Rare Disease Cycling rider Stephanie Swan rides to a 4th place finish at Michigan’s “Killer Gravel Road Race”.
March 28, 2015. Hastings, MI. With nearly 3000 entrants for 2015, the Barry Roubaix is described by promotor Rick Plight as: “The largest gravel road race in the world”. Like the classic it’s named after, Barry-Roubaix tests riders against 80% rolling ravel roads, pavement, rocks, sand, mud, and a mile of rough double track. This early season event, marks the start of the racing season in Michigan, where snow and ice on the course are not uncommon at this time of year.
There are three race distances to challenge riders of all abilities. The 24 mile “chiller” has 1200 feet of climbing. The 36 mile “thriller” climbs 2200 feet. But the marquis event and the most challenging is the “killer” 62 mile course with 3600 feet of climbing.
This race is fast. A successful racer must be able to navigate fast cornering on loose surface and be at or near threshold the entire race. The cutoff for racers reaching the 2nd aid station at mile 42 requires an average speed of nearly 15mph! The leaders will average considerably more.
Last year’s open women’s winner and Rare Disease Cycling rider Stephanie Swan returned to defend her 2014 title against multiple-time Barry-Roubaix champion McKenzie Woodring (Foundry Cycling), and 2015 USA World Cyclocross Team member Crystal Anthony (Riverside Racing). Fresh off her win just four weeks ago at Monster Cross, Stephanie was ready to test her mettle against a larger field and more seasoned competitors.
The 200 rider combined women’s, Masters 40+, and single speed field started fast and quickly strung out into single file. Swan found herself on the wrong side of a crucial separation early on. “After the third roller, our field was strung out double, then single-file. A gap formed about 10 riders ahead, and I hung on to the wheel in front of me. The gap widened, and it was clear: I was on the wrong side of a crucial split.” said Swan about the early selection. “McKenzie, Crystal, and Kelli (Richter) were on the other side of the gap.” remembered Swan. In the end all three women that made the lead group crossed the line in separate splinter groups off the original lead pack, but the early speed differences in speed between the lead and chase groups created an early time gap that would not be overcome.
Swan chased hard, but as a member of the chasing group, she had to work harder than she’d hoped in the early portions of the contest. In the end, Swan earned 4th place, behind winner Woodring, 2nd place finisher Anthony, and just 3 minutes behind 3rd place finisher and Chicago Series Cyclocross favorite Kelli Richter (PSIMET Racing). 5th place went to Kae Takeshita (Verdigris-Village CX).
With her 4th place at Barry Roubaix and her win at Monster Cross, Stephanie Swan is off to a strong early season start with two UltraCross podium appearances in a month.