Riding This Week


Chainbuster MTB Racing Series - Georgia's friendliest MTB racing. 6 & 9 Hour Endurance racing for solo or teams.

Dirty Spokes - Duathlon and Trail running series. Love these guys. First class events.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Killing the day at the WBL

The Winter Bike League begins every year in December and beckons to all who know about it each Saturday morning thru February. I missed the first one but this weekend I had the time and the OK from my wife to attend. I love going to Athens but man does it blow the whole day. For me it's an hour to get there so counting the ride time I usually don't get home until close to 4PM. It's a treat for many reasons. The ride is as old as I am. It brings out nearly 150 riders, or as the organizer likes to call them "Zealots", each time. There are usually some pro riders and local hero's in attendance. The full list of zealots is HERE.

Baxter's Multisport
The Baxter's guys were lining up early to participate. It was a balmy 37 degrees in downtown Athens, Georgia at 10AM. I parked at The Adsmith, a creative agency owned by my friend Kirk Smith. He's without a doubt a "local". I've joined him several times for the WBL rides and other rides that happen all year long in Athens. There are in fact about 5 bike shops in the Athens area alone. Being the quintessential college town that it is, there's great need for "cheap" transportation. Namely le bicyclette.  Bikes are everywhere in Athens. Although our own brand of cycling is only a small percentage of the population we seem to be accepted more readily ,even on the outskirts of town where the rides usually go, because folks who live anywhere near Athens are used to strange behavior. And though it might seem odd to watch a long line of 150 cyclists weave through the square in your old town, there's a smile and a wave awaiting the zealots as they pass through towns in North Georgia. Well, mostly.

Now I'm not saying that there aren't detractors. Oh no. Many horns get blown. Many dirty carburetors get cleaned out in the passing lanes. Many birds fly and words of wisdom go unheard behind cold glass. It's always funny to me how on a back road to nowhere there's always a reason for a driver to be in a hurry. It's obvious when you look at these people that they aren't late for a board meeting. I think it's just that we're on the road they take every Saturday and we're destroying their routine. But it's only because there are so many of us.

Which brings me to another point. With that many personalities there's bound to be one or two conflicting opinions. There are a lot of decisions to make in a group that size. Stay near the front or hang out in the back? Ride two abreast or do whatever you want to do? To pee or not to pee? There's clothing questions as the day heats up. There's the question of what to eat, how much to drink. Did you bring something? Do you have money to buy something?

Some questions you must ask yourself before you ever leave the station. Am I physically ready to go this fast for this long? What happens if I'm not and get dropped in the middle of banjo country in the dead of winter? It's not as easy as a ride with a few friends. You may have good friends there, but they'll get lost in the sea of cyclists. You might find yourself pedaling along side some roadie who's angry at the world for not providing him with a 100K a year job straight out of college and so he spends his nights in a tent scribbling on cardboard signs with ignorant rhetoric about companies he wish he worked for.

But I digress.

WBL waits for a funeral to pass. No joke.

What's truly great about this ride is that it's massive. It gives the average competitive roadie like me a taste of the big peloton. The presence of the pro riders, the sprints, and even the occasional angry blast from the short of fuse just add to the mystique of the WBL. I like to meet different people and check out new bikes and new gear. There's always someone with the latest cycling fashion and there's always someone riding the oldest bike I've ever seen. You'll think you're tough until a 50 year old man pulls you home on a steel frame bike with down tube shifters.

The one and only store stop.
The weather on this day was bearable but this ride taught me the beauty of vaseline. I'll clarify that statement before anybody gets the wrong idea. Put some on your face and the cold wind won't sting your skin. I like this ride because it makes me nervous and excited at the same time. Kind of like riding in the GAP's.

What Happened
We left from Sunshine Cycles around 10:20AM and quickly snaked our way out of town. I wanted to ride near the front to see what it was like. I enjoyed how much smoother we moved through stop signs and red lights and hard turns. I did see some value in being able to react quicker to pot holes or junk in the road. But to be honest I think I missed out. The people on the front are...intense. They know the benefits of being there and guard their positions. Don't get me wrong I had some good conversations. But I had good friends farther back that I wanted to hang out with. I should've made my only priority being around them and just put up with the yo-yo effect. I won't make that mistake again.

