Sunday, February 21, 2016 marked the 6th running of the Doc Hollywood Invitational. The 6th Annual Doc Hollywood Invitational is a bicycle ride in Alachua and Marion Counties, Florida. It is held in honour of the greatest movie ever filmed in downtown Micanopy – Doc Hollywood!
The past five editions of the Doc Hollywood Invitational were organised by Tim Hayes, former Gainesville resident and shop owner. Tim still rides bicycles (sort of), but relocated to Orlando, Florida last year to follow a career with well-known cycling apparel company, Endura Sport. Tim’s event has always been a fun ride, and I wanted to keep it going for 2016 and beyond. With Tim’s blessing, I took over the reigns of the Doc Hollywood, with an all new course barring the final 28 miles after the ride’s one store stop, which are challenging to say the least. If you think Florida is flat, think again.
The ride features a mix of pavement, dirt, gravel and a few sandy spots. The 2016 edition featured many more dirt and gravel roads than in year’s past. All were rideable on a road bike fitted with 25mm – 28mm tyres. However, it needs to be said that due to dry conditions in the two weeks leading up to the event, the course conditions were considerably different than those of the pre-ride. When 42 riders are added into the mix on event day, some of these now softer dirt roads suddenly become a lot more challenging to ride.
Unfortunately, a nasty traffic accident blocked several of the lanes on Interstate 75, requiring a later start to provide time for arrival of the out-of-town riders. At 10:45am and everyone accounted for, 42 riders of the 2016 Doc Hollywood departed Micanopy, Florida.
In keeping with the established rules of the event, the group rolled along in a two by two paceline traveling at around 20mph / 32km/hr. The Doc Hollywood isn’t a race, and spirited riding is generally dissuaded until after the store stop.
The first of the new dirt and gravel sectors came at mile 14.3 / 23 kilometres. The road surface for this sector was well packed, barring a loose and sandy section that formed the junction between the next sector of dirt and gravel.
In good overall condition, the loose and sandy sector became a big challenge for most when their narrow road tyres began sinking. With power, finesse and a relaxed grip on one’s handlebars, these conditions usually don’t pose an issue for those with tribal knowledge.
But with 42 riders of varying skills attempting to logjam through, it didn’t take long before there was a crash, with riders sliding sideways, struggling to remain upright. Thankfully, those who did fall had a relatively soft landing on the loose and sandy soil.
Eventually, almost everyone made it through this tricky sector to continue on with the ride.
With everyone relatively together, the group rolled down another new to the Doc Hollywood dirt road that lead into the tiny Florida town of Raleigh. Thankfully, there were no issues along this sector.
Next on the menu was the dirt and gravel of NE 160th Avenue. This particular road is traversed in both directions along the 2016 course, and has been a fixture of just about every edition of the Doc Hollywood. A known attack zone after the rest stop when the faster riding begins, it usually doesn’t give any trouble when ridden slowly. However, it didn’t take long before an inexperienced rider to the dirt and gravel shifted his line without looking, accidentally pushing Guy Fazzio and his beautiful Ventana El Martillo CX bike off the side of the road. Wait until you see the slo-mo in the ride video…
Word came through that some riders were still off the back from the first crash. This latest incident only compounded matters, adding to the confusion that reigned in the group. In my capacity as film crew and ride leader, the 2016 Doc Hollywood was rapidly becoming an exercise in cat herding 101! I tried to remain complacent in the fact that everyone was doing a good job of fending for themselves, without resorting to mass complaining. Remember, this is cycling, and sometimes things go awry.
Now strung out over approximately two miles, those at the front slowly rolled along the quiet, paved country road of NE 60th Street, waiting for riders in arrears to catch up. Drawing ever closer to the east side of the bustling metropolis of Bronson, Florida, the upcoming sectors of dirt and gravel would prove tricky. The area surrounding Bronson features many non-paved roads, but most are known to be veritable sandpits. I was hoping course conditions would be better along the next planned sector of dirt and gravel, NE 137th Court / NE 138 Terrace, which had been in near perfect condition during the pre-ride.
Thankfully, conditions were relatively good with only a couple of sandy spots. But as the photos above and below show