We were headed to the coast early Saturday morning for some back to school shopping. No, not for children but for us. Anyway, this meant I would have to skip the 7:00AM Winn Dixie ride. Now, I really like this ride. We got a good 50 miles last Saturday. Instead, I jumped on the 6:00AM Jackson Station ride, or more appropriately the B-team ride.
Lance, Robin and JD were there sporting the jersey. I felt left out; I left my jersey at home. I was wearing a plan Jane red jersey. We headed out on the trace. We were looking for 30ish miles.
The pace was reasonable as we left the trace towards Canebrake. This is not my favorite route. There can be a lot of cars even in the morning. This Saturday it was not bad. We were talking and jockeying for position but it was a true warm up. I was not sure if I was up to the task of what was to come. I had run on the trace at lunch on Friday and rode after work on Wednesday on the ‘race’. This has been the hottest week of the year and I have been feeling it.
Back on the trace we made our way towards Epley. We all knew what was in store. Fortunately we stopped for water at the station. I desperately needed to use the can. I have been trying to hyper hydrate and the results are many pit stops. We also ran into some other friends just starting their ride. We talked them into the “King of the Mountain” Epley Road Challenge. We have been doing this ride for a couple of years now. It is a 10 mile out and back hilly route. The 5 miles out are mostly downhill and, you guessed it, mostly uphill back.
I used to be a contender on this ride. I have a power to weight ratio that suits me better on this ride than some of the true powerhouses. Not only that, I tend to draft well. I have won this a couple of times but the others have gotten stronger.
Today, this would be a hold on type ride. Tuesday I had gotten dropped on the group ride and I predicted more of the same. After I had refuel (replaced liquids) we attacked the course.
Funny enough, Lance let Robin take the lead and then said to me that we should take it easy the whole way out. That lasted about 30 seconds and Lance jumped around Robin and sped off. We let him go for a minute or two.
I could not let him go. I did not want to do the work but I was not about to let Lance just take the ride. I accelerated up to my LT pace and pursued. I quickly closed some of the gap but I was not able to completely bridge the gap. The next thing I know is that Robin comes roaring by me. It took everything to jump on his wheel but we were able to bridge the rest of the gap.
We all rode together for a little while and then Lance was off again. This time I was able to bridge the distance solo. I asked Lance if he wanted to work together and he said sure. I knew this was a deal with the devil. I was sure that once I gave a decent pull I would be done and not able to stay attached.
I tried to keep some in the bank as I gave a quick pull but as soon as I was done Lance took over. I am pretty sure that he tried to drop me but I was able to hang on, barely. My heart rate was bumping way into the red zone while drafting. I was not going to let myself be dropped in no man’s land.
However, at the turn around I saw that Robin and Jason M. (from the other group) were right there. I probably should have just backed off and saved a match or two.
We did the 90 degree turn around and regrouped. Some of the others had dropped off a bit but it was very close to just starting off again. It was Lance, Robin, Jason and I as we headed back to the Station.
There was some posturing but the pace quickly resumed. We all took a couple of pulls and dueled for supremacy. It was a fast sprint up and down the hilly course. I never really took a hard pull but I did attempt a couple of feeble breakaways just to be reeled back in as quickly as I left. On the last hill I was second position behind Lance. This was exactly where I wanted to be. It was a fast pace but I thought if I timed it right I might be able to make a break for the top. From out of nowhere, Jason comes screaming past me. I really did not even know he was with the group. Jason has gained a lot of speed in the last year. He was riding flat out. I hesitated for a moment but knew I had to make a jump for it.
Briefly it flashed in my mind that Jason was going to be King of the Mountain on his very first ride with us – wow, props. I jumped on his wheel and charged up the hill. I was waiting for him to blow up. I still hugged the wheel. This is a long hill and I did not want to explode myself. Jason did not blow up. I was going to have to pass him. I moved left and stood on the cranks. I was full gas. I was on the pedal. I made the pass but I was not finished. I continued up the hill as hard as possibly could. I was going to win this thing.
Just then I say Robin’s wheel come up on my left. There would be no letting up and taking victory. It was a dead even sprint to the line. But there really is not a line. The ending is somewhere near Epley Station, maybe the parking lot. We continued to battle. Neither one of us was going to give in. We would race until we fell over.
The sweat was dripping and flying off of my face. The legs were burning. My eyes were fixated on our front tires. Robin was closing the distance but my wheel was barely staying in front.
I had heard something by Dr. Noakes (the author of Lore of Running) on a podcast a few weeks back. To paraphrased, he said that in any closely contested race, any race where the athletes were separated by a few feet at the finish line that the non-winner had chosen to lose. He elaborated that nothing biological would prevent someone from giving everything they had for longer. The non-winner succumbed to the discomfort.
Robin must have heard the same quote. Neither of us was going to lose. Just then a truck started approaching from a side street. Robin called out car left and we both conceded the victory simultaneously. Robin was gracious and said that since he called out first that I won the King of the Mountain Epley Road Challenge. I’ll call this one a tie.
We pulled into the parking lot both cross eyed from the effort. Waited a minute for all of the others (which meant that there were puddles of sweat under our bikes) and then had a leisurely ride back to Jackson Station.
Racing bikes with friends on a Saturday morning, not much better!