Rough Road 100 is one of the “spring classics” of the US/Midwest, and one of our favorite gravel races of the year. The race is a good mix of gravel, deep gravel, dirt, limestone, asphalt, and wind. Located in Morris, IL, course has 9 sectors of varied surfaces with whatever mother nature has in store. In 2017 there were over 400 registered racers, up substantially from 2016.
I completed the 100 km race on April 8, 2017 and finished in first place in the Women’s Open category. My husband Drew finished first place in his Age Group; his race video and Strava results are shown below. It was a windy but beautiful day. You can also check my race stats on Strava.
Rough Road 100 Results
- Rough Road 100 – 2018 Results
- Rough Road 100 – 2017 Results
- Rough Road 100 – 2016 Results
- Rough Road 100 – 2015 Results
Race starts are always tricky
The goal at the start of a long race is to position yourself in a fast group. By “fast” I mean a group riding at the fastest pace you can sustain without bleeding all your power. With hundreds of riders, it is not as easy to identify an ideal group from the beginning. Nevertheless, riders go very hard at the start of a race, so you need to be prepared to ride hard for the first 30-60 minutes of the race.
In addition, you need to position yourself near the front of the group you are in to get a draft good while avoid getting dropped. Plan to position yourself in the first two-thirds of the group.
The beginning and how I positioned myself
I worked very hard at the beginning and was able to join a good group riding at 23 mph. I was keeping up, but 16 minutes into the race I missed a turn and got dropped from the group. After turning around quickly and trying to bridge the gap by myself, the headwinds slowed me down to 18 mph and I couldn’t catch up. I started to feel quite tired. Considering that I was still at the beginning of the race, I decided to slow down and wait for the group behind me.
I joined the group that came behind me and was finally able to catch a break in the draft and rest the legs a bit. But it wasn’t long until I started to feel strong again and get anxious. This group was going at 16 mph, and I wanted to go faster. I stayed in the slower group until four of us started to ride out the front and break away. We started rotating fast through a pace line and caught up with the faster group in front of us, leaving the slower group behind.
The middle grind
The “faster group” was now smaller and not so fast, but it held a good pace and speed. Three of my training buddies were there, so I settled in for a while with those familiar and trustworthy wheels. For the next hour and a half we went through some very rough roads and battled strong cross winds.
This was the hardest part of the race for me, as I usually suffer in cross winds and need to get in the draft. I continued to monitor my position to make sure I stayed towards the front of the group not to get dropped, which could happen with a blink of an eye.
The next 40 minutes had a handful of steep hills. I went really hard on the hills and even got a QOM. My colleagues and I dropped most of the group that was riding with us. The hills felt tough, considering that there was really no opportunity to rest throughout the race given the conditions. Little to no coasting and lots of wind. I just took each hill as if it was the last!
Race Footage from the Front
The final stretch
In the last 40 minutes of the race we went through a trail surrounded by trees on both sides, so that was a big help blocking the wind. The riders were quite spread out at this point, and we were a group of about 10 riders. I rode this last stretch at a constant endurance pace, towing a few riders along.
As I crossed the finish line, I hoped I had secured a good place, and had no idea I had finished first among the women (Open Category) until I heard the announcement. Yeah!
I went back to race Rough Road in 2019. The weather was great and there was very little wind! This year I had a mechanical at about one hour into the race that cost me valuable time.
Despite the mechanical, I finished in 3rd Place in my Age Group, 6th Overall Women, and shaved 10 minutes off my 2017 time. I am happy with this result, and hope I won’t have issues in 2020 when I go back to race this fun event again!
Read all about the 2019 Rough Road 100 race in Drew’s post.
Nice overview and great work! Question though – what tires/wheels would you recommend? I assume deep aero is a no-go, what about mid-section (30-35mm), would that be too much in the crosswinds? Tire choice is important too and I can’t imagine anything for such a mixed surface.
I’ve done this race on a few different tires – gravel, slicks and some mixed terrain tires. Last year the roadies were out and it was very fast. Much faster than in previous years. It was apparent you need fast tires. I would run 28 – 32 Hutchinson Tires. I used them at BWR (the 28s) on worse terrain and they did great. No flats. They are very light and durable. Need to be a little careful if it gets wet. If it’s wet I might go back to a 32 gravel tire (Gravel King is the best. Super light). But in dry conditions you need to run slicks to stay with the front group.
Regarding wheels, I would run a standard carbon gravel wheel. Nothing deep. Cross winds are pretty bad and you will get blown into other riders. In years past I’ve gotten blown across the road.
Thanks for the reply! Regarding wheel depth, would 35mm be too much? I mostly commute and that’s the alu wheelset I use in all weather so far.
Do you have a list of preferred tubetype tires, by any chance? Like 3 or 4 to compare against, preferably 28-30c 🙂 My wheels aren’t tubeless-ready and I’m not sure I want to make a switch for a few rides. Thanks!
35mm is fine. I’ve run those Hutchinson 28 and 32 both tubeless and with tubes. They work find in both. I don’t have experience with any other mixed terrain tire except for this one. I studied the market a lot before settling on it due to the good balance of weight and durability. Hope that helps.