Hillsboro Roubaix

24 Mar

hillsboro winner winner2 Creamer&I

To win a first race of the season is quite a thrill, but to win a bucket list race is almost beyond words. Hillsboro Roubaix is modeled after the famous Paris-Roubaix that rolls over multiple sections of ‘pave,’ roads created from brick and stone (cobbles) in the 1700s. The roads beat the riders so thoroughly, riders often feel sore for days after. Weather conditions play into the lore of the race as well, be it snowing, raining, or overwhelming heat, the unpredictable weather poses additional challenges to those who aspire to win it.

The lore of the race calls for a ‘hard man’ to overcome all the challenges of this particular course. When one thinks of the hard men of cycling, they often envision the Belgian, training through snow, cow pies, cobbles, and gail force winds, in preparation for their beloved spring classics. Because I’ve never been a particularly good climber, nor a pure sprinter, I’ve always (leap of imagination here) classified myself a Belgian styled rider. I do truly enjoy racing in the rain. Naturally, I’ve long wanted to win Hillsboro Roubaix.

Like the famous pro race, Hillsboro features Belgian-style cols, including two leg stingers at the end of the course, sometimes ferocious winds, and rough roads, including bricks over the final mile of the course.

Last October when indoor training began I asked all participants to make goals for their winter training. Some wanted to lose weight, some wanted to improve cadence, some wanted to increase power at threshold, and others chose event goals. Although I never shared it, my goal was to win Hillsboro Roubaix.

It’s been a process that could not have been accomplished without all of you who regularly participate in my winter training classes. I would not train so hard if I did not have you guys to motivate me or be accountable to. When I look out over the class and see Ken Green busting it to meet the objective, or when I see Sandy Raynor giving everything she has for those last 20 seconds, I tell myself, I, too must dig deeper. When I see Angelia Kniesly’s intense focus on the task at hand, it reminds me that this is not the only moment; I must also remain diligent with nutrition, rest, hydration, and all the things to go into goal achievement.  It should also be pointed out that Dr. Rob Schroeder and Indy Muscle Therapy’s Keith Caskey have been instrumental in helping me overcome a significant physical barrier that has limited me for many, many yeras. So thank you to all of you for your inspiration and support.

Deb and I arrived in Hillsboro, IL Friday afternoon and drove the course to check out the gravel sections. I took notes so I’d remember when to be near the front to avoid chance bad luck or to avoid being stuck in the gutter. After the course reconn we enjoyed dinner at the Court House Inn of Vandalia.

There is a famous movie called ‘Hell of the North, ‘ a story about the 1976 Paris Roubaix. In one of the early scenes, riders are shown eating their night-before-the-event meal. Steak and potatos were the norm back then, as well as an after dinner smoke. Yes, Eddy Merckx smoked cigs. So I figured what the he.., I’ll have a steak dinner Friday night. I joked about this to Deb during dinner.  But no, I did not smoke after dinner. Maybe steak will become my normal pre event meal 😉

The predicted weather for this year’s event, earlier than past years, btw, was for cool temps with overcast skies and a chance of precip. I decided to grow my beard due to the cooler than normal temperatures. But Mother Nature smiled on us racers yesterday, breaking the sun out just as the racing began. Winds were strong from the east/northeast, but conditions were dry.

The Masters racers cover two laps of a 28.75 mile course. Most everyone remained together until the two hills at the end of lap 1. Major kudos to Mark (can’t recall his last name right now) of St. Louis for being aggressive throughout the race. Early on, he established a 30-second gap so John Schmitz of Indie Bike and myself took up the chase, bringing the leader back after a bit of effort. Several fruitless attacks ensued over the remainder of lap 1, but the east wind was a bit much to overcome for a solo rider or just a few riders. Taking note, I decided to ride conservative through lap 1.

I was pleased to see Mark Dewart and Jim Creamer leading the pack up the final climb of lap 1. In particular, I was very proud to see Mark spinning his light gear, seated all the way up the leg stinger. That effort dropped several riders, thinning the pack as we completed lap 1.

Just beyond the finish line, the course features two big ring climbs. Myself and a couple other riders put pressure on over these hills, further thinning our pack down to what eventually became the final selection of 9 riders, including Jim Creamer and John Schmitz.

The aforementioned Mark of St. Louis was like the Cancellara, attacking often, but just could not get away. Bob Downs of Wisconsin Marked every move, but never once took a hard pull through the rotation. Other riders became perturbed by Downs’ passive riding. A couple of other riders also took flyers and I countered a few of the attacks, but none of us could ever establish a break because Downs would reel it in and then sit up.  

Again, taking note of the pattern, I played poker at the end of the race. I attacked with perhaps 7 miles to go, thinking that I was setting them up. I did not think I would stay away with that attack. Sure enough, I was brought back. At perhaps 6 miles to go, Aggressive Mark and the other aggressive rider (Randy Warren of Chicago) made a strong move and opened the gap. I did not chase them. Aside from Downs, the others in our group were too tired to chase. So I sat, and waited, and waited, and waited, until finally, Downs jumped to cover the move up the road.

It took Downs a bit longer than I’d have expected for him to cover the move, but he played right into my plan. I wasn’t going to pull those two back because I respected their efforts throughout the race, and like the others, I did not appreciate Downs’ passive riding. So I forced him to work beyond his limit. As soon as he caught the two break riders, perhaps 4.5 miles from the finish, I attacked. I wasn’t sure if I could hold a gap if it was opened, but I wasn’t going to give them a chance to beat me in a sprint by just being passive. Head down and griding into the wind, I began thinking about winning that brick trophy you see in the photos above. And believe it or not, I thought about you guys who give so much in class. I often tell you guys you can hurt for just a little longer, so I told myself, ‘You can hurt for just a little longer.’

After the race, Randy Warren of Chicago and Aggressive Mark of St. Louis were gracious in their congratulations. I offered to share my prize money with Mark b/c I felt he rode a hard race and deserved some type of reward for his efforts. He graciously declined.  

It’s a great thrill to have won this race, but again, I could not have stayed the course in my preparation without the support and friendship of all you Brooks Integrative Training athletes.

Although we have a big snow storm headed this way today, I look forward to seeing all of you on the road soon. Don’t forget our 5-mile TT this coming Thursday, weather permitting. And look for Monday Night Recovery rides when the weather finally breaks.

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3 Responses to “Hillsboro Roubaix”

  1. JG March 24, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Great recap and congrats. There will be hardware to go around this season. Way to get things kicked off!

  2. Erik Tysklind March 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    Great job and wonderful inspiration for all of us. You truly are a great role model for us.

  3. Henry Sabetti April 9, 2013 at 1:32 am #

    I continue to be so very proud of my HS classmate Bob Brooks. Little did I know while runiing cc and track with him that one day he would move to the bike. Bob, you are an inspiration to all of us 50 somethings trying to stay healthy. Congratulations!

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