Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rouge Roubaix: Part 3 Finish and thoughts

I was so happy to meet my new found friends again.  After our hasty break we took off again.  The clouds started to break and it started to warm up.  We continued to work a paceline holding a steady pace.  We did a lot of talking as we rode.  I learned that the previous year Stephen had bought a bike days before and he and his friends had fought through every mile.  That they picked up the older gentlemen on the course and bonded and this year they trained.  

We were just about half way when one of the brothers began to bonk.  The paceline fell apart and we all rode abreast talking and working our way down the road.  We got to a small town (small is probably still to big) and stopped at a gas station.  Two old guys, drinking "soda" from brown paper bags stood outside and stared at us.  Of course we weren't the first group of spandex clad men to ride through, the main group went by earlier.  We stopped and at some food.  I bought a Mountain Dew and ate a candybar.  We took a solid break becuase shortly after we started riding again we would hit the first climb in the Tunica Hills.  

We wanted to make sure everyone was fresh, I was offered a Moon Pie, which combined with an orange soda is possibly the best bonk breaker in the world.  Or so I was told.  The old men were asking us questions, mostly along the lines of "what in the hell are you doing riding your bikes out here?" A completely reasonable questions with an unreasonable answer "why not?"

We started off and took a hard left, and then it began.  The climb.  It is at this point that I declare that I had no idea that there were steep, long hills in Louisiana.  We bagan to climb and climb and climb.  It  was suprisingly tough and it was warming up.
I was advised to take my time on the climbs since there were multiple sets.  They had a time goal that was pretty reasonable so we just cranked along.


The first set of climbs was realitively easy.  A SAG stop at the top was appreciated.  The ladies were there with their tables set up.  They said that they were getting more traffic than the actual SAG which had amazing bacon and cheddar kolaches.  They put the good stuff like the bacon and red bulls aside until we got there.  Again, I felt honored that they would include me in the finer refreshments.  Refreshed we took off again.

There were many miles of road cut deep into the Tunica Hills.  I am not sure how much effort it took to cut these but it made for an interesting ride.




The goal was not to walk, if someone needed to stop and rest they did so, but they would do so in place and then ride.



The second series of climbs got old and I thought I would be glad to get back to some pavement.  A reminder, we were all doing this on 25-28mm road slicks.  

Then came the final strech, one that cuased a little pain and discomfort and reminded me that pavement is not always better than dirt.

Then there was this.  The picture below is pavement and it was harder to ride on than the dirt roads.

The picture below is the original of the macro picture above.

This pavement is worse than many gravel roads I have ridden in the Mid-West or Montana.

Chickens, why not!  My own lack of preperation began to catch up with me and the rough roads were causing discomfort.  At some point we got seperated for some reason and I kept pedaling.  Before I knew it I was on the final stretch and finished with the last climb into St. Francisville.  The finish was next to an old church and cemetary, Fitting if you ask me.  I fellt bad that I had broken away and didn't finish with the group.  Their spouses were waiting patiently and I told them they wer enot far behind.  

I was begining to get concerned about my co-workers.  It wasn't long before one of them, an endurance junky, came along.  New bike and tennis shoes, the race director told me he was impressed.  The other one was some ways back.  So I jumped on my bike and went to look for her.  I think I rode  about 5 miles and found her.  Then 5 miles back.  I was done.  She toold me that she had missed every SAG and was running low on food.  I was just glad she was there.

I rode back to the hotel, changed in the bathroom and loaded my bike.  I began the long winding drive home.  It was a painful drive only made possible by large quantities of caffiene.  

This is a well run event.  28mm tires are probably best (if your bike will take them).  I am gllad I didn't run my Clement MSO tires since there was far more pavement than gravel.  Even the dirt is smooth and there was only a couple of places where I had to pay attention not to spin out on loose gravel.  

I would recommend to anyone to pack as much food as they can in jersey pockets just in case.  Three water bottles is probably sufficient (again if you bike will do it).

It is worth every dime, the swag bag included a shirt, a sweatshirt, waterbottle, food vouchers, and a chance to win a bike.  The best part of the ride was easily the commaraderie and generosity of four men, for whom I owe a big thanks.  

The Rouge Roubaix: Part 2 The Ride

As stated in the last post, even a blind squirrel will find the occasional nut.  I happened to stay at the hotel that was the HQ for the Gran Fondo and race.  For once all I had to do was roll out of bed, throw stuff in my car since I wasn’t spending the night and head to the starting line.  

As I was getting ready a gentlemen approached and started to talk to me about the ride.  He was there with some friends and said that they had done it last year together and they had done a lot of work to prepare for this year.  The two co-workers who tagged along mentioned that they hadn’t done much and that one of them had bought a bike 2-3 weeks earlier and hadn’t ridden much.  People looked at him because he wasn’t wearing bike shoes as is the standard fare for something of this magnitude.  Instead he was wearing running shoes.  The gentlemen then stated that he bought his bike a week before the ride last year and it was painful but he finished.

   I  am 609

The ride was a group roll out with police escort due to the busy highway.  Before we knew it we hit the road.  The roll out was fast, there were some folks that probably should have been racing and a gap widened.  It went down the highway a few miles and then turned left off of the main road.  It was not marked and my co-workers were waaaayyyyy behind.  I decided to stop and ensure they made the turn when the race director pulled up.  I inquired about them.  Clearly annoyed he stated that they were waaayyyyy back there.  So I went back, found them and got the to the turn.  Then I took off.  
Unfamiliar with the route, I wanted to find a group to ride with.  I passed a few individuals but going back killed my chances of finding a pack of riders.  I turned on the gas and took off.  I was assuming risk by going too hard too early.  The pavement turned to dirt, more of a wet sand.  


