With the transition to Michigan being almost a year, I have begun to wonder where and how I was going to rediscover my motivation to get out and ride the kind of miles that you need in the bank to make an event like the Barry-Roubaix a success. The snow had stuck around much longer than I had hoped for, and the cold kept me off the bike much longer than I care to admit. Entering March with zero outdoor cycling miles on the year, I had to start cramming for the test. As race day approached I had accumulated a few good rides, enough to toe the line and not embarrass myself.
El Maya made the trek around the lake and popped in the night before the race for a quick beer and bike fix session. We had quite the ride to Hastings in the morning, from chasing fellow Subaru drivers at 100MPH, to watching my friend Rob enter the expressway as we passed by and eventually trying to pass a set of gloves over to him at interstate speed. It didn’t work out and we gave up on the exchange. Without a cloud in the sky and a complete lack of even the faintest of breeze, it would’ve been hard to convince me that it was 20 degrees outside.
When the time came and the race started, I pedaled along and tried to stay with the lead group. It was quickly apparent that that was not in the cards for the day. Perfect warmup or going in cold, the Three Sisters are a punch in the face anyway you slice it. I settled in for a beautiful bike ride in the countryside with a mediocre feeling in the legs. Way too soon into the race they began to show signs of cramps, and the signs gave way to reality. That reality meant I had to shut down the pace to alarmingly slow, just to keep the legs from locking up. As we approached the Gun Lake Road climb, I was in full shut down mode for the first half of the climb and then the lights in the engine room began to flicker. The legs came back to life and they began to pedal with a purpose. Entering Sager Road with far more people than I anticipated was just as much fun as I had hoped. They were flailing left and right and I was dodging and weaving to avoid all the shrapnel of the riders as they stopped and bobbled and crashed and veered into impossible directions. The usual for Sager Road. It felt so good to ride the old road, I had missed it not being in the race the last few years. After Sager Road ran its course, the business of the rest of the ride raised its specter. I had too much fun on Sager and could not answer the call. In need of rest I relaxed the pace for a little bit. Just as the shadow of the Head Lake Road climb began to loom, my pace began to pick up.
Halfway through the climb, Hobie, my awesome dad, was cheering all the riders on and ringing his cowbell. As I passed him I thought to myself “this is not as terrible as it should be” and upped the pace. Turning the corner near the top was not even the soul crushing sight it should have been. For maybe the first time in my history of Barry-Roubaix did I not want to throw up after that climb. I don’t know why, I tried, I gave just about everything I had at that hill, and it did not eat me alive. That was a small personal victory. The rest of the race was about as enjoyable as a bike ride gets. And as the ride drew to a close, I am sure that I hit the same pothole that everyone else complained about on the run into town. Bam, and the bars spun just a degree or two. I thought to look ahead, because potholes that bad usually travel in groups, but it was a sunken manhole cover that was to blame. I crossed the line happy with a time that was nowhere near my best, but had a ride that was pretty close to my best ever.