Hilly Billy Roubaix

Kirk Morrison continues to prove he is either tougher than the rest of us, or more stupider(?)  Which one do YOU think it is?!?!!!

The story of the day, by Kirk Morrison

I headed down to Morgantown for my 2nd ABRA Hilly Billy Roubaix. I raced in the inaugural HBR 2 years ago and was happy to simply survive and finish. This race has definitely grown to a hallmark dirt/gravel/Cx endurance event (attracting racers from all over the country) and is now a part of the American Ultracross Championship Series (http://www.ultracx.com/). As an indicator, my race category (Mens 40+) has grown from 13 racers (2 years ago) to 82 this year !

Photo by Fred Jordan

The race day conditions were good with sunny skies, a light breeze and temperatures peaking in the mid-80’s. Thankfully, the course was much drier than during my previous race so most of the monster puddle sections were much improved (resulting in 3 course records !). However, we still had a number of muddy, wet sections as well as an 8-12” deep, creek crossing.

The Hilly Billy race is appropriately named since it included (at least) 9 - Cat4 climbs (according to my Strava file) with almost 7400’ of climbing over the 73 mile course. The climbing and the gravel/dirt take their toll as it seemed that every 2-3 minutes I was passing a rider stopped by a flat, mechanical problem or overwhelming fatigue. As a reference, of the 243 starters, there were 51 DNF’s (for a 21% DNF rate). Even worse, from the Mens 40+ category, of the 82 starters there were 24 DNF’s (for a 29% DNF rate !). This is not an easy race ….

Photo by Fred Jordan

Bike choices covered the entire range including skinny tire road bikes, Cx, mountain and even one snowbike with 4” balloon tires. This year I switched (from my rim brake Cx bike) to a more comfortable Frankenbike gravel grinder assembled (as per Sam’s advice) from a Cannondale F29’r frame (with disc brakes), a rigid Lynskey fork, Stan’s Alpha 340 cyclocross wheels and Hutchinson tubeless Bulldog tires (700x35mm). The Stan’s system worked great and provided a flat-free race ! The disc brakes and wide handlebars were perfect for tackling the long, sometimes steep gravel climbs and descents. The disc’s were a big improvement over the rim brakes since they allowed me to descend faster and with the confidence that I would actually be able to stop (if needed).

Photo by Fred Jordan

The only mechanical issue was experienced at about mile 40. As I was approaching aid station #2 when I noticed that my front brake was rubbing. As I started to loosen the caliper bolts to adjust its position, I found that both mounting bolts were completely loose (and almost falling out !). I’m guessing that this was from the continuous vibration of the gravel roads. Unfortunately, after several adjustment attempts I was still not able to remove the brake pad drag (I suspect that one of the caliper brake cylinders has seized-up) so I ended up finishing the race with a bit of brake drag.

While I was on pace for a 5:30 – 5:45 finish through the first 4 hours, I started feeling the effects of the long day and jarring roads (as well as the nagging sound of the front brake dragging) after this and suffered through the final 2 hours for a 6:13 finish. This was good enough to land me in 48th place (out of the 82 racers in my group) with a 20 minute improvement over my time from 2 years ago.

Photo by Brian Parker


The course support was outstanding with 3 fully stocked aid stations as well as an unofficial aid station at mile 23 (including a live stringband duo and beer handups …. Yes, in the spirit of Cx I accepted). Also a big thanks to Dan Schar (course marshal) for the offer of water and shouted encouragement.

Photo by Dan Schar

Post race festivities included a truckload of pizza as well as 3 kegs of beer (courtesy of Morgantown Brewing). Outstanding !

Photo by Pathfinder

This was an excellent event with plenty of course marshals and clear course markings. Another great race hosted by JR and Gina !

Highly recommended (as long as you don’t mind a bit of suffering).  To see some suffering, watch the video HERE:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice way to go Kirk. although there are a few questioning your sanity.