It was a fast start. I have never raced a road race before or gravel so this was a little new to me. The pack split right after the truck pulled off the front. I saw one woman stick with the lead pack and attempted to hang on but glanced down at my power and it was way to high to sustain the effort.
So I stuck to the front of the second wave. Right with me were two other women. Once we hit the first gravel climb my pack split again. We dropped one woman and headed into the road section with one other woman (Sara), and several men. As mile 20 was approaching, I was keeping my eyes out for an aid station. I started the race with 1.5 bottles (450 calories) and planned to hit the first aid station for 2 full bottles (600 calories). Saw a guy handing out bananas, a couple people waving and directing us on turns but with focusing on sticking with my group I missed the aid station. At the time I did not realize I had missed it, just thought maybe I read what mile marker it was at incorrectly. Looking back on things, I do not think I would have stopped anyways and should have planned to not stop. I did not realize I would be with a pack and that no one else planned on stopping at all. Remember my first gravel/road-like race. At this point I started to conserve my energy because I had no clue if I would be getting anymore nutrition. Mile 25 hit (around 1.5 hours of racing) and I had finished my bottle and a half.
When we hit the levee it seemed that Sara realized she was much stronger than I on the flats. She was attacking when she could. I got stuck behind a few guys as her and another guy took off ahead. But she soon dropped off him and we picked her back up. Mile 34 rolled up and we headed into the Trail of Tears. 2 climbs in and I looked back with no Sara in sight. I knew right then this was my only chance to pull away. I had no clue how long Trail of Tears was or even what the terrain was like further in. the climbs were steep, very loose, soft gravel. It felt like riding through sand. But I hit every climb and decent strong to not only pull away but to stay up with some men. I knew it was key to have a group to ride the road with. As I exited the Trail of Tears. the course hit a road that veered right and there a bunch of trees. At this point I knew I needed to get out of sight. I put in another hard effort and tucked out of sight and caught up with a group of 3-4 guys where we raced together until the last 5 miles. I missed the last aid station again, totally my mistake. Mentally I just said, “it’s just 9 more miles. I can make it.” The last 5 miles hurt. I was ‘bonking.’ It was super rough gravel. Every bump it rolled over sent knives through my back. I am so used to my full suspension mountain bike that 4 hours on a gravel bike feels terrible. With 1.5 miles left in the race I turned on to the final road climb into town. The longest mile ever. You can see pretty much the whole mile but once crested it’s a nice downhill into the finish line.
I crossed the finish at 4:01 thinking I came in second. I knew there was another woman in the lead back at the beginning. Come to find out, I had passed her on one of the last climbs near or in the Trail of Tears. She apparently got a flat. I was so excited at what had happened. I gave my husband grief for talking race strategy and about the race the whole day before but it really helped me be “mind ready” for the race. I also have to thank him for always checking my bike over the week before and on the day of the race. I have learned that racing is more than just being the strongest, fastest, most skilled woman but also having proper nutrition, a well prepared bike, and a positive mind-set.
Will I race it next year?
I think it really will depend on if I buy a gravel bike or not. For this race I borrowed a bike but hate to have to borrow again.
Thank you all for reading my race report on the Dirty South Roubaix 2018 Edition. Post below how you race gravel. Anything from strategy tips to nutrition. At this point I have only raced a few endurance mountain bike races so any feedback helps. See you all at the next race!
Check out this video that shows the full weekend of camping and racing.