Winter Bike League Maysville 2011

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.

Mineral Man and StrongerCyclist

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.
Greenville WBLer Derek.

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.

WBL start Dec3, 2011

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, 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.

Pack is spread out on 2nd lap

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.

Athens to Homer WBL 2010

This year the first rendition of the infamous Winter Bike League (WBL) happened on December 4th. I was anxious to do this edition of the WBL in particular because the ride was going to Homer, Georgia. The year that I did every WBL ride, we never made it to Homer…. it was the first ride of the season that we took the ‘scenic route’ aka. got LOST. and it was about 135 miles of a expected 120 mile ride before we made it back. It was just one of those days.

I was fortunate to have a place to crash in Athens the night before. I pulled up a ride report from last year’s New Year’s day ride to refresh my memory of what would make this feat possible with less training this year. Sometimes Life and career tend to get in the way of being able to hop onto the bike and get the necessary miles in the saddle.

I awoke excited and nervous about the upcoming event. Just starting an event like the WBL can be an experience. We park, hop out and friends are milling about, chatting and saying Hi to each other, some folks that I haven’t seen lately.
I slowly make it past people attempting to sign-in – 2 points for this year’s WBL already. On the table I spy a much coveted Book – Winter Bike League 2010

The (mostly) true account of what went wrong by the (mostly) dependable man in the field, The Humbler Chronicler.

I had heard that the Mineral Man had written a section for the book & I was especially anxious to read that section from our fabled days of being Mineral Men.

I began to realize that this was a big gathering. It seemed about 150 people were in attendance for the first outing of this year’s WBL. No sprints today and ‘only’ 75 miles, so that usually brings out more people than usual for the kick-off to ‘the other season’.

Photo by Eddie Murray

As we headed out of town, a whole flock of vultures stirred up and were squawking while seemingly circling the road to see who was going to be the first to be left behind like a weaker Wilda beast that can no longer keep up with the herd. Luckily for me, it wasn’t long before I was able to catch a wheel that was heading up ahead of where we were, and being the foxxy, devious, wheel-sucking sprinter that I have been, I felt less than guilty about motoring right up along with them to the front section – but not so close that I would have to pull.

I have put myself on the front of the WBL ride several times. Trust me, at first the pace is not too bad – steady 18-22 mph. But this is the WINTER bike league, and the weather around Athens in the winter is typically not far above freezing and mostly Windy. Add to that the rolling hills that made the Pro riders in the Tour De Georgia more than just mumble curse words to anyone that would listen. It all makes for a tough day in the saddle – all the while you are leading a pack of hungry, battle hardened men that do their utmost to belittle you if they notice a chink in your armor. All you have to do is slide to much to one side and there will always be someone eager to take a turn at the front and this year, I am more than happy to just sit-in and enjoy the comedy of friends old and new in the group.

The legs seem to remember this kind of beating that they have taken so many times before. A group this size can be extra aggressive on the muscles when the ‘piano’ effect occur, slow down for an intersection or hill, only to jam back on the pedals for a 30 second all out effort, then slow back to the standard 20 mph that the front group is doing.

Photo by Eddie Murray

Soon, I was starting to start my nutrition – taking bites from a clifbar and chasing it down with water. Every 30 minutes or so, I kept eating a little bit to keep my body energy to keep me with the group. Every time a hill hurt a little more than I thought it should, I would take a little bit from the gel flask.

At the store stop, I re-filled with water and was happy to be doing well so far on the ride. I tried to eat extra food while being stopped, but still only managed half a clifbar and part of a candy bar I nabbed from Eddie.

Luckily, yet unluckily it seemed that everyone on this ride today has read my post about last year’s ride and is gathering at the very front of the group. We have jammed up both the entrance and the exit of the store stop. We turned onto the road and the typical 2 abreast group was now about 6 abreast, everyone seemingly vying for a position ‘near’ the front, but not ON the front.

As the field settles in, and sorts themselves out, I get good placing in the group, I’m more than half way to the front and the paino effect isn’t too bad. I was on the gutter side of the road, so moving up anymore would be tough anyway.

