The Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix are a week apart. The Michigan equivalent, the Barry-Roubaix and the Lowell 50, is taking shape. The twin gravel road races are set and filling up, pitting some of the best Michigan roadies and mountain bikers against one another on the hills of Western Michigan.
After the Barry-Roubaix called out over 1,500 rider on March 24, the Spring edition of the Lowell 50 has more than doubled in size from its Fall 2011 debut event. Taking place just north of Lowell, Michigan, “The Thriller After The Killer” has drawn strong squads from Farm Team, Freewheeler, Bissell, Priority Health, and Flying Rhinos, just to name a few. It’s an equally challenging course to the Killer and has some serious challenges for all abilities. While there is certainly less climbing at Lowell, the climbs are taken at an unbelievable speed, at gaps between groups on the road are extremely hard to close in the open, windswept fields. While it’s never easy in any race, a one minute gap at Lowell is extremely hard to bridge, and riding in a cohesive group is a must.
The route for the Spring race is mostly unchanged. It features 1, 851 feet of climbing spread over the entire course. While the total amount of vertical isn’t staggering, how riders achieve it is rather unsettling. The race begins a 200 foot climb at 7.1%, followed by another spiking climb after 10 miles. The biggest climb of the race comes on the Whites Bridge Road Climb, a steep jaunt on loose gravel after riders emerge from a covered bridge.
There have been a few changes to the route, with the most terrifying addition being the Rail Trail. A loose gravel section that spans a creek, the Rail Trail will be a decisive section similar to the roughest pave at Flanders or Roubaix, and may give mountain bikes a slight advantage over cross bikes or the few, brave souls on road bikes.
The Lowell 50 is still open for registration , so if you didn’t get into the Roubaix, the Lowell 50 is a great option to get in some gravel road miles.