The Hilly Billy Roubaix is a brutal race through some of the hilliest back roads in West Virginia and southern Pennsylvania that covers 70 miles and over 7,500 feet of climbing. For the stat junkie, that’s well over 100 feet per mile (check out the ride here). The terrain makes it that much harder of a race. Most of the roads (if you can consider them roads) are loose gravel and muddy passes. The highlight of this being a stretch of the route that was actually not a road but a creek that we went up. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, the almighty bicycle powers that be decided to drop non-stop rain the day before the race turning every inch of the dirt roads into deep mud pits. I went down with Steve Burdine from roll: my buddy Chad Eckhert and Steve’s friend Jim. Jim was the only veteran, Steve, Chad and myself had no idea what we were getting into. Chad, being the nutball he is decided to go the day before.
The race began with the only thing that could like up to its name, a pig squealing into the microphone. It was fantastic and terrifying all at the same time, but we were off! There was a mile or so of pavement and it got all the jitters out. Then a left turn and an immediate gravel climb. It wasn’t a particularly hard climb but since we were packed so closely together it only took on rider to unclip and walk up the hill to make every subsequent rider behind them unclip and push their bike up. I wasn’t happy at all so I shouldered my bike and sprinted up the hill and found myself up there with the guys in the front of the pack. I was thrilled! There was a pretty gnarly decent that I ended up flatting out on along with 2 or 3 other riders. I knew I lost my shot at podiuming, especially when I pulled my mud caked hand pump out to pump up my tire. The other riders who flatted filled up with CO2 and were out of there. Lesson learned, CO2 on race day. I filled up and was back on the bike.
The most notable section of the ride was Lice road. Though should probably be changed to leech road because I’m sure the mud pits were filled with them. The raid from the night before made this road treacherous. The thickness of the muddy water made it impossible to judge the depth of the hole until you were halfway through it. Some pits had me bottom bracket deep in mud. It was nuts!!! There was no good line through there you just had to barrel through it and hope to keep your tires underneath you. The road ended with a creek crossing. I saw one of the riders in front of me go through a section that must have been at least two feet deep. I decided to make a new line. It turned out to be a very poor decision because I found myself up to my seat post in muddy creek water. I definitely picked up a few grams in water weight.
The other most notorious part of the ride was a section of the road that wasn’t actually a road but a stream. It was on a climb, so we were riding upstream and it was flowing hard! Some riders dismounted and walked up but I was determined. I pedaled through it. I had no idea what the terrain was like I was going over, large rocks, stick floating down stream and I am sure I ran over a fish or two. It turned out to be one of the most refreshing parts of the ride. The water was cool and fairly clean, it was a cool mid ride wash that I needed to make it through.
The race continued and all four of us finished in decent time. I was the first one back and cheered in the gang. We all were exhausted but had just enough energy to pound slices of pizza and help put a decent dent in the kegs they had provided for us. Good work Steve and Jim! Chad deserves a special shout out though. It was his first race ever, and a hell of a first one at that. He was on the cheapest bike in the field and still managed to finish in the middle of the pack, Chad you are a beast!
This was my second gravel ride with an insane amount of elevation on my A:1. The bike is fantastic! It punches well above its weight in these races. I continue to be blown away with the amount of leverage the flat bars give me but the speed that it can maintain on pavement and packed gravel with a rigid for and 700x40mm tires. I am convinced that this is the perfect bike for any gravel ride with any sort of elevation like the Hilly Billy Roubaix.
Roll: Bicycle Company