A-Grade At Epic
Here at Epic Camp, after the first day, we let the rider leave early. It gives them a mental break to be off the front for a bit before they are caught (or not!) by the faster riders.
At this camp, I've been riding with the A-Team since the start. Because the way the camp played out, I've had a jersey on most days and, therefore, figured that I might as well ride with my fellow competitors. It's tough mentally, even when you are as mellow as me (right Molina?).
I'm one of the physically weaker "strong" guys so it get dealt a fair amount. Molina claims that he's the official whipping boy for Epic Camp but he skipped the Whakapapa Camp and missed a few runs so I'm taking the title. That said, my suffering is nothing compared to my homeboy, Mark "Petro" Pietrofesa. He's been in the Red Jersey early and has endured a whole hell of a lot of suffering.
As Bill Clinton would say, "I feel your pain".
Anyhow, I'll give you a breakdown with a few anecdotes.
Day One -- we all ride together (25 riders) to start the camp after 25K of running which included a 10K run race. Molina has a few too many beers at lunch and decides to "play". Group explodes, I don't play. Roll into the TT start last, have a decent ride Hinault-style (no bars).
Day Two -- we all start together (25 riders) and Johnny does such a good job pulling that Molina asks me later if he was working for me! Fast descent in the rain has me off the back (because I didn't want to DIE) and I have the bridge-from-hell when Tara decides to TT for a while. Later Tara's legs lock solid - her pull likely not a factor...
Day Three - we start together, I pull for about an hour - Lordy Lordy pulls through quite friendly. I rode pretty well to lunch, Petro explodes, we ride in together DEAD LAST!
Day Four - an aquathon, KOM and a ~60K pull by yours truly keeps us together (when Jo threatens to kill Lordy if he goes to the front) until Clas/Lordy take off to get to the protein drinks first. Rob Hill flats, Johno/I wait and we ride in easy together DEAD LAST!
Day Five - A-Grade down to 12 riders, pretty friendly until the TGV (Lordy Lordy) fires up then 20-30 mins about as fast as I can go, I depart Stage Back before I totally explode. Petro's gear cable broke the day before so when he arrives at lunch (having pushed 39-15 through Kiwi Rollers for 90K) he's cooked. We roll together, friendly, DEAD LAST.
Day Six - A-Grade down to 7 riders but we start in a group until the base of a 13K climb - Clas/Lordy rip my legs off for 6K then I solo to the 1600m ski station - we wait for Jo at the base; Clas/G ride at the back of TGV train to keep the other riders in contact - crosswindy, no shelter, fartlek training for about an hour (my VO2 watts flashing constantly for an hour). Blanco (visiting A Grade for a day) dangles off the front until Clas takes off with him. Ride finishes with Petro drilling us senseless for 15K - payback for all the pulling I've given him for the previous five days?
Day Seven (today) - A-Grade down to 8 riders (!), no ladies today for the first time. Johno pulls for 45K then needs a pee break. Thankfully, mobile espresso stand right there! My first coffee break in a week! Johno pulls some more, Daniel McDonald (BigSexy's Bro) is feeling inspired and tows us up an unexpected climb. Petro/Clas stop at the top for a photo, I know better and start descending. At the base, we have a nice tailwind and I JUST manage to get back on thanks to a monster bridge by Molina (thx bro). Then Daniel (Bigger Sexier) pulls us along for a good chunk at 45-55 km/h. Johno reappears at the base of a second (unexpected) climb and rips up to the top (I follow to avoid a near death descent on the far side). Bigger Sexier reappears and they duel for a while. A few of the other guys appear (no Petro) and we roll VERY steady towards lunch. Clas lures me to the front for a pull, then Lordy goes to the front and I fold 'em immediately and spin easy to lunch. Petro (for a reason known only to him) decided to ride without a map today so gets lost and arrives 20 minutes late to lunch. When he arrives, Clas wins quote-of-the-day...
"So did you get a good picture?"
Post-lunch - Clas and Lordy roll away from us (I was glad to see them go alone as that left me with a shot at getting a tow to the motel). Johno and Bigger Sexier get back at it and Molina/I get motorpaced to the motel.
202Ks; ~4600 kjs to end a week that contained...
Swim - 19,000 meters
Petro gets quote of the week for some of the stuff he's been spinning while we are totally twisted out the back. I'll let him fill you in on his blog.
Everyone wants to be strong but, generally, most people will only be strong:
***Never to assist a rival
***To hurt the weakest in their group
***Never to benefit the entire camp if there is a situation where they might get dropped and finish DEAD LAST
The exception to the above is Lordy - he is the best example of sportsmanship that I have ever seen. He even rides the KOMs so the 2nd rider can get a draft.
A true gent.
Steve's sportsmanship has been rubbing off on the camp - Clas is pushing people up the climbs as well as ride at the tail-end of the group (the whiplash seat) to take the strain when Steve's on the front.
I wish I was stronger and could help out more but I'm sitting in A-grade at their whim. As soon as they feel like it... BOOM, I'm history.
The Zen of Epic - just take it.
Tomorrow has two mandatory re-group points and is followed by a neutralized day where we ferry across Cook Strait. So I might get some relief before getting drilled the entire way down the South Island.
Not Dead Yet.
PS - Clas dropped me the entire way across the USA in 2003 and I went 8:29 later that year. So it can be an effective training strategy. Quite challenging mentally but acceptance is a useful skill in all things.
PPS - Johno and Bigger Sexier probably pulled me for 160 K ! today... thanks guys!