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2016 Barry-Roubaix Team Belgianwerkx Race Report

2016 Barry-Roubaix Team Belgianwerkx Race Report

A contingent of Team Belgianwerkx riders headed to Hastings, Michigan on April 16, 2016 to tackle the Barry-Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race. Hear what five team members had to say about their experience!


Alex – 62 mile

How many Barry-Roubaix’s have you done?
My first Barry-Roubaix (first gravel race)

What was the most memorable part of the ride for you?
The heat and dust (better answer: changing into my bibs in a truck stop bathroom and showing up 20 minutes before the start because no one in my car planned for the time change.)

What would you say to someone considering it for next year?
62 mile requires prep and strategy, it was a beautiful ride but grueling. Put lots of thought into tire choice, if you are using a cross bike fit the largest tires you can. Clement 33s didn’t quite cut it with all the loose gravel, a 38/40 would have been much more stable and with the right tread it won’t slow you down on the pavement sections (for hot dusty conditions). If the conditions are the same next year i’ll run the Challenge Gravel grinder 38. Also wear a camelback if its hot, so many lost bottles on the course and there is only a small amount of time to drink and eat on the climbs during the gravel sections. Also bring extra nutrition (kcals), I packed for 62 road miles not enough.


Arlen – 62 mile

How many Barry-Roubaix’s have you done?
This was my second Barry Roubaix. The last one was in 2014 and it was cold and breezy then. With the race a month later now, we stumbled upon absolutely perfect weather. I raced the 62 mile race both years. Though a shorter race would have been easier in a lot of ways, I decided that if I was driving that far to race, I may as well get my money’s worth. I don’t regret the distance, but being so early in the season it is hard to be in race shape for 62 miles.

What was the most memorable part of the ride for you?
This was the first year I was able to tackle Sager Rd., an unmaintained, rutted service road that looks like a local favorite for mud trucks with big tires. On this day it was very dry and sandy/powdery. This was my only mishap when I tried to switch lanes and my front wheel disappeared into a pile of powder, tipping me into a briar patch. A few laughs later I was back on and riding. My cyclocross skills came in handy on this section with a few dismounts through unrideable deep sand. The course in general was very dry and loose which challenged my riding skills all day. This course and the gravel conditions will change with the weather. A little moisture and this course would have been a lot faster.

What would you say to someone considering it for next year?
I will likely compete in this race again. It was well worth the drive. The conditions can be extremely variable depending on recent rains, snow, and outside temperature. It is not necessarily a race to do casually and enjoy the scenery, though it is beautiful, because the terrain requires a lot of focus to stay safe. There are many steep hills and descents that will challenge your skills and nerves. I sure wish I had a Barry-Roubaix course it my back yard!


Jessica – 36 mile

Last weekend was my second Barry Roubaix at the 36 mile distance, and what a difference it was from last year! Wearing alltheclothes at last year’s race with the temperature at the start under 20 degrees, and just shorts and a jersey- and sunscreen!- this year was a very welcome change. The house we stayed in for the weekend was closer too, so I was able to enjoy a 12 mile warm up ride to the race with Nicki and another friend. With the nice weather and everyone in the house having done the race at least once before, it was nice to be more relaxed the morning of the race.

Last year I finished in 2:15 and 9th in my age group. I was hoping for a higher place finish this year, but I couldn’t control who showed up and how they trained, so I set my goal to shave some time off and finish faster than last year, preferably as close to 2 hours as possible. I lost a lot of training in February due to illness and back problems, so I was unsure if my training was actually enough to achieve my goal. But if I went as hard as I could and laid it all out there, I would not be disappointed with whatever my finish time turned out to be.

As with last year, I knew that the start would be much like a cyclocross race, with the “hole shot” actually being catching slower racers from previous waves who tend to clog up the road, especially on the hills. I needed to stage close to the front in order to do well, but when it came time to line up, chaos ensued and I let too many girls get in front of me so ended up 6 or 7 rows back.

When the announcer finally said GO I was able to work my way forward but we caught up to the stragglers from earlier start waves pretty quickly. I lost the front of the women’s field right around the same time. The gravel was much looser and sandier than last year making descents and cornering sketchy. I figured out quickly to cut speed early, stay loose and hope for the best.

My race strategy was to get to Sager Road, which was the halfway point for the 36-milers, in an hour or less which would put me closer to a 2 hour finish than last year. The heat took a toll early- it may as well have been 95 degrees since the week before I was riding in 30 degrees, so I was surprised to see that I got to Sager Road in just under an hour. But that gave me a little boost of energy to keep my head in the game.

It’s amazing how a well-timed interaction can lift the spirits. After making my way up the very sandy Sager Road, a girl passed close by me and said one friendly word that got my attention to get on her wheel. I don’t remember what she said, but the timing was perfect; I was starting to go into a bad place and she pulled me right out of it. I ended up being a better climber than her so I would get ahead of her on the hills, then she would catch up to me on the descents and we would work together for a while until the next hill. By this point I was hurting a great deal and I wanted to be finished pretty badly. I kept day dreaming about laying in the shady grass by the finish. We finished the last gravel section and I turned my effort up a couple notches and came through the finish strong.

I ended up with a finish time of 2:10, shaving 5 minutes off my time from last year which I was very satisfied with. I placed 11th in my age group. And you betcha I laid in the grass after my race!

The whole weekend was amazing thanks to great friends and teammates. The weather and company really could not have been more perfect. I’m already looking forward to doing it next year and hoping to finish even closer to 2 hours! Now, to clean all the gravel dust off my bike….


Kevin – 22 mile

How many Barry-Roubaix’s have you done?
My first one!

What was the most memorable part of the ride for you?
Dry/loose gravel made it challenging uphill at times but especially downhill! Scared the hell out of myself numerous times.

What would you say to someone considering it for next year?
Fit gears to match your fitness or lack thereof – smartest thing I did was replace the 11-28 with a 11-36. I spun up the steep stuff & never had to get off and walk uphill like some folks did. The event is in the eastern time zone so remember to account for that in travel plans (I did not). Time your departure earlier in the afternoon to avoid Chicago rush hour (again, I did not). I spent ~1h going nowhere fast and didn’t get to Kalamazoo til after 10!


Nicki – 36 mile

How many Barry-Roubaix’s have you done?
This was my second one. Last year was freeeezzzzing and luckily they moved the event to later in the year for better weather and it sure paid off! The day turned out beautifully with super warm temps. A few of us rode to the start from our rental house and that was the only time you needed any sort of arm or leg warmers. Yay!

What was the most memorable part of the ride for you?
The conditions! It was so dusty, dry and loose out there! There were definitely some challenging bike handling moments (Sager Road sandpit, I’m looking at you), but that’s what makes this race so unique. With so many miles off of paved roads, it can be quite the adventure. And I ended up shaving 15 minutes off of my time from last year, so that was a victory in my book. Definitely looking forward to next year!

What would you say to someone considering it for next year?
Do it! It’s a fantastic event – the course is interesting, challenging and beautiful. The event production is top notch – from streamlined packet pickup to the on-course signage and police at all major intersections. The ride will test your endurance, your ability to climb lots of punchy little hills and your bike handling skills. With the different distances, it’s truly an event for anyone interested in riding their bike in a beautiful spot. And gravel is so fun to ride! Definitely bring the wider tires though! I ran 33s and with all the loose sand, I could have definitely gone wider.

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  1. Race Season Has Begun! Barry Roubaix Race Report – Jessica Helmlinger - […] Last year I finished in 2:15 and 9th in my age group.  I was hoping for a higher place…

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