach to absorb the water back into your body, and you need water to help digest your food to keep your energy up.  REAL food, not bullshit bars and gels.  I grabbed some water, Gatorade, cold coffee, and coconut water, sat down and started eating the last of my food.  Taking a glance out side, I saw Joel still sitting outside.  He was fried, he was done.  There were other riders making that call at this stop too.  It was a little heart breaking with only 18 miles remaining.   Half Acre was down to one too.  Axteltree had left another of their own there as well, I could see in his eyes he was conflicted about his choice.  I know a lot of people probably where, so close, but so HOT.  Heat stroke was a common discussion later that night.

The sag wagons had also all converged here.  Sean asked if I needed anything, and recommended that I lighten my load.  So I pulled a bag off my bike, dumped a bottle, and took off on my own.

It was fun at first, rolling paved hills.  The kind where you could keep your momentum to get you up the next side.  I was eventually caught by the last group of six/eight riders.  We hit a pretty big hill and leg cramps forced me off to walk.  SAG rolled up and asked if I was ok, "I'm fine, go away" I thought.  They hung out long enough to see me almost eat shit remounting CX style.  Whelp, now I know how tired I am.  I trucked along, got a little help from Abbey Watson in a sag car (they pulled my ass up a hill).  Seeing I only had 5ish miles left I turned on the gas and caught up to the Rapha team in green, Team Tall Corn on instagram.  We rolled in together, chatting about the day and our fallen comrades.

Finally done.  Stay Rad was waiting for me...still looking beat.  

"Harder than DK", asked jokingly.  Shit yeah, I think this was harder.  I don't like warm weather, I don't like summer or the sun.  Sure the course was hard as hell and was 90% gravel, but the weather was the true villain of the day.

Nice work Rapha, Axeltree, Chad, Half Acre, and everyone else.  

Smiles for miles or something.

-SCHRATZ


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Dirty Kanza

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Dirty Kanza

A week ago I wasn't sure I was even going to go.  I had smashed my face on the ground mountain biking.  Some how I healed up pretty good and went any way, broken nose and all.

The night before I got almost no sleep.  My mind was buzzing with excitement and uneasiness.  More rain was on the way, and after my quick ride out on the gravel roads, I was not happy about that.  They were already messy as hell with little time to dry out.

Belgian tan

Belgian tan

Exploring the day before and the flat part of the course. 

Exploring the day before and the flat part of the course. 

We started in a dual pace line  and about ten miles in we hit a dirt road, or rather the "trail of tears" as I call it now.  It was totally unride-able for everyone.  It was about 3ish miles of hiking in ankle deep peanut butter.   The bike would get so clogged with mud and grass that pushing it was out of the question most of the time.  Carrying it on your back like a yoke was the most economical use of energy.  Your feet would cake up with an extra 5 pounds of mud on each foot, wearing you out before you even got warmed up on the bike.   Many bikes and riders never made it past this point.   After that the 1st leg was rough, but good.  Foggy and moist was the air.  The rocky ground was also wet and slick.   I dealt with a couple mechanical issues, bottle cages either were loose or broken, I assume from the hike a bike.  Pretty much clear sailing after that until Axletree caught up to me and we decided to ride a water crossing.

This went on for miles.  Many derailleurs died to bring us this information.

This went on for miles.  Many derailleurs died to bring us this information.

The private cattle roads were the toughest.  Cows would cross right in front of you.

The private cattle roads were the toughest.  Cows would cross right in front of you.

Bad idea.  There was a HUGE ass hole in that creek.  They fell over, and I found the deepest part.  Bars went under and I went OTB.  Fearing I re-broke my nose with the taste of iron in my mouth from the nasty water I just drank.  I totally forgot about my phone in my back pocket.  Which was in a water proof bag...that was just open enough for my headphone cord to come out.  That was enough to fill the bag and kill my phone.  Aside from some bruises, I was fine and my bike was now CLEAN.

This is where I ate shit and drank some of that water.

This is where I ate shit and drank some of that water.

I hit the 1st check point, Joel cleaned my bike and lubed the chain.  I ate, and changed into a fresh kit.  Messed around with my broken phone for a bit, and decided it wasn't worth my energy to get angry over it.   We decided that I should press on with NO PHONE.  I had Joel's number in a Ziploc back in case I needed to bail.  130 miles to go, with no tunes.  Kill me now.

After that check point, came the worst leg for me.  The first two legs were about 75/77 miles and the final was just over 40 miles in length.   I normally hit the wall around mile 80 on any century, and feel better somewhere in the 90's for no real reason.  I eat and drink plenty.  This was no different.  I was soft pedaling for a bit dealing with a chain that decided it wanted to play some dub step for me.  Skipping and making all kinds of horrible noises.  Part of me wanted my derailleur to break like so many others had that day, so I could call it a day.  I was tired and over it.  Many a dark thought entered my mind, making the ride more miserable. Then on a climb the chain finally broke, after 20+ miles of not working right.  FUCK.  Oh wait, I remembered I had a quick link in my frame bag.  Popped the broken link out, threw on the quick link in a matter of minutes, BOOM, my bike shifted like a dream.  

