CBR Interview: Todd Harris, Race Director Hillsboro-Roubaix

Apr 14
2014
Filed in: Hillsboro Roubaix,


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Hillsboro-Roubaix is an iconic Midwest spring classic, and the second race of the Pave Liga Team Championship.  Now in its 13th year, the International Christian Cycling Club (IC3) hosted road race will be on Saturday, April 26th in Hillsboro, IL.  Pre-registration is open, and fields are filling up.  We interviewed the race director, Todd Harris, to learn a bit more about this great race.

CBR: Give us some history and background on Hillsboro-Roubaix

Todd Harris: Rich Pierce started the race thirteen years ago, and then I got involved about eight years ago. Rich wanted to do a race similar to the Spring Classics here. He was asking around about some towns that might have some pavé or brick and somebody mentioned Hillsboro. He went up there and met with the local newspaper and they were looking for someone to do a bike race with so that they could compete with the biathlon that the other newspaper did. So they got on board with it and then it just grew from that. Now we’re starting our thirteenth year this year.

CBR: Tell us about the course

Todd: The race start/finish is located is Hillsboro, Illinois. It is about an hour outside of St. Louis (Ed: and about 3:45 from Chicago ). If you look at the course profile, it doesn’t look like a big deal at all, because you think ‘it’s in the middle of Illinois and it’s flat,” but it’s the middle of Illinois in corn country. There may not be a lot of hills, but I can guarantee you the wind is usually the biggest factor. I think in the thirteen years, we’ve had one or two group sprints - usually the race is won in a breakaway. The Pro 1/2 fields usually just gets shattered to where probably out of the 100+ riders that start, 35 to 40 finish. It just gets completely shattered due to the wind. There are two climbs when you come into town, just before you hit the pavé. When you come off of the left turn at the top of the hill, then you start to go down the hill onto the bricks. One of the coolest features is that about halfway down the hill, there’s a cross-street where the hill flattens out, and then drops off again. You can hit that thing at 30 mph, and you just launch your bike into the air and land on the bricks. The first time you do it, it’s pretty unnerving. Then you make another left hand turn and you have another half mile up a false flat before another left turn to the start/finish line. The total loop is 29 miles; it used to be 22, but we put another 7 miles onto it three years ago to spread the fields out so that they weren’t lapping each other. 

CBR: Tell us about your sponsors and race volunteers

Todd: We get great town support. The Montgomery County Cancer Association is one of our big sponsors. They probably put up 70 volunteers on the course. There is basically a volunteer at each corner. Our other big sponsor is the Hub Bicycle Shop here in Webster Groves, Missouri. Hammer Nutrition and the Holiday Inn in Litchfield. For the most part, it’s a grassroots operation. None of our sponsors are cash sponsors. The Hub provides us with the pace car drivers, Hammer Nutrition provides us with product, and Holiday Inn helps us out with the officials. Our budget to break even is $15,000 so there’s a lot of expense even though we have a lot of volunteers. It is all basically generated from the riders’ entry fees.

CBR: How many riders do you get entering the race just on average? 

Todd: The best year was approximately 650 riders. Typically, we’re right around 500 to 550. We’ve reduced the field size probably 4 years ago for safety concerns. Some of the backs roads in the farm country become really narrow. Especially this year, we’ll be kind of late into the year, so we will be into planting season, so there’s a good chance that we will run into a tractor or two on the course. 

But like I said, the town really puts their best foot forward out there. What the racers don’t understand is that the town is so proud of themselves and the community that they go out the weekend before and pick up all of the trash along the course. They also help sweep every corner free of gravel. It’s quite an undertaking that they do for us, and we couldn’t do the race without the support for the Montgomery County Cancer Association. 

CBR: What would be the best-case scenario for this year’s race in your opinion? 

Todd Harris: Temperatures in the 80s and a still wind out of the south to really make the riders suffer on the backside of the course. There are a lot of stretches that are straight south into the wind, and that’s usually where things happen. The windier the better, in my eyes. 

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