Cruikshank mastering but one of the climbs at the Amish Roubaix. © Jason Suppan

Cruikshank mastering but one of the climbs at the Amish Roubaix. © Jason Suppan

The Amish Country Roubaix gravel race took place last Sunday, starting and finishing in Millersburg, Ohio with both a 100k and 50k course and over 3,500 feet of climbing per lap. One of our gravel racing contributors, Aaron Cruikshank, offers his view of a race plan gone wrong for all the right ways. For information on the course, see as well as their race map.

by Aaron Cruikshank

Let me start by saying that sometimes you go into a race with plan, sometimes things just work out, and other times things get crazy and you find yourself with a chance to win. Essentially that is what happened in rural Ohio on Sunday afternoon.

A pre-race meeting with my teammates had determined that we would sit in a bit, wait for others to attack and let the gravel and hills whittle down the group for us. With 60 starters, 5200-ft of climbing, and a bunch of loose dirt and potholes between us and the finish line, we liked the idea of taking it a bit easy for the first lap.

That isn’t exactly how the race played out.

Things got underway with a neutral roll out of downtown Millersburg. The neutral start has almost become a prerequisite in gravel racing, but it gives everyone a chance to settle in before lighting things up. After about 2 miles we crossed the Start/Finish and the race was on. A few measured attacked went off the front, each gaining about 10 seconds before being reabsorbed by the peloton.

It was clear that everyone wanted to go into the first climb together. As I mentioned before, my teammates and I were content to let things settle in, chase if we had to, but not instigate anything until we were a bit further into the race. Another well represented team (Ride On) had other ideas. They were some of the early movers and shakers of the race, and as soon as we got to the base of the first climb it was all hands on deck.

At first, I was hesitant to follow, but I quickly got across to the solo rider and decided to sit on until it either got steeper, he asked me to pull, or a few more of my teammates joined me. The climb is initially steep, but then levels off a bit through a left/right switch back before kicking up again over the top. It was here that he asked me to pull through. I did so wanting the keep the pace high, but again I didn’t really have much thought to staying away. There was a lot of racing left, making any solo move a tall task. As luck would have it, I looked back to see the Ride On rider drifting back and the field was nowhere in sight.

So early in the race, I knew the odds of me staying away were pretty slim, and I had a couple of teammates back in the group that would be looking to bridge. I settled in to ride steady for the next few miles. Every once and awhile I would see the field around the bend, but it wasn’t until about mile 16 that John Proppe (Bike Authority) and Shawn Adam (WASlabs) made it up to me.

I was honestly pretty relieved to have a teammate plus some company. We kept the pace high on a few paved sections, and onto the next dirt road. There was a bit of a tailwind, and both Shawn and John were motivated to make this group of three work. It was on the next rise that our trio was trimmed to two riders. John shifted, only to find that his derailleur hanger had given up the ghost. Shawn and I continued on over the top of the next climb.

Not long after, Shawn asked me if it looked like he had a flat. At the time, everything seemed fine. “Maybe a little low, but you’re good.” A few minutes later it turned out he wasn’t good, and his race was over with a rear flat. I pressed on, knowing that the group would see Shawn and John’s misfortune as a chance to bridge to an ever tiring solo rider.

Again, somewhat to my relief a Ride On rider who had been dropped by Shawn and John earlier made contact. Our duo was short lived as a rear flat ended his race at the base of the longest climb of the day.  Back in individual time trial mode, I made a big push (no I didn’t have to get off and push but almost) to get over the final climb of the lap which maxes out at something like 15% and is a little over 2km long. After I crested the top, the thought of doing it all over again was a bit gut wrenching, but this is the task I had in front of me. I cruised through the feed zone, was told I had “at least a minute,” grabbed a bottle and was on my way.

A fine place to be after sitting out alone during a race. © Aaron Cruikshank

A fine place to be after sitting out alone during a race. © Aaron Cruikshank

Lap two was a mix of pain management, delicate bike handling, and bonk prevention. I had a feeling that as long as I kept things going in the right direction I could stay away, but a catastrophic mechanical or cramps could quickly spoil the fun. I started playing mind games; telling myself “You get one gel after this climb and one before the next…..yumm gel”. I would take my sunglasses off, zip or unzip my jersey, adjust my shoes, really anything to pass the time and distract myself from the seemingly never-ending dirt roads.

