While several collegiate riders on the NUVO Cycling team race locally in the Marian University Midwest Cycling Classic on Saturday, much of the Domestic Elite squad is headed out-of-state to compete in one of the most popular and challenging national cycling events of the season.
The Hillsboro-Roubaix Spring Classic Road Race takes place roughly an hour north of St. Louis in the hills of Southern Illinois and is a 29-mile loop of brick village streets, flat open back roads, challenging climbs and twisty descents. Riders complete the loop three times, for nearly 90 miles of racing.
In the words of NUVO Cycling Co-Captain Aaron Hubbell, 'It is one of the premier road races in the Midwest, maybe even THE premier Midwest road race."
Team NUVO will be led at Hillsboro by road captains Jon Jacob and Jeff Schroetlin, with teammates Brad Schaeffer, Drew Otte, Brett Stewart, Neal Forbes, and Declan Doyle riding in support. It's a race NUVO riders have experience with; and Hubbell believes planning and pacing are crucial.
"Hillsboro is all about maintaining position and energy management," he stresses. "Because of the narrow roads it is very difficult to move up in the field. You need to fight to maintain a top-30 position, remember to eat and hydrate, and not get tangled in the numerous crashes at the rear of the pack for the first two hours so you can be present when the real racing starts.
"Once the "real" race starts, and the initial breakaway is reeled in, the pace becomes incredibly fast. Last year, the pack was strung out at 32 mph in a howling crosswind at this point in the race, and within 10 minutes it went from 100 riders down to 30.
"Teams need to plan, and they need to be positioned in front of that split in the pack," he says. "Then they need to be ready to turn themselves inside out and suffer for the final hour or so."
Short steep climbs punctuate the final two miles of the race, and attacks always occur coming into the finish. A sharp left turn at the top of the final hill drops riders into a fast and rough brick-paved downhill, with another sharp left at the bottom and a slight rise on more rough bricks. One more tight left dumps the riders into the finishing chute where they have a windy and flat 300 meter sprint to the finish.
According to Hubbell, "The race is a steadily building crescendo throughout its 80+ miles, from a reasonably paced start to its utterly brutalizing final hour of racing. The winner always deserves his victory because there is absolutely no bluffing."
The NUVO team has been training hard for the race, with Schroetlin logging five and six hour rides on the Hillsboro course every weekend for more than a month to prepare and Jacob training at home in Evansville. The rest of the squad have been using local races to supplement their training, and Hubbell is confident they are well-prepared for a podium finish.
"[Schroetlin] will be favored in a small group sprint," he says, "and the harder the race is before the sprint the better for him. [Jacob] will do well in a very difficult finale but needs some distance between himself and his competitors to win. This gives NUVO two very strong cards to play."
"With this squad," boasts the co-captain, "we have a VERY real possibility of winning."
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