Not me, but the same thing.

Not me, but the same thing.

GAME ON.  I started to make up time to the second water stop.  No bullshitting, just filled my bottles and took off.  I made a hard push to the last check point in fear of not being able to make the cut off.  Hard Push is a loose term.

All of these private road were hard and full of sketchy cattle grates.

All of these private road were hard and full of sketchy cattle grates.

I made it.  I felt good.  Axletree had just rolled out.   They had lost more than half their riders to mechanicals or fitness.  The ones that were out, offered to help me out at the check point.  I ate more, put clean socks on, topped off my snacks and bottles and blasted out of there.  At this point I was so excited, I couldn't believe it was going to happen.  I felt good, bike worked good, and I was going to make the full 200!!!

I rolled with 10 guys for the 1st ten or so miles, but couldn't keep their pace 170 miles into the day.  I dialed it back and pulled out my other Garmin.  Yes, I brought two.  Knowing that my 500 battery would die soon, I pulled up the course on my 200 and threw on the back light and went on my own pace.

Not me, but you get the idea of the terrain and the climbs. 

Not me, but you get the idea of the terrain and the climbs. 

This final section was full of the roughest rollers I'd ever ridden.  Similar to the rollers at Barry-Roubiax, but made of jagged stone smashed by Thor's hammer.  Nothing like blasting down sketchy sharp rocks with just a head light in the middle of the night. 

With 5 miles left and I turned on the gas and made it to town.  Making sure Stay Rad was represented, I pull off my jacket and stuffed it in my jersey.   Full sprint and a bunny hop at the line.  IT'S OVER.  FEED ME.

200 miles.  One broken iPhone 5c.  One broken chain.  ZERO flats.   Over a dozen compliments about our caps and t-shirts. 

Time for an over haul.

Time for an over haul.

I did it.  With a broken face, and a sore neck from a crash a week ago.  Riding 200 miles in one day does weird things to your body.  Swollen bits, numb digits, and days of being sleepier than I'd ever been before.  I will never forget this experience, and thank you to all friends cheering me on, either in person, or on the play by play going down on Facebook.   Good bye Kansas.  Don't call me, I'll call you.

Photos courtesy of Chad, Joel, and AdventureMonkey

-SCHRATZ

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ILLmanzo

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ILLmanzo

Lets start off by making it clear that this is/was in no way a DIS or a put down to the legendary ALMANZO100.  Rather, this is more of a pastiche of that race.  Almanzo is a beautiful ride, with challenging climbs and decents.  It's what made us fall in love with Minnesota.  Illinois desperately needs something like that.  Illinois has the perception that its flat, windy, and boring.  Get your ass in gear and come ride with us.

We start our ride about 2 hours north west of Aurora in a part of the state known as the Driftless, an area of the state that wasn't smashed flat by that damn glacier.  The weather report for the days leading up was all over the place, 20, 80, 60% chance of thunderstorms.  The morning was clear and almost cool, but humid.  REAL humid. 

We were 10 strong for a ride we made up less than a month before hand, and about half were people I'd never really meet before.  That's pretty much a win.  We rolled out at 10:00 am, and it was pretty much GO TIME for the 1st ten or so miles, until we found the giant barrel mobile home thing on the side of the road.  We all took pictures and bullshited for a bit.  After that we more or less stayed as one crew, sure some would break of the front to stretch legs, others were riding safe to protect injured legs, but we would almost always come back together.  The humidity on top of the climbing really tested your heart and will to be out there.

Sean drank all that whisky 

Sean drank all that whisky 

Each climb presented a new challenge.  Some you could maintain your momentum from the previous decent, others you had the montra "spin to win" going over and over in your head.  Each climb also brought a reward, seemingly never ending descent.  Some you were happy you survived the loose as marbles decent to make the next climb.  Others were on pavement were you could reach 50 mph.  Your eyes would tear, from either joy, fear, or wind. 

We blasted down that for at least ten minutes.  This was taken a month ago, hence no green.

We blasted down that for at least ten minutes.  This was taken a month ago, hence no green.

All while trying to keep your eyes on the road, which was easier said than done.  With some of the most beautiful rolling green hills straight out of a story book, or at least a Jolly Green Giant add, your daily life stress evaporated and left you feeling fresh.  All the hills also had small bubbling creeks with meandering cows, lamas, and every kind of bird of prey you could imagine.

Kept missing rain...until the last 10 miles.

Kept missing rain...until the last 10 miles.

Silly vanilla cows

Silly vanilla cows

As the ride grew near to an end, some took off to make a break with 15 miles left.  Everyone was caught by the much welcomed down pour, and DOWN POUR it did.  With little visibility and no braking power for those running rim brakes we all made it safely back to the cars, eventually.

We got cleaned up and rolled out for brews & soda at a local brewery that wasn't that good and had crappy service.  It was still a DAMN GOOD DAY.  We will make this a yearly alternative to heading Spring Valley.  

THANK YOU everyone that came, and thank you for hyping it up for next year.  If you didn't go, you should have.

Ride totals: 66miles/5,800ft 

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