Roubaix Course Recon (2021)

Which bike/tire should I run?? What are the course conditions like? What will on course support be?

We spent time this past weekend pre-riding the Roubaix course and here is our narrative of what to expect: 

The general consensus among our team is to run a road bike with durable 28mm tires, or go with your gravel bike on 30-34mm if you need a little more stability, traction, and peace of mind with flats. Steamboat Velo riders will be on 28mm Continental Gator skins, 28/32mm Panaracer Gravel King+, and 30/32mm Schwalbe Allround, pretty much all with tubeless setups. Bike and tire selection is very much an individual choice with trade offs either way, but the info below should give you a better sense of conditions. We will update again on Friday the 7th with the latest conditions in case anything changes. 

Number pickup & start staging area: Racers can pickup their race numbers starting at 7am on race day until 12:45pm at Howelsen Hill, and will stage by their assigned group at the back lot of Howelsen Hill 5 minutes before start times. Early race number pickup will also be available on Friday evening from 5pm to 6pm at Ride Workshop (2730 Downhill PLZ, Unit 108). Please consider riding to the start area as parking will be extremely limited. *A mask is required to be worn for number pickup and once you have entered the start staging area, no exceptions.

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 / White cotton: This first sector of dirt on county road 35 rises only 270ft, but it will keep you on your toes with a few punchy climbs and afternoon winds pushing riders into the right side gutter. This road is a treated hard dirt and as of Sunday it’s riding like pavement with a few spots of loose dirt on the surface. A road bike with 28mm tires will fly on this stretch, but watch for those patches of loose dirt here and there. (all three pics below are sector 1 from last Sunday) 


Mile 12.1 – 15.8:  With some of the strongest afternoon headwinds of the course and one punchy 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 at mile 15.8, don’t miss it. *There is a large 6 foot shoulder on this stretch of highway so please use it and don’t unnecessarily ride in the center of the road if you are dropped. Colorado State Patrol will assist with traffic control on this stretch, but these are open roads requiring your attention to motor vehicles.

Mile 15.9 – 21.3 Sector 2/ Col du 179: Game on – This 5.5 mile stretch of road is a favorite of local riders; mostly hard pack, non technical, and a blast with a group. After making the sharp right turn onto the dirt, it’s an almost immediate climb running for ~1.7 miles to the high point. Spoiler Alert – Separations will happen, attacks will go, BUT, you have 3.6 miles of fast dirt descending to catch back on and a group working together will surely be faster than a lone breakaway down this stretch. The road surface here is again mostly smooth like pavement with areas of loose dirt on the surface. As you approach the lower section/last <1mile of this sector it can get chunky with scattered rocks here and there, so keep your head up especially if you are in a group. We will update on Friday with the latest conditions.  (image below is the upper part of the descent on 179).

Sector 3 (36mi), sector 5 (53 & 70mi): 36 mile course racers will have a short stretch of pavement and one water station before a hard right turn onto the final sector. At 4.5 miles in length, +450ft elevation, and slightly rougher road surface this might be the ‘hell’ part of the course for you. As of this past weekend the surface was hard, but did have some scattered rocks for the first ~1 mile requiring good line choice. We had a skilled junior rider slay it on a road bike with 25mm tires and another team member saying he was going to run 32mm tires so he could enjoy it. 28mm to 32mm does seem to be the sweet spot, but your choice is part of the challenge of this race. Either way the final climb up county road 33B will hurt and has an almost polished hard surface so you can fly.

Finish stretch/9.4 paved miles to the finish: Surprise, you have a paved climb coming just after the dirt 33B climb, followed by a rolling drag to the finish line with beautiful views of Steamboat. About the finish – It’s not the Critter court finish stretch we’ve used in past years at SSSR. Instead you go a bit further past Critter ct and take a sharp right hand turn onto Lithia Springs Loop. It’s a steeper kick to the line that we strongly suggest you pre-ride, enjoy! We are expecting most 36 mile riders to finish in 2 hours or less.

Miles 22.7 – 38.8 : 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 difficult paved climbs and those selecting smaller tires will benefit a bit here. Sector 3 comes at the back end of the loop – a ~7 mile gradual downhill dirt sector on county road 29 (-721 feet) that most describe as an absolute blast to rip down. This sector is a mix of the hard dirt and a few short sections of looser dirt on the surface. However it’s non technical with no steep descents so again the choice between a 28mm tire and a 32mm tire may not matter much here.

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. We strongly suggest carrying a tube/CO2 and tubeless tire plug as that will get you back in the race the quickest. We will have sag vehicles on course with equipment for mechanical support and we will aim to have multiple course marshals with tubes/pumps in key places.

An ambulance standby and a water station with full bottles will be positioned at mile 22 in addition to a medical tent at the finish line.

Lastly please study the route in advance and consider downloading 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.