I got to the base of the final climb in once piece, but the time gap from the feed zone was still lingering in my mind. I could feel my legs wanting to cramp up with each pedal stroke uphill. I moved back and forth across the road to help ease the tension. About halfway up my chasers were nowhere to be seen which was the boost I needed to get to the finish line for the win.

My teammate Matt came in for 3rd bringing to a close a successful month of gravel racing. Special thanks go out to the promoters for bringing this race back after a year’s hiatus. Millersburg is a perfect location for a spring-time epic. Thanks to WASlabs, Cycle-Smart, Millersburg Brewing, and all the volunteers who helped put on this great event. See you all in a few weeks when we take on the Queen of Midwest gravel races, Cone Azalia.

2015 Amish Roubaix Open 100k

13:07:07Aaron CruikshankWASlab Cycling
2+ 0:03:01James CareyRide On Wooster
3+ 0:03:24Matthew WeeksWasLabs Cycling
4+ 0:07:51Joe McDanielTeam Lake Effect
5+ 0:10:11Thomas BornerTruefit Racing
6+ 0:13:50todd howmanRide On Wooster
7+ 0:14:30Nate LomanTeam Lake Effect p/b Bike Authority
8+ 0:16:03James BaldesareWaslabs Cycling
9+ 0:17:19Cameron JacksonWAS Labs
10+ 0:17:20Brett MckayBike Ohio
11+ 0:19:55Andrew PurcellRide On
12+ 0:24:36ross clarkedge outdoors
13+ 0:30:13Joshua Martin
14+ 0:30:15Todd HarperTruefit Racing
15+ 0:31:23Morgan Baker
16+ 0:31:24Joseph HolmesRide On Wooster
17+ 0:31:25Curt BrownTruefit Racing
18+ 0:34:40David SteinerTeam Spin/Litzler Automation
19+ 0:36:14Brent ThompsonWas Labs
20+ 0:42:03Brian Pitell
21+ 0:50:25John ProppeLake Effect Racing
22+ 0:50:26Ryan ComeauLake Effect Racing
23+ 0:53:32Benjamin Fox-ShapiroOberlin College
24+ 0:53:36John SeydlitzMarauders
25+ 1:07:49mike schultzDirty harrys/Highland Training
26+ 1:35:50Michael PattonTeam SwatKats
27+ 1:51:33Martin ZakesEdge Outdoors
28+ 1:51:35Jason SpiethEdge Outdoors
DNFDNFshawn adamswaslabs cycling
DNFDNFZachary ChappellSnakebite Racing
DNFDNFBen DoohanBlazing Saddle Racing
DNFDNFStefan GarciaRideOn
DNFDNFEric Gott765 Racing
DNFDNFMax HaightOberlin College
DNFDNFPaul Hamad765 Racing
DNFDNFChris Karpowicz765 Racing/ Hammer Nutrition
DNFDNFMark Merrin
DNFDNFEric PetersTeam Jeni’s Ice Cream
DNFDNFMIke SchenaTeam Hungry
DNFDNFAaron TroxelRide On Wooster
DNFDNFNicholas VorwerkTeam Novo Nordisk
DNFDNFMax Salinger

2015 Amish Roubaix Women's 50k

11:51:30Vicki MunningsWAS Labs Cycling
2+ 0:00:01Stephanie
3+ 0:00:30sally priceVelofemme p/b Litzler
4+ 0:07:31Kennedy AdamsProChain Junior Development
5+ 0:09:42Judy Porter
6+ 0:10:44Laura WebbVeloFemme p/b Litzler
7+ 0:20:05Gillian WengerProchain girls
8+ 0:20:16Wendy Zamzow-BlumerickMom & Pop Racing p/b Sweet Bikes
9+ 0:22:58Pamela SemanikSummit Freewheelers
10+ 0:25:04Kellie Strang
11+ 0:28:30Laura BalisTriSports
12+ 0:31:22Julie SrokaLake Effect Racing
13+ 0:31:39Angela RidgelSnakeBite Racing
14+ 0:32:19Marsita MacDonald
15+ 0:33:44Kelly BakerSnakeBite Racing
16+ 0:40:28tiffany clarkedge outdoors
17+ 0:41:42Catherine Neff
18+ 0:42:35Jennifer PetersTeam Jeni’s Ice Cream
19+ 0:43:39Kari Alsager
20+ 1:19:56Erica Tischler