MILLERSBURG, Ohio—Chilly temperatures and the threat of snow refused to relinquish their icy grip on the Mid-Ohio region the night before the 3rd running of the Amish Country Roubaix.
The course had seen a mixture of snow and rain on Friday and Saturday, which left many racers wondering about their tire and clothing choice before the noon start. Riders had the option of the 50K or 100K courses as well as an open singlespeed category for those really looking to grind the gravel.
Things got underway with a neutral roll out from Millersburg Brewing in the heart of downtown, and after about 2 miles of spinning the Men’s 100K group crossed the Start/Finish line to get things underway.
From there the road quickly deteriorated from paved with large pot holes, to dirt, to dirt with large potholes. The first climb of the day is always a punch in the teeth, and a few singlespeed riders, forced by their gear choice, attacked. A duo of one-geared-wonders began to open a gap over the top. Unlike in previous years where the climb’s 12% grade saw the winning breakaway establish itself, the main group kept the pace high but calm. However, by the time the leaders crested the climb and turned onto Township Rd 90, the field had been cut in half.
The fast downhill that followed kept most gapped riders from making contact with the front group which continued on to the next climb of the day up Township Road 57. Ranging in grade from 12 to 14% it requires every bit of gear you can bring. Matt Weeks of Lake Effect Cycling brought the right ratio and used this as a launch pad. By the short climb’s top Matt had established a gap of around 10 seconds that would grow to nearly a minute once the field got back onto paved roads. The chase group of about 12 was composed of 4 Wooster Bikewerks riders and a mix of privateers. Everyone in the group was familiar with Matt’s time trial capabilities and the group worked to bring him back into the fold.
The catch was made on Township Road 56 which is a slow 6-minute grind on gravel. The road’s recent grading left what seemed like larger than normal gravel in the riders’ path. 2013 winner Jeff Pendleberry of Rid-On kept the pace high and as the road began to level out Pendleberry put in a few measured attacks, which stretched out the field. Only James Carey of Wooster Bikewerks p/b Wootown Bagels, Aaron Cruikshank of Giant Bicycles P/B CHG & Zingerman’s, Matt Weeks, and John Card of Team Card were able to follow. Eventually though the elastic snapped and Jeff was away solo. With 1-1/4 laps yet to go, and a major paved climb on the horizon, the 4 riders kept Pendleberry on a short leash, again bringing him back into the fold on the early 14% slopes of County Road 292.
The climb’s unrelenting nature saw Card slip back into the chasing group which was composed of individual riders all riding about 5-10 seconds apart. Not wanting to have to reshuffle the deck, Carey, Cruikshank and Pendleberry pressed on. Weeks lost contact with the trio on the downhill section that leads to the start of lap two and cross winds and a transition from pavement to dirt made it less than a walk in the park.
As the trio began lap two, Carey and Cruikshank looked to keep things steady and further consolidate their advantage, but Pendleberry had a different plan. He upped the pace on the gravel climb of Township Road 92, gapping Cruikshank. Cruikshank kept the pair at about 20-30 seconds until Jeff dropped the hammer on the next downhill. Carey, who was riding a road bike, was forced to be extra cautions on most of the technical sections. It took a few more tries, but eventually Pendleberry created a little separation and solidified his lead on the aptly named Strava downhill “Bomb dat hill.”
The remainder of the race saw Pendleberry build an advantage of over 2 minutes, which gave him ample time to celebrate a hard-earned victory. The rest of the top 5 were all following in individual time trial mode. Gaps between riders ranged from 20 seconds to 3 minutes. Carey kept riding his smooth lines too and piloted his road bike home to take second place, with Cruikshank rounding out the top three.
Special thanks go out to the promoters for keeping the race going another year despite some trying weather conditions. Thanks to Millersburg Brewing for letting us have the podium ceremonies inside while drinking delicious beer and good food. Extra special thanks to all the volunteers who helped put on this great event. No one was paying to stand at that intersection in the freezing cold, but you kept us safe. See you all in a few weeks when we take on the Queen of Midwest gravel races, Barry Roubaix.
You can see more images and the full results in the slideshow, below.