Time trials are a special form of hell. They're 100% mental, and exploit the depths of your willingness to suffer. Time trials uphill are also mental, but give you less choice: you either stay on the bike when it gets miserable, or you get off. Depending on the gradient, you may not have any other choice to make.
Wintergreen has a couple of places where that limited set of choices comes into sharp relief. The course traditionally starts on a false flat, rises steadily for about 2 miles, then hits some punchy ramps up to the entrance of the resort. Once you hit the resort, at about 4 miles and ~950' of climbing, the real work begins: the remaining 2.x miles contain 2/3 of the total elevation of the course.
I say 2.x miles because the finish usually includes three back-to-back brutally steep ramps. But this year the course ended beside the first ramp, on a relatively mild pitch about 200' lower.
I took that reduction in elevation to mean MORE POWER!! And I'd switched over to a compact crankset for the first time, so I had functionally another whole gear under me.
But it was also 30 degrees warmer than in previous years, and the sun she was a-shinin'. No wind to speak of, and 80-degrees F all the way up. Those two places where the choices get slim? They claimed a bunch of folks.
I've never seen so many people off their bikes, and attendance was down.
I made it through the bottom section with no real problem, though I ran out of gears sooner than I'd expected to. But I'm trying a new thing where I don't stupidly stay off the bottom gear just because, and the choice was paying off: I was able to keep my cadence in a tolerable range, and my heart took longer to climb into zone 5. I was slower than years prior, but my overall power is down and my weight is up, so that wasn't a surprise.
The top part, though, takes riders through a miserable section that sees one of the steepest turns on the course lead onto a withering ramp, followed by another steep turn that opens into direct sunlight. If you make it to the sunlight, you know you're near the top. It was in that first turn where I began to regret all of my life choices, and coming out of it I realized I was not alone: at least 5 riders walking or standing next to their bikes.
There was no way I was getting off the bike that close to the top, even if I was moving slowly enough that the Garmin kept auto-pausing, and my heart was pushing deep into the 180's.
I made it to the sunshine and was surprised to realize I could still add a little kick. The course leveled out a bit, and I managed to goose it one last time coming through the finish, though there was no way I was going to try to sprint it in.
My goal was not to win. I'd seen the finish times for all the other riders in Cat 3, and my best hope was to be just off last place. But I guess the heat got people more than I'd expected, and I LOVE the heat. I ended up 4th of 8, still several minutes out of first, but less than a minute off the podium.
I think the revised finish played to my favor, as did the weather and compact crankset. But Wintergreen is still hard AF. If I'm not vying for a BAR jersey next year, I doubt I'll have a compelling reason to do it again.
For now, though, I'm rewarded for my efforts by being officially 2nd in the BAR race, and I've earned a 2 month respite--there are no BAR events for Cat 3 until late July! 3 of the remaining 5 scheduled events are TT's, so my curious aversion to bunch sprints (new for 2019!) may not play as big a role as I was fearing.