Which bike/tire will be best? What are the course conditions like? What will on course support be?
We took to the course on Thursday 5/12 and here is our recon report. Note that while we do not expect conditions to change dramatically, if anything does we will post an update to the race website :
Like our namesake Paris Roubaix this course is HARD with bike and tire selection being key to a fast day out. The pre-event talk this year seems to be revolving around a tire choice of 30-35+mm for peace of mind with flats. How are conditions different from 2021? Generally the dirt sectors are a bit looser in spots and the Haybro sector has one danger zone for flats (more on that below), however as a plus there were zero washboards as of Thursday evening and the weather looks warm with low winds for Sunday 🙌
*Please don’t drive the dirt sectors ahead of the race! Last year we had washboards magically appear the day prior to the race along with complaints from residents of high vehicle traffic, because racers were driving the dirt sections. Park at the start of the dirt and ride it, or just show up surprised!
Number pickup & start staging area: Racers can pickup their race numbers starting at 7am on race day at the rodeo grounds parking lot with staging for starts in the same lot 5 minutes before starts times. *Note the second wave of start times have been pushed back 30 minutes to noon. Early race number pickup will also be available on Saturday evening from 5pm to 6pm at Ride Workshop (2730 Downhill PLZ, Unit 108).
“It was super nice honestly. Still a little bit loose at the top of the descent down to 131 on road 35. But there’s plenty of distinguished lines in all the gravel sections. I took 179 a little slower just to look at different lines but it was pretty smooth the whole way. Sunday should be fast.”
— Kevin on 5/13, Cat 4 planning to run Conti GP5000 28mm
Mile 0 – 8.7: The start of the race takes you across the smooth pavement of River road. With only a few rolling hills a move at this point would be difficult to stick, but likely some will try. Afternoon groups will see a headwind out of the SW up to the left turn onto sector 1.
Mile 8.8 – 12, Sector 1 / Whitecotton: The Whitecotton sector rises only 270ft, but it will keep you on your toes with a few punchy climbs. Otherwise this is non-technical with a few sweeping turns and conditions that are currently good with some clean hard lines throughout. A road bike with tires down to 27mm should have no problem dancing along this sector and the risk of crashing/flatting is low.
Mile 12.1 – 15.8: With some of the strongest afternoon headwinds of the course and one climb more than a few groups could see a separation in this short stretch of pavement. At the end of this stretch you will enter onto sector 2 by making a sharp 180 degree turn, don’t miss it. The large 6 foot shoulder on this stretch of highway is super clean so please use it and don’t unnecessarily ride in the center of the road. Colorado State Patrol will assist with traffic control on this stretch, but these are open roads requiring your attention to motor vehicles. As you approach the downhill before turning off of the pavement, you’ll have a brief moment to catch your breath and glance right towards the Haybro sector –
Mile 15.9 – 21.3 Sector 2 / Haybro: Game on – This 5.5 mile stretch of road is both a favorite and the most hated of local riders. After making the sharp right turn off of HWY 131 onto the dirt, it’s an almost immediate climb running for ~1.7 miles to the high point. The road surface on the climbing portion is mostly smooth with some hard lines to choose from and areas of loose dirt on the surface.
The danger zone comes as you start your descent and this next ~1 mile is the area of highest risk for flats. If you opt for 35mm tires and keep your head up for good line choice this should be no problem. If you are going to run <30mm tires you will need to be on top of your game and scrub speed to avoid some chunky conditions. As you approach the bottom of Haybro it gets faster. Last year the ‘hell’ part was the final sector, but this year it appears to be lurking here on sector 2. On the positive side there was not a single washboard on this entire stretch, so it’s really a game of navigating the rougher dirt surface.
Risk of crashing – low, Risk of flat – high for smaller tires
Sector 4 / Middle creek (3rd sector for short course): 36 mile course racers will have a short stretch of pavement and one aid station before a hard right turn onto this final sector – Middle creek. 56 and 70 mile distances will approach this as their final dirt sector. This stretch runs 4.5 miles in length, +450ft elevation. As I rolled onto this stretch Thursday evening it was for sure my favorite part of the whole course – nice hard stretches of dirt, beautiful spring views, and that classy dirt climb 33-B waiting at the end. When you get to the top of this sector views of Steamboat await along with long time local volunteer and rider Pat West there to send you home!
Risk of crashing – low, Risk of flat – low
Sector 3 / Lower 29 : Riders in the 53 and 70 mile courses have an extra loop (70 mile do this loop twice) with a mostly flat paved stretch leading to 2 paved climbs near the coal mine (Some of you might know these climbs well from SSSR). These are hard paved climbs and those selecting smaller tires will be thrilled. The lower 29 sector is a ~7 mile gradual downhill on county road 29 (-721 feet) that is in good condition and fun to let rip. It is riding a bit looser than past years, but it’s non technical with no steep descents so again the choice between a 28mm tire and a 32mm tire may not matter too much here, but a 32 or larger will for sure cruise nicely.
9.4 paved miles to the finish: Surprise, you have a paved climb coming just after the 33B climb, followed by a rolling drag to the finish line with beautiful views of Steamboat. About the finish – it’s a sharp right hand turn onto Lithia Springs Loop and this year you will stay to the right lane up to the finish line.
On course support: Given the number of groups on course, the range of different equipment being utilized, and improvements in tire technology/durability, we will not be doing wheel service for every group on the road and instead will have a few broom vehicles with tubes/pump (yes you can put your own wheels in the broom wagon). We strongly suggest carrying a tube/CO2 and tubeless tire plug as that will get you back in the race the quickest.
An EMT and aid station will be positioned at mile 22 in addition to a medical tent at the finish line. Long course riders will pass this aid station multiple times.
Lastly please study the route in advance and download the navigation file to your computer. While we will have course marshals at key turns and clear course signage everywhere, course marshals will not chase you down if you blow past a turn and it can be difficult to communicate with a racer at high speed.