The Mid-Week Classic (MWC) gets its name because it's held every Wednesday. Both the route and intensity are much akin to a one-day Classic. It starts early in the Spring, which often means temps are cold and conditions vary from sunny and warm to instantaneous downpours and the race has little time for pleasantries. The MWC is a bare-knuckle, fisticuffs event complete a "no-rules" policy, which basically states that it's "game-on" at exactly 5:30 p.m. The course is 40 miles out and back and the terrain varies from rolling hills and false flats to a nasty criterium section complete with multiple chicanes and a rutted series of back roads punctuated with potholes, off-camber turns and some spontaneous gravel in sections.
The MWC makes no apologies and takes no prisoners, which is why it's a favorite for the local Category ones and twos. I incorporated the MWC into my weekly schedule two seasons ago and feel that it has drastically improved my fitness. I guess if I'm not going to pay a coach to train me, the next best thing is to make sure I show up on the important training rides.
The MWC is an epic event, but one ride in particular was so over the top, that I'll never forget it.
Last July we experienced a two-week period where the temps were relentless and hovered in the 32°-34°C range. The wicked humidity so common with July helped to create a recipe for a complete and utter cracker! At 5:15 p.m. the ride began taking shape; the usuals showed along with some new faces. At 5:30 p.m. the group was complete (25 of us in all) and we rolled in the familiar fashion up and out of town. Just as we passed the last of the tall buildings, the unofficial gun sounded and it was "game-on". The attacks began and they were relentless, one followed another and pretty soon, the group was strung out into a single file line, forced into a thin ribbon by the intense pace and strong head wind. Despite the 37°C degree temps the ride was like so many before it: fast, serious, and requiring the A-game.
As we rounded the halfway point and turned to the benefit of the wind, the skies began to cloud over and turn an eerie, greenish black, appearing bruised and angry. As the wind began to increase, so did the dust and debris, unleashed by 14 days of scorching temps and a relentless sun. As the darkest portion of the sky took hold of the MWC's route, the wind began gusting and the sky began to unleash its fury on the group. First the rain drops were few but large, when they hit your face or legs they stung and they were cold. Very cold. Then came the full brunt of the storm, the sky opened and released all the emotions it had been holding back for two weeks, the rain was so heavy that glasses were a hindrance. The rider in front of you was only a faint silhouette and the cars passing just feet from our shoulders were reduced to a series of red streaks.
The rain quickly overpowered the storm sewers, collecting on the tarmac and puddling in the low spots. The rain absorbed the heat from the pavement and, in turn, felt like tepid bath water as it soaked your clothes and filled your shoes. It remains one of the most visceral sensations I have ever felt while riding bike. The cold front that carried the rain quickly rolled in behind bringing with it an incredible drop in temperature and creating zones of temps varying enough to be felt by your skin. Despite the rain, wind, cold, and zero visibility we continued in a style typical of Wagner, maintaining the aggression and speed of a normal MWC but it was elevated to epic by the rains and the chaos they brought. As quickly was the rain came it receded, pulling with it the heat and humidity, laying waste to weeks of dust and debris and leaving all of us, wet and cold and and even more motivated to keep the pace high and the action strong. As we positioned ourselves for the final sprint of the ride, the sun began to reappear and temps had plummeted to a chilly 21°C, we all knew that we were part of a ride that was truly epic, a day where a line was drawn among the local cyclists. A line that delineated those who were there, and those who were not.