You know that Winter is about to cast her steely grip across the US when anybody whose is a cyclist rushes to Athens, GA to join into the Winter Bike League. They go in hopes of Fame and fortune that but a few have been able to attain, the stories of which have never been told – unless several adult beverages have been consumed.
I got a call from the Mighty Mineral Man himself, telling me that he was returning to grand form & was making preparations to rip the legs off any non battled hardened cyclists that dare forget his story. It had been a mere seven years since Mineral Man and your’s truly left their own mark in the Archives of the WBL.
As I do every year, I re-read last years WBL report . This year I was determined that my lack of mileage (from recovering from a recent Mt bike crash) wasn’t going to be the source of my suffering.
Luckily, I talked my friend Derek into coming from Greenville to the original WBL & luckily he gave me 2 NUUN tablets at the start. I also filled up 2 flasks full of Hammer Gel, a clif bar, and a secret weapon, a pack of pop-tarts – yeah, I’m going old skool! I wasn’t going to let a lack of nutrition keep me from holding onto the front group.
As the ride gently rolled out of town, everyone was all chatter and festive, seeing old friends, meeting new friends. Little did I realize the depth of the days field, but why would that surprise me? this is the WBL! I saw some great riders, a @Team Type1 rider, 2 Team Mountain Kakis riders, a Real Cyclist.com, Jered Gruber, Clay Parks, Hammerin’ HillBilly, FarmerG, the PACK SHOUTER, old motorcycle racers, and a score of cyclists that race! It was a stacked, packed, jacked field of 2 wheeled craziness about to embark on a slugfest. As we rolled outta town, you could tell everyone was giddy with anticipation!
Then, came the rolling hills. At the mid-field riders were being made into diamonds via the intense pressure of the leaders. All you can hear is the weazing wind of those putting in monumental efforts to keep themselves with the herd. As I looked up I realized that we were only half way up this roller and you have to pay attention as riders start to fall off the pace.
I see a couple riders swerve around and then suddenly see why, 1 gal was lost in her personal hurt locker, I checked traffic, played frogger and eased over and became a pusher. I geared down, and asked if she wanted a push, when she looked over her shoulder I realized it was her weazing I heard. She was nearly hyper-ventilating. I got the two of us up to the same speed, but we still had a ways to get over this hill, and now I’m nearly weazing also. PUSH! Finally, I got her onto the flats, let her catch her breathe, and the ride continued along.
Once at the store stop, I filled the bottles, popped in the extra Nuun tablet, ate on a smore pop-tart and checked in with the Mineral Man & Gainesville fella’s. So far, so good! But as the group was knocking out the 2nd half of the ride, the rollers were back. Funny how you can’t remember much about a route, but once you are hurting you can realize this is where the hurt was put to you last time. We were on a skyward ascent, under I-85 when I had deja-vue. I dug down and my quads were talking to me, but I was able to throttle enough to keep my placing in the pack.
By now, I’m going through my second flask of gel. The quads and hamstrings are mumbling, but no mutiny yet. Onward, we march. I take every chance to throttle my pace. After each surge ahead of me, I catch up slowly – no big efforts. And no one is in any hurry to get around me either. Everyone is suffering.
Finally we round a corner and I realize we are just outside Athens, and have 2 climbs left. But the first climb I loathe. It is somewhat short, but man is it steep. Suddenly the pack starts to move all over the road nearly everyone is out of the saddle, rocking their bikes. Again, I make it with the group, and my mood improves, Athens is on a hill, and now that is the only hill left. Post ride Food and Beer awaits!
Interesting to hear the stories when your done and finally relaxing. Man, was I suffering when we were going past that white picket fence. “yeah, I remember that fence, that section SUCKED!”
You are suffering? Remember everyone is hurting, you just have to hurt just a little more to stay with them!
Most races come down to 3-5 minutes of who can suffer the most and that often determines the winner.