Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Epic To Alto

If you dream about riding like a cheetah, they say you must, to the best of your ability, ride with the cheetahs, think like a cheetah, and yes, even pee like a cheetah.
When the whistle blows, pull over to the grass, straddle your top tube, pull your bib down and hang over the side. Remember, cheetahs don't pee on their shoes, you can tell when there are rusty cleats.
Some things cheetahs do seem like mad dreams to your typical antelope. For example, gravity seems to have no effect on cheetahs.
This is particularly apparent when trying to climb hills with a pride of them. I have decided that there must be some kind of biological differences between myself and the Cheetahs and sure enough I have found evidence.
Note: While furry cheetahs might need to rest 311 times, the hairless WBL cheetahs actually could make 249k in 2 hours and 26 minutes.
This was on the internet so you know it must be true. Now most cheetahs will tell you that their speed and endurance is not from their biology, but comes through hard work and the ability to withstand extreme amounts of pain. This means, since I can't keep up that I must either be not working hard enough or simply too wimpy to take the necessary pain.

Once again on Saturday, I was setting out with the Cheetahs on one of the most famous WBL rides each year, Alto. 111 miles to the foothills of mountains. There was a sprint zone before the first rest stop at mile 50, something called "Crackback Hill" at miles 70 and the final sprint zone around mile 90. Wanting to keep my goals reasonable I  decided that a great day would be finishing 111 miles and leaving the store stop with the group.

The route north was awesome. 25 miles in we hit commerce and there were 3 police cars waiting to escort us through town. Cooool. I felt good I felt strong. I couldn't understand, however, why there weren't people thronging the street  to cheer us on but it was sweet cruising through all the traffic lights at 25mph. The roads north of commerce towards Alto were gently rolling and on a sunny day, it was a great ride. I felt fine as we approached the sprint zone at mile 42. The whistle blew and as usual we were confronted with the first real hills of the day. There were 3 in the first 4 miles of the sprint zone. I hung tough through the first but couldn't hang on through the second, slipping back, back, back, off of the back. Oh well.

Crack: Hill #2 on the way to Alto store stop
Hill 3 was really steep, or I was just tired because I had to stand and gear into granny to get over it. About 5 other riders caught me (I wasn't the first to crack!) as we turned right for a flat 3 miles to the stop. We cooperated nicely and made the store stop not too long after the main group (I don't know this for a fact but it feels better to believe it). One goal accomplished for the day. The next leg was 10 miles of significant rollers including a really fast downhill on our way to crack back.  I was starting to feel the ride and no surprise, was popped off the back on crackback almost immediately. In fact I am pretty sure I was the last person up that hill.
Hey, wait for me, I'll be there eventually
There was a massive slow down so everyone could regroup and recover after Crackback and I heard that Matt Karzen, Antelope Fall Classic participant and local legal eagle got third for the non pro 1/2 category on crack back. Way to go Matt! Matt is also a major Antelope Athens supporter always giving me a kind word of encouragement when I am slipping off the back.

With crackback in the books we were headed back to Commerce. It was a tough hilly 20 miles and I was fading fast. We hit a sustained hill about 80 miles in and I was off the back again. Fortunately for me, the Reverend Lenny was at the wheel of the sag wagon and I dropped into the sweet draft of theSUV to try and catch up. Wow, there is nothing like the draft behind a big car. I was able to recover a bit and get myself back together. At one point we were about 50 yards behind the peloton and I pulled out from behind the SUV to see if I could bridge. A massive wind hit my face and I realized there was no way I could fight through it. I yelled up "too much wind" and went back to my happy place at the back of the SUV. I entered Commerce motorpacing and Lenny maneuvered to about 20 yards behind the pack. This time it was a downhill so I stomped the pedal and swung out from the Reverend's wing and bridged back to the pack. Cool, I thought, I get to cruise through Commerce again with the police escort. And I did, for about a mile before once again they simply crushed a roller and my power was gone.  After 85 miles my legs had nothing left to hang on with.
Antelope cracked by Cheetah, Commerce, Ga

Not long after, Lenny discharged from the SUV a dehydrated Cat 3 named Rob. Rob was not happy about his discharge but it worked out great for me as even a dehydrated Cat 3 could handle a lot of wind. So Rob and I cruised home the last 20 miles at modest pace, staying under the "cramp threshold."  Rob was pretty pissed at Lenny, although technically the SAG is just for mechanicals not cracks, but I kept that to myself, I needed Rob's help getting home.  An experienced racer, Rob gave me the skinny on Cat 5 racing in case I decide to try it, and I learned about his life and family. Really nice guy, enjoyed meeting him and riding with him. We made it back to sunshine in one piece, and I guess the group just couldn't wait the extra hour to let me be in the picture. Oh well. Maybe next week. A pretty epic day. I have ridden Alto.

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