The 2023 Dairy Roubaix took place last weekend and delivered a full dose of spring weather and mixed precipitation. Chris Stindt rode the 70 mile race and shares his story of sleet, hugs, and beautiful spring gravel.
Author: Chris Stindt
I did my first Dairy Roubaix 6 years ago, right when I started riding gravel. Maybe I did my first gravel race in the fall of 2016, and then Dairy Roubaix in the spring of 2017. It was a really neat course, south of Prairie du Chien, WI that ran along the Mississippi River (there was a section of road cut into the bluff with sheer rock on one side and water on the other), and it was pretty and remote. At some point Blue Dog Cycles out of Viroqua took over. Pete moved things a little closer to home and rides now start at Sugar Creek Bible Camp. I believe that my riding buddy Phil Sime is the friendly soul [rotten bastard] who designed these beautiful [soul crushing] courses.
I did the Filthy 50 one epic year where I DNF’d in a ditch, curled up in a ball with hypothermia, as my wife and brother-in-law (who wisely quit after 4 miles) raced out in our minivan to find me. I mention that because as I woke up on the morning of the 2023 Dairy Roubaix, I stared bleakly out the window, waiting for my water to boil and make coffee and bring me to life, I could have sworn it was snowing out my window. In fact, it was. The weatherman called for a 30% chance of flurries mid-morning, and yet, at first light, there was a dusting of snow already on the ground and more falling.
I thought about going back to bed, but fortified myself with hot coffee instead. My wife wasn’t going to be around to pick me up, so I packed my warm gear. The stuff I have, but prefer not to use unless it’s an emergency, and let’s be honest, when is a bike ride an emergency, oh right now? Ok, pack it.
It snowed up to the city limits while songs like “I don’t know why” and “I gotta get away” played over the sound of sleet - wait, when did the snow turn to sleet? It stopped coming down halfway there, but picked up again at the camp. This was a harbinger of things to come, the emotional and weather roller coaster that was my day.
My friend Josh Shively and I had plans to ride together, and we mostly did, which I’m convinced is the only reason I made it through the 70+ miles. I never considered the 110. Anyway, things started out spicy, with a climb in a group of faster racers, but eventually settled down.
Josh and I agreed we had ridden a bit stupid, and started to settle in. We chatted about all kinds of things, and we went up and down steep gravel hills. I only flew off the road once, but things stayed upright as there was a nice patch of lawn for me to overshoot on.
I spent 20 miles talking Josh into stopping for the free Wonderstate espresso shot, only to find a line and then convince him that we couldn’t wait.
We rode through part of the Pertnear course (where we are arch-rivals) and chatted about the last time he rode his singlespeed and nearly lost his breakfast up a super steep paved climb. Truly, I can’t think of a more enjoyable ride and chat than we had. It kept my mind off the steep hills and silly weather.
The weather was flat out comical. Multiple times I actually laughed out loud.
The sun would shine as the sleet pelted your face. The snow blinded you as you watched for a rainbow. The wind was never at your back, but come around a corner and it was definitely in your face.
We had both overdressed a little, as we’re given to, considering some of the colder spring rides we’ve been on. Occasionally we’d yo-yo, but we stayed together until the steep final climb. He told me to go ahead, I told him I’d wait, and then at the top, cramping, decided I’d better keep my wheels turning, at least slowly. The finish was paved, the sun came out, I rode the beach volleyball course and laid on the ground dramatically after hugging Pete.
People always talk about their Bobby hugs, and whatever, cool, but have you ever had a Pete hug? It was his birthday and I got to thank him for putting on an epic event. I don’t like the word epic, but this ride was kinda nuts. Someone asked if we’d gotten hit by the hail - uh, maybe?
Wherever my face started to hurt, I just stared at the ground until it stopped precipitating. Anyway, Josh rolled in right after I got done chatting with Pete and we hugged too, and that was it. Another rider called it the true spirit of gravel (unironically in an insta post) and I have to agree. It’s big, but approachable. Grass roots, but legit. Hard as hell (7,000 feet of elevation gain in just over 70 miles, and I don’t care if my wahoo got a bit confused in the weather, I’m keeping that bit of data). When the sun peaked out and the sleet/snow stopped and your legs weren’t screaming as you crested another ‘roller’ at 15%, you could pause and look around and like Beck sang, “it’s like wow! it’s like right, right now”. My legs were empty and my heart was full.