Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mid-Week Classic

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.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thats my bike.....love the Six13!

Matt said...

Weekends epics after a while become routine and taken for granted. But when you can get that elusive midweek epic, it just makes things all the better. There is just something about doing the regular midweek ride where conditions or circumstance change that allow something entirely different than before to emerge. Of course, the next week that ride is back to the same as before.

Great post!

sydney_b said...

Great story. Sounds most deserving of the adjective "epic."

I too have to underscore the importance of the mid-week intensity. Here, we call ours "Wednesday Worlds" and I started riding it last fall, becoming the first woman to ever finish one (at least that's what one guy told me). This year, I'm riding them regularly, taking my pulls, and even launching an attack from time to time.

As a consequence, I think I've progressed substantially as a racer. The ride gives me access to fast experienced racers who are generous with their advice and knowledge, allows me to practice skills, and pushes me to dig deeper than most of my races thus far. The result of which is the increased power and confidence I need to line up with the tougher competition I'll be facing later this summer and fall.

A big thank you to all you guys who make Wednesdays happen in your respective locales.

baughb said...

Oh yeah. I was there and I will not forget that ride. The pace never let up. On the rivet the whole way back. The rain was so intense. Could not see a damn thing. The only thing that got us back intact was our complete knowledge of that route. Cruse control on the edge. One of the most intense ride I've experienced.

Radio Freddy said...

sydney_b - Thanks for the words. Yeah, i have to say thank you as well to the riders who show up for the MWC. Without them the ride would be just another set of intervals.

jza said...

For the full PRO experience the MWC is followed by an afternoon of Lamborghini wrecking and cocaine abuse with uber-hot underage Belgian girlfriends.

Remember, recovery is key, even midweek.

PRO program is GO
YEEEE HAWWWW!!!!

oldFonzie said...

So that's what you kids do after the group rides these days. I would have thought it'd be a mug up at the coffee bar.

Our Juicy Life said...

if that's not a recipe for a good bike washing i'm not sure what is.
sounds cool.
hubby of our juicy life

Erik said...

Just when I was coming up with excuses to skip the Wednesday World Championships this week you go and publish this.

Parker Holt said...

I CAN FEEL IT !

alex said...

this a recycled post.
please!

Pedro said...

I remeber a MWC crit in Atlanta years ago. We were grinding out laps around an industrial park when the storm rolled in. We kept after it through the downpour until a lightning strike hit the power lines overhead. At that point it was game over and everyone scattered to their cars.

Anonymous said...

So was it 32-34c or 37c? You said it hovered in the 32-34 range but was 37. Hot is hot, but it seems to be getting hotter well after the sun has set.

juzme said...

an oh. . . yeah! post that makes me yearn for the local wolf pack. Decided I'm being a wanker by choosing to ride cool mornings alone over hot hot Thursday evenings with our version of MWC. But I did get a slashing rain ride last winter with a local PRO (national road race champ) and another crack, the PRO said it was just like Belgium and he drove us to ride Tutti Belga-- A.T. in perpetual rotation with conciousness reduced to that dreamlike underwater blur RF captured so well. Yep, the fitness levels rise and the perspective richens. Thaaanks for this and all your offerings RadioFreddy.

Anonymous said...

Gosh... You road fast in the rain... How "PRO" of you...

News Flash: training rides are not and cannot be "epic"

[/snark]

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:13 - News Flash: It's "rode" not "road".

Anonymous said...

I remember pinning it just to stay on the wheel ahead. It was total trust of the rider ahead of you, because that was all you could see!

Being on the front meant not really knowing where to go!

At times we were in 6 inches of water- if you weren't lined up right behind your leader, you were cutting through spray and deeper water!

Great post!

Ted