Rough Road 100 is the “new spring classic” of the midwest, and one of our favorite gravel races of the year. The race is a good mix of gravel, deep gravel, dirt, limestone, asphalt, and wind. The course is 9 sectors of varied surfaces with whatever mother nature has in store. In 2017 there were over 400 registered racers, up substantially from 2016.
I completed the 100 km race on April 8, 2017 and finished in first place in the Women’s Open category. Drew finished first place in his Age Group (his report and full video of the race coming soon). It was a windy but beautiful day. You can also check my race stats on Strava.
Race starts are always tricky
The goal at the start of a long race is to position yourself in a fast group. By “fast” I mean a group riding at a pace you can sustain. With hundreds of riders, it is not as easy to identify an ideal group from the beginning. Riders go very hard at the start of a race. You need to be prepared to ride at your threshold power (100% of FTP) for the first 30-60 minutes of the race. In addition, you need to position yourself near the front of the group you are in to get a draft while avoid getting dropped.
The beginning and how I positioned myself
I worked hard at the beginning and was able to join a good group riding at 23 mph. I was riding at threshold and keeping up, but 16 minutes into the race I missed a turn and got dropped from the group. After turning around quickly and trying to bridge the gap by myself, the headwinds slowed me down to 18 mph and I couldn’t catch up. I started to feel quite tired. Considering that I was still at the beginning of the race, I decided to slow down and wait for the group behind me.
I joined the group that came behind me and was finally able to catch a break in the draft and rest the legs a bit. But it wasn’t long until I started to feel anxious. This group was going at 16 mph, and I wanted to go faster. I stayed in the slower group until four of us started to ride out the front and break away. We started rotating fast through a pace line and caught up with the faster group in front of us, leaving the slower group behind.
The middle grind
The “faster group” was now smaller and not so fast, but it held a good pace and speed. Three of my colleagues from Vision Quest were there, so I settled in for a while with those familiar and trustworthy wheels. For the next hour and a half we went through some very rough roads and battled cross winds. This was the hardest part of the race for me. My power was in the tempo range (85% of FTP). I continued to monitor my position to make sure I stayed towards the front of the group not to get dropped, which could happen with a blink of an eye.
The next 40 minutes had a handful of steep hills. I went really hard on the hills and even got a QOM. My colleagues and I dropped most of the group that was riding with us. The hills were tough, considering that there was really no opportunity to rest throughout the race given the conditions. Little to no coasting and lots of wind. I just took each hill as if it was the last!
The final stretch
In the last 40 minutes of the race we went through a trail surrounded by trees on both sides, so that was a big help blocking the wind. The riders were quite spread out at this point, and there was only a hand full with me. I rode this last stretch at a constant 70%-75% of FTP, towing a few riders along.
As I crossed the finish line, I hoped I had secured a good place, and had no idea I had finished first among the women (open category) until someone told me. Yeah! My indoor training routine on Zwift and Arizona camp early in the year really helped me get ready for this early season race.
Great start to the season! I had lots of fun and will be going back next year.