Ironically, it felt smoother and faster than the pavement.  I found the first official marker and was I pleased to find that it was a big sign and clearly marked.  I was a little more comfortable at that point but there is safety in numbers.


Then I caught up to a group of four riders who were going a little slower than I would have preferred but realized I wasn’t going to catch anyone who would be riding at the pace I preferred.  Not wanting to be a wheel sucker and not being a part of the group I didn’t want to jump in their pace line so I hung back a little.  Then a gentleman began to talk to me.  He invited me in so I jumped in.  It was the same guy that was talking to me at the start.

He told me how last year, he bought his bike days before the ride and suffered through every mile.  His friends (two brothers) and he picked up the fourth, an older man in his 60s, finishing the ride together.  They had been training together for this go-around.   I was welcomed in the same way.  I was a welcome addition.


I was in front of the older man as we worked our way through the pace line, again, my pace was slightly faster and he would say “take it easy, there is plenty of challenge ahead.”  The first check point came quickly and the SAG stop had a nice assortment of kolaches.  I ate one, refilled water bottles and then went to start when the group called me over.  All of their significant others were there hosting their own SAG stop.  They told me to help myself.  

Did they have a spread…..cold sodas, Redbull, candy bars, and bacon.  He opened a container that was full of thick cut, perfectly cooked bacon.  It was amazing.  Then we were off down a stretch of pavement.  It was overcast and misty with a perfect temperature for riding.  Then it happened.
My phone rang, it was a work emergency and one I couldn’t avoid.  So I told them to keep going and I hoped to catch up.  I was hartbroken, these guys were great.  


  Before I put my phone away after taking an emergency phone call I snapped these photos.  I love Spanish Moss.


We were talking and working through the line.  After I resolved the issue, I cranked, again risking burning out early to try to catch them.  I came to a small town and I looked for a gas station to buy some food.  A sign marked a left turn and shortly after turning, there they were.  The older gentlemens wife was there with a 12 pack of Coca Cola.  

They had slowed their roll and waited a little longer in the hopes that I would catch up.  I drank a coke and we were off again.  What an amazing group of guys.

The Rouge Roubaix Gran Fondo: Part 1

First off, this was an amazing event.  It is well organized, challenging, and different.  What really makes this event memorable for me though was the camaraderie of the participants that I rode with.  I have said it before, I love moving around the nation and participating in different events.  This is the epitome of that.

The Rouge Roubaix is quite possibly one of the best rides I have been on.  Advertised as a ride to determine true grit, it lives up to its name.  There are two events, a bona fide race, and a Gran Fondo (pretentious for a non-completive century).  Of course I don’t race so I signed up for the Gran Fondo.  As usual, I did so late in the game.  St. Francisville is a small between Baton Rouge, LA and the Mississippi border.  I began to call for a hotel room and found a lack of them in the area.  I booked a room at what turned out to be the hotel where the race starts.  Sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut.  

Upon looking it up I found that it wasn’t geographically that far away, but thanks to the rivers and swamps in Louisiana, it was a pain to get there.  Driving anywhere in Louisiana is an adventure, the roads are horrible, most are narrow and winding as they pass through small town after small town.



I have gotten a little smarter over the years and with an ok paycheck and vaction days I now take the day off to drive and get there early the day before and when possible spend multiple nights rather than ride one hundred miles and then drive.  When I arrived I was excited to see Mavic support outside of the hotel.  


I went inside and picked up my packet, nice swag bag (the ride was pricey) with sweatshirt, T-shirt, and water bottle.  It also came with a voucher for a few local restaurants.  I unpacked, unloaded my stuff and went to dinner.  I chose a place called the Magnolia Cafe and found something that reminded me of Missoula, MT.  A restaurant in a house, some walls were opened but it was fun to be in what were obviously different rooms.  

I ordered an amazing steak, far execeeding any of my expectations.  Of course it was nearly $30 but with the voucher my wife would think I was being very reasonable with a “$18 meal.”  I do enjoy alone time, work is hectic and it gives me time to reflect on life.  So I savored my food and went to my room for the night.


My standard preparation applied:

I ordered a new set of 28mm Continental GatorSkins.  The majority of those that race do so on actual road bikes with 25mm tires.  I don’t have a traditional road bike and brought my Giant Revolt.  It always looks odd with “skinny” tires since the roadies don’t consider 28mm skinny and my Revolt will take up to a 50mm tire (2 inches in American).  I am pleased with my choice since, strangely the pavement was rougher than the dirt/packed sand of the Tunica Hills.

Nutrition: a warning to all those who try this for the first time.  There are SAG stops with great food, however, I didn’t bring nearly enough energy/quick snacks.  I was saved by my riding companions who adopted me and took care of me.  The SAGs leap frog and if you are slow you will miss them.   You will only have maybe 2-3 gas stations.  This is remote.  I drank a bunch of water the day before (I am getting better).

Ride as much as possible:  As usual it is never enough.  Family, work, and work always get in the way.  I think the most mileage I got in on any one ride was about 30 miles.  Plus there are no long climbs where I live.