Last weekend, 5 members of LITESPEED-BMW took a long weekend and headed down to Louisiana for what has quickly established itself as one of the epic road races in the Southeast – Rouge Roubaix. Representing the team this weekend was Chris Chotas, Tim Henry, Tres Courdin, Calvin O’Keefe, and Christian Leask.
Rouge Roubaix 2012 started off on a warm and humid day. 6 AM the alarm goes off, 6:30 we actually get up and start the coffee. Everything was going smoothly until about 5 minutes before the race Tim slipped on the tile and had his first (and only) spill of the day. He managed to knock his front wheel out of true so had to deal with that rubbing on his brake all day, plus a nice bruise on his knee. Most importantly, only one person saw him do it!
Rouge Roubaix is a challenging 105 mile course starting in St. Francisville, Louisiana with three gravel road sections of around 5 miles each. The first section is relatively flat; while the second and third each have a nasty short and steep hill that thins out the field and leaves about half the group running to the top. The final 20 miles is on rough paved Louisiana back country road and can be brutal if you are worn out from the first 85 miles. The whole course is rolling up and down with very little flat and often strong cross winds.
The race got off to a quick start even with a smaller field than last year. Although all the guys tried their hardest, an early breakaway could not get established and the field moved quickly to the first gravel section about 30 miles in. The pace was high through the first section, and rain from a few days before left some nice puddles and deep sandy sections to keep the group on it’s toes. Chris helped Tim get in a nice position towards the front and he made it a point to stay up there and it paid off as the group was cut in half on this section. As soon as they hit the pavement and replaced their dropped bottles, they were off racing at full speed again. Over the next 30 miles, Tim and Chris attempted to start a breakaway, but to no avail. The group hit the second gravel section and the first decisive hill all together. At this point they had averaged 28 mph. Last year Tim started this hill about 15 riders from the front and completely missed the winning break so he was determined to start the hill at the front. After some nice work by Chris to keep him at the front, Tim managed to work his way to the lead and made it over the top with the front group of 12. After his stellar job of making sure Tim made the split, Chris was able to sit back in the next group and let the other riders do the work.
Now the race was on! Except the PACC team from Texas had 5 of the 12, so there was not much racing to be done. Everyone sat back and let the PACC team drive the pace in the wind. The group stayed together until the third and final gravel section, where Tim discovered that, unlike the last 10 years, working full time and showing up to a 105 mile race can really have an affect on the legs. He completely fell apart, had to get off his bike on the 200 meter super-steep hill, and was unable to make himself run up the hill. As he watched the leaders slowly ride away, Tim wobbled my shaky legs to the top, re-mounted his bike, and rode solo for the next 10 miles in what felt like to slowest ride of his life.
Tim was finally caught by two other riders and they all worked together to hold their lead on the chasing riders behind. Even with working 40 hour weeks, Tim was able to outsprint the other two riders to finish 11th, one place better than last year. From what we heard afterword, the race was won on the steep gravel climb on the third gravel section, with one PACC rider soloing away from the chase group. The winner’s average speed dropped to around 25 mph by the finish.
Overall it was an exciting race. The course is awesome, the race is well organized, and the atmosphere is intense but relaxed. St Francisville is a great small town and definitely worth a visit for some great Plantation sightseeing or bike riding! LITESPEED-BMW will definitely be back next year.