MikeA

2014 returns with a pair of grueling gravel races to test the legs of those who just can’t wait until May. 

The Barry-Roubaix and Lowell 50 are back as twin peaks in the spring. Their long distances (62 miles and 57, respectively) are tough any time of the year, but coming March 22 and April 5 means few in Northern Michigan have been able to train fully outdoors. And like some glistening twin mounts in springtime, they’re both currently marked with a few-inches-deep-layer of snow.

The Grand Rapids area has had a winter for the ages that is now spilling heavily into spring time. Last year, parts of the Roubaix course were layered with snow and a few patches of ice, but at this point, the course is reportedly much more covered, with only a few weeks left to melt. Luckily, there seems to be some hope in the forecast, including a few days in the 30s and even a chance over 40 degrees to start the melting process.

Because of the snow, the Sager Road portion is almost certainly to be cut out, as it was in 2013. Aside from that, the course is looking to be unchanged, fast and, as always, filled with rolling hills and tough roads. 2014 should be even more challenging with just as much firepower, including the expected title defence from Justin Lindine. He’ll be the wheel to follow, and with few teams having the numbers to control or chase, it could be an extremely interesting race to watch.

The Lowell 50 comes two weeks after Barry-Roubaix, and that amount of time could be enough to ensure clear roads. The old comparison is that if the steep climbs of Barry County are like the Tour of Flanders, then Lowell is the Paris-Roubaix. Much flatter, the course does have a few selective climbs early and late. However, many of the splits in the field come from the wind and crashes. Once there’s a split, it takes a massive amount of cohesion to get back on, and cohesion comes in short supply when everyone is already on the rivet.

Registration is open for both races, with Barry-Roubaix also having transfer spots available. Lowell 50 takes place at Fallsburg Park north of Lowell, while Barry-Roubaix is back in the heart of Hastings again for 2014.

For now, Rick is doing a great job keeping course conditions updated on BRX’s Facebook page, so check that out.