Written by: Danielle Musto
The Great Lakes Fat Bike Series wrapped up this past Saturday with the Barry-Roubaix, a “killer gravel road race” in Hastings, Michigan. Racers had the option of racing 24, 36 or 62 miles. The fat bike category was in the 36-mile division. I felt very relaxed going into this race. I had the Great Lakes Fat Bike series title under my belt and the race was only an hour away from my house. The last couple of races in the series involved 22-plus hours of driving and I looked forward to being able to sleep in my own bed at night.
After a quick breakfast we loaded up our truck, picked up my dad (he was doing his first fat bike race) and were on our way. About 40 minutes into the drive Scott and my dad started talking about how dependable our truck had been during our race road trips when we heard a loud dinging noise. “What the?????” Scott noticed that the “check gauges” light had come on and we pulled over. Not only was our truck overheating, but radiator fluid was leaking all over. Oh the irony…so much for being dependable. My friends take my advice. Never, ever talk about a car being dependable while driving to a race. Don’t even think it in your head.
After a few frantic phone calls we came up with a game plan. My mom was going to drive down and rescue us from the side of the road. My friend Kelly was going to drive to the race, pick up our race packets, and meet us at the start line with our number plates. If all went well we would make it with 5 minutes to start. So many things could have prevented us from making the start (slow traffic, a wrong turn, or trying to find my friend in a crowd of 3,000 racers) but luck was on our side. I managed to get to my wave start with a few minutes to spare. I had so much adrenaline flowing that my hands were shaking. I have a vague memory of putting my number plate on, thanking my friend, lining up with the rest of the Wave 11 racers, and then the promoter said, “Go!” We were off!
The Barry-Roubaix course lives up to its name of “killer gravel road race,” It’s a non-stop hammer-fest of rolling hills and fast flats. This year we’ve had an even longer then usual winter in Michigan, so parts of the course were covered in ice. As a result I passed more then a few crashes and I couldn’t help but worry about my dad racing behind me. He’s only done a few races and I was pretty sure he had never ridden on ice or mud before. Personally, I HATE riding on ice but my Beargrease provided me with a lot of traction and I was able to keep upright and rolling. If anything, I was more in danger from being taken out from a giant pothole. A few were so big they could have been classified as sinkholes. Most of the time I was able to race around the really big ones, but there were a few that were impossible to avoid. I could tell that I was not the only one because there were about a million and one water bottles strewn around on the course. I felt like I was riding through a water bottle graveyard.
The first couple of miles flew by and I was racing on pure adrenaline. “Wow, I feel great!” I thought. Then my legs hit the “off” switch. All of a sudden I felt like I was pedaling with two cement blocks. Oh no!!!! I think this was partially from having ZERO time to warm-up and partially from not paying much attention to eating or drinking anything while we were dealing with our truck problems. I felt hungry…not a good thing when you are at mile 2 in a 36 mile race. Even though I didn’t feel the best during the first half of the race I still was having a lot of fun racing. I found myself in a great pack of racers on cross bikes, mountain bikes and a few other fat bike racers. My favorite exchange of the race was when another female racer on a cyclocross bike passed me. “Good job, FATTY,” she said. “Thanks SKINNY,” I replied. A verbal exchange like this would only be socially acceptable in a race that has fat bikes. It made me laugh. Throughout the race we passed quite a few racers on the side of the road, either with injuries or mechanicals. At one point a few volunteer emergency responders went flying by, requiring us to slow down and move to the right. Then a few ambulances passed us. It was a sobering reminder for me to enjoy ever minute of every race, regardless of how my legs feel or what place I was in.
26 miles into the race the “ON” switch flipped back on and my legs started to feel great. I was able to push hard on the climbs for the final 10 miles and made quite a few passes on my Beargrease. I love , love, love racing my fat bike! Before I knew it I was racing down the finishing chute against a guy on a mountain bike. In my mind we were sprinting…I’m not sure if he felt the same way. I was the first placed female and 17th out of the guys. However, the best part of the race was seeing my Dad finish on his Mukluk about 10 minutes after me. Phew! He was ready to celebrate with beer.
I can’t say enough good things about Barry-Roubaix. It’s a huge race with close to 3,000 racers but one of the most organized races I’ve ever been to. There were so many volunteers out on the course that anyone who needed help had it easily available. I guarantee it will be even bigger next year. I know I’ll be back…racing in the fat bike category of course!
View more photos from the Barry Roubaix – Here
Follow Danielle’s Blog – Here