Riders in the 2002 Boulder-Roubaix round a corner near the Boulder Reservoir. In 2011, the race moved to Mead, in Weld County. This year, it’s back in Boulder County; Mead will still host a race later this month. Photo by Cliff Grassmick.

The forecast for Boulder County’s version of the Hell of the North is sunny and dry with a high of 63.

That’s not exactly the hellish type of weather that’s usually associated with the Paris-Roubaix, the European race that inspired the Boulder-Roubaix. Spectators watch the Paris-Roubaix bike race, known as the Hell of the North, to see who goes down on the rain-slicked cobblestones on the backroads of northern France, said cycling coach Frank Overton.

“Paris-Roubaix, it’s like our NASCAR,” Overton said, with a chuckle. “We watch it for the crashes.”

But last weekend, Overton’s FasCat Coaching hosted a (hopefully) reassuring recon ride for area cyclists interested in riding the Boulder-Roubaix, which takes place on Saturday on a mix of dirt and paved roads north of the Boulder Reservoir.

Some cyclists are a little nervous about the race, he said, because so much of it is on dirt rather than pavement (race organizer Chris Grealish, of DBC Events, said the course is about 45 percent dirt, 55 percent pavement). But for others, the Boulder-Roubaix is an exciting early-season race. 

“This race has been around for many, many years, and it’s almost like the unofficial city road-race championships, because it’s one of the few road races we have close to Boulder,” Overton said. “Everyone comes out, it’s the beginning of the season, everyone wants to strut their stuff — it’s very competitive.”

The local race started in 1992 with an 8-mile loop on the dirt north of the reservoir, Grealish said. 

“In 2010, I expanded it from an 8-mile course to an 18-mile course,” Grealish said.

Last spring, the race moved to Weld County — Grealish christened it the Mead-Roubaix. The Boulder race is expensive to put on, he said, so DBC had decided to only run it every other year. However, he said, he tricked himself into thinking his every-other-year rule didn’t count for a race in Weld County. (Mead will still host a race by the same name this year, on April 22.)

“The police alone are in excess of $5,000, and that’s just one line item,” Grealish said of the Boulder race. “Our sponsors are generous and support us in so many ways, but ultimately, we survive by the registration.”

While the route doesn’t have the traditional, gnarly cobblestones of the European race, Grealish said, right now, the roads are in great shape for racing a road bike.

“There’s lots of sections with potholes, but it’s not sandy,” he said. “It’ll provide people with that rough road race experience without a lot of pinch flats, we hope.”

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