After we swarmed a store and cleaned them out of Snickers Bars we headed for the first and only Sprint of the day. I was feeling really good so I asked Robert "Young Punk" Loomis if he wanted a lead out for the sprint. He wasn't too sure about it at first. I told him all he had to do was stay on my wheel until I pulled off. Easy. As we got within a few miles of the sprint I moved up to the front. Robert soon joined me and we waited for the whistle. People were getting a little antsy in the peloton. The yellow line rule was in affect. Our Captain for the day "Yo Simpson" gave instructions; "Go down the hill and the sprint line is at the top, at the first driveway!" Remember now, Robert and I have never been here. We have no idea where we are or how big the hill is that he's talking about. Once the whistle blew the sprint was on. I at least new we had a half mile to go so I didn't just take off. I fell in behind a line of about four guys. We hammered our way over the top and headed down the hill. The guys on front new better than to stay there and started slowing and asked others to pull through. I moved on up and we flew down the hill. I could see the top and it was a long way. I decided to start my sprint on the down and fly up the first part to maybe sling shot Robert off the front. I thought if he could get a small gap there would be no draft for our competition and it would simply be a matter of muscle and heart. It all went as planned. Robert held them off to the top and the driveway. We felt victorious! Then we learned of the crash...
Elbow of Sean Philyaw.
There was a huge pile up at some point after the whistle. As I hear it someone touched a rear wheel and started a massive chain reaction. I really hate it for my good friend Sean who broke his elbow. Really stinks Sean!

So the sprint was cancelled. We weren't sure that was the sprint line anyway so I guess it's ok. What it did do was give us something cool to build on for next season. Robert is STRONG, Robert is POWERFUL.

We finished the ride by following some local guys who knew the way home. We didn't know about the crash until we got back and waited on the others to arrive.
I hung out at Sunshine for a while but then had to leave and go shopping for my parents Christmas gifts. It's always cool riding back into Athens and through downtown. I love downtown Athens. It's torture though to smell and see all the food being served on the patios. I didn't even have time to grab a burger or a slice of pizza. Sigh.

Sean Philyaw has a great story that I'm sure is shared by many. I love sharing stuff like this so here goes:

In Sept. 2007, my physician diagnosed me with pre-hypertension and unhealthy cholesterol.  Wake up call!   I thought, "my big butt needs to be around later to be a father to and have fun with my sons".  So I began going to the YMCA.  I  played sports throughout high school and college, but working out in a gym was unfamiliar territory to me.  I did some weight training and the usual cardio machines that you find there, but I was not seeing the results I wanted.  Two years later (Summer 2009), I dug out my old Litespeed, installed new tires and began riding again.  I say "again" because I purchased the bike in 2005, rode it half a dozen times and then it began to collect dust.

Cycling for cardio had not crossed my mind up to this point, but I had befriended an old friend of Kelly's (Richard Scoggins) at the Y.  He was 72 years old at the time and in great shape.  I asked him what he did for cardio and he said, "I riiiiiiide my biiiiike, in a Gentlemanly drawl that only Richard can produce.  Grogan can come close though.  :-)

Richard kept prodding me to put new tires on the bike and ride it, so I did.  Just having a riding partner made all the difference in the world and this time around, cycling stuck.  Richard kept telling me about this guy named Kelly Parham that rode a bike across America.   I thought, what kind of nut job does that?  Then I met Kelly in the Winter of 2010 and the nut job mystery was explained.  At that point, cycling went in a whole new direction.  I had someone take me under their wing and make fun of me.  It really helped me to progress as a cyclist.  Who was there my first time in the GAPS?  Kelly was, and he made fun of me and my flailing legs.  Near the top of Neels, I was dead tired and lost all control of my pedaling form.  Kelly says to me, "You look like a rodeo cowboy, but keep at it and that will change".  Kelly was, and still is, always encouraging and a ball buster in the same breath.  Telling me and countless others that we are good cyclists, strong as a mules and "Keep at it y
ou turds or I will kick your tails".  One day, maybe when Kelly is 65, I'll finally be able to beat him and his big motor up Neels.  ;-)        Out of curiosity, how many people has Kelly helped and gotten into the cycling scene over the years?  Dozens?  Hundreds?  Who knows for sure, but I'm certainly grateful for it. 

Seeing is believing:  The attached "before" photo is from Christmas 2007 and I had been going to the YMCA for three months prior.   Pretty scary and funny looking too.  Easy with the snickers and jeers please.   The attached "after" photo is from the Summer of 2011.

I'm still a work in progress, but aren't we all to some extent?  Life throws things at you.  Ups and downs, high and lows, tofu and cheeseburgers.  You deal with it and move on.  Just like the 70 miles of rolling hills that lie ahead, you take it one climb at a time.


-Sean Philyaw

Well, that's all I've got for this episode. Keep spinning and taking good care of your families!

Merry Christmas!!


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