We come up to a stop sign and suddenly many people that had been at the back came surging to the front, taking up nearly 3 lanes. As the pack shot away from the intersection, I was once again behind mid-pack.
As we took the hilly route back to Athens the rollers and the lack of LSD started to take their on me and I was coming unglued at the filament level. The muscles didn’t get enough nutrients in the last 2 hours and were now on empty. Micro-cramping ensued. I called this micro-cramping because I felt the cramps, but they were not near the leg stopping cramps that I have gotten before, these were more effective of slowing me down than stopping me. I guess those electrolytes that I took before the ride were effective for 3.5 hours….of a 4 hour ride. As we were going up a larger roller, I had to pull to the left onto the yellow line and allow others to pass and stay out of the way & not cause an accident. I always try not to impeded others flow and momentum.

Once I made it over the top, I could raise my speed back up and slowly reel in the group. I wasn’t the only 1 at the back end of the field. Some guys were suffering and then as usual the guys who could be pulling the field were hanging out chatting. You see the really strong riders tend to stay at the very front or the very back of a field. It’s the safest areas & they stay Out of Danger. I find my friend Artur along the back and trade bottles for a Gatorade filled bottle. My body was craving sugar, and although it wasn’t enough to snap me back immediately it would be enough to give me some energy to hopefully keep me with the group.

Well, it did until the next big roller. Then suddenly I was struggling off the back again. Then as I hear a rider passing, I get the rush from behind, just steer straight and keep pedaling. And just like that I am over-running other cyclists that are hanging on. I keep pace and keep downing fluids. I’m feeling better, but the miles and hills are taking their toll on me & my glue on the group is less and less tacky. Then another push & I’ve been forcefully re-glued. Someone likes me & wants me to finish this together. I say Thanks as I check to see who it is – U.S. National Pursuit champ Daniel Holt is grinning at me, “I give good pushes, huh.”

As we get back to the red lights of Athens a chick looks over her shoulder and says “thanks for the pushes”. For the first time I have to say “it wasn’t me” It seems I wasn’t the only 1 getting pushes today & thus another reason that there is so much comradere in the WBL field. The cyclists that go through the frozen tundra together have something in common that no one expects or demands, being a WBL zealot.

Somethings that I learned on this outing:
I should have used some electrolytes in my bottle & refilled that bottle at the store stop with an extra tablet. I usually use NUUN, however I am currently trying out CamelBack’s version – the ingredients appear the same, but they give you 2 extra in the pack & a stronger flavor. Either 1 would probably kept my cramps at bay while I kept eating on the clifbar, however, it would not have been enough.

The second lesson was that I should have taken the extra few minutes to fill my 2nd flask and bring it along with me. That extra gel would have given a lot more energy to get me through the ride. I usually try to err with having too much food/water with me, but this is 1 of those times where I under estimated – by quite a bit and suffered because of it.

I’ve made it through big rides that I haven’t done enough miles for, and the 1 main factor is nutrition! You have to eat for what is upcoming, not for how you feel.

Winter + Athens +NewYears =WBL

I had to re-learn a valuable lesson on New Years Day……..and it isn’t what you think, but it was Very Painful.
I went with friends to Athens, GA for the New Years eve, downtown festivities – Good times. New Years day consisted of road riding with the Winter Bike League ride. This was probably the first WBL ride I’ve done in many years. These rides are not for the weak of heart, nor weak leg individual. The only thing that is bigger than some of the names of folks that ride are the tales that are told about the rides!

“There were 60 or 70 diehards in attendance on Friday, but less on Saturday, all powerful pedal-people capable of Herculean feats of pedaling prowess. Even old-time Zealots Steve Carhart, Reggie Pineda, and Gentry Arnette were back from the dead.”

But don’t doubt that the rides are the real deal.

The New Years day ride was 64 miles, which equaled 72 from the house we are crashing at.
Let’s just say that I wasn’t feeling the best this morning from the New Years festivities, but I wasn’t feeling the worst out of all of us either, after all, I did actually get on the bike….
The peeps were up by 8, coffee & breakfast for those that could stomach it….. not me.

Winter Wonder Ride
Winter Wonder Ride

The warm-up to the ride didn’t seem to make things any better. The morning temperatures were hovering just above freezing, and we were late. We got to the start and I barely had the energy to sign-in and chat with some of the folks that I haven’t seen in too long. The Mighty ride leader got on with the announcements & the ride, wind, miles commenced. Everyone shuffled up the group as we headed out of town and I wanted nothing to do with it….. I was content to be able to keep the field in site…… I was feeling weak and had no extra energy to attempt to maintain a position with these top dogs Southeastern racing scene!

Slowly, but definitely most anyone that was indeed intent on keeping up with the pack passed the weak member ahead of them – ME. When I looked back, there were only a few stragglers behind me…..the guys that are on the back of most of the big rides around this area – chatting, laughing, not concerned about the group because they know they can turn on the gas at any time and catch up if and when they want.

As the miles ticked away I was tipping up a flask of gel and attempting to rehydrate from my water bottles, the stomach was at least starting to feel better & now willing to believe that what ever I was ingesting was now for the greater good, rather than the opposite of the previous evening. As I was now realizing that we were probably 20+ miles out, the ride itself was starting to take their toll on my legs, each on the brakes, on the gas! section was hurting more and more & I was having to dig more when coming out of the turns that we were going through. At least experience tells me that the accelerations and decelerations don’t have to adjusted immediately – like the old racing dog that I am, I know that I can carefully use the amount of efforts smoothly to close gaps & whenever possible look for other wheels to do the work. But still, I was unfortunately, sitting near the back, I getting the full ‘piano’ effect of the field. This made a tough day tougher!

And then came the hills……ah, the rolling hills around this area can not be fooled! They will slowly sap your energy & they are even more effective when multiplied by the cross wind along the flats leading into them. The hills will not be fooled – they will pinpoint your fitness based on the group around you. I fell off the pace on a climb only to sit on a wheel that closed the gap – that hurt. Always onward the pack marches, they don’t notice what happens behind them, they only move forward. We marched on wind beating everyone from the side, yet no one complains, they just get on with the job at their feet, marching to the pace being set by the front pace makers. Next climb and this one has bite! The front dogs haven’t changed their pace much & the steepness and distance is not to my liking….. I have to call up the team car.

“You ok?” to make the answer more obvious, I give them the wild crossed eyed look, which also implied what I thought of the hill. “K, we will pace you back” – Really? phew!!!! I make it up the climb & sit in behind the SUV, boosting my speed until we are catching up with some of the other riders that are falling off the pace. I pick up my head enough to realize that the the whole pack has slowed down to take a right turn. I come around the car, barely able to raise my hand in appreciation. I keep a high pace, whip through the turn, and finally onto the back of the field. Gaining once again the feeling of safety within the herd.

Onward we roll through the countryside, and all the time now, I’m looking for a chance for this wounded passenger to gain access into the upper ranks of the distinguished riders. Every chance to gain forward momentum is painful, more gel, more water. Slow, Fast…. next roller, Hangin’ On….. must move up.
The next climb that we come to is longer, but not as steep. I can make it I think, it’s more suited for me. As we get into the climb the front guys are steady – good for me, but I’m still digging deeper than I would like. I can feel the quads talking to me – next up, cramps – not yet, spin more, use the heart more and I have done what a couple others didn’t – make it to the top, with the group. As the terrain levels off, I’m taking several deep breathes in an attempt to gulp enough oxygen in hopes of flushing the lactic acid, and slow the heart rate. As we round the bend I see the next climb…. the group had a nearly simultaneous shift of gears, and this time I could not dig deeper.

The pace car comes up and I hear… “take a right & the store stop is 2 miles”, followed by the motor as they pass. Oh, thank goodness! A break. Stoppage, if only for a few minutes….
At the store stop, I chewed on my cliff bar, got a couple sips of some carbonated caramel colored, sugar – the last of the gel flask and topped off a bottle of water. I check on my buds, meet some new one’s and I hear the “let’s Go!”
As soon as I heard this I pulled off a sweet cycle-cross move of hopping back onto the bike, finding out which way the group is head and bolting str8 up to the front 20 riders! We ease through Commerce and as we head back onto the open road, I start to realize… my efforts are easier, the piano effect is much smoother – pedal, coast, repeat. I don’t have the need to kiss my stem every time we take a turn, to catch back up. Ahhh, this is the tempo that I had been hoping for – smooth. Just as I think it is going to be a smooth draft all the way back to Athens, we turn again & I hear the whistle blow – we have entered the attack zone & the strong men will no longer pull everyone along, it is each man for himself. I find the latern rouge & we set a steady pace back home, all the while telling tall tales of the feat of which we have just accomplished – riding yet another WBL.

Positioning in the pack made such an immense difference in my ride this day!! As long as you are a steady rider, it pays to have a good position in the pack. Pack positioning can keep you out of the wind, away from squirrels, and ahead of the piano!

I’m happy to say that Saturday’s WBL – although colder, was so much more of an enjoyable ride because I made sure that I got into a good position in the pack for the entire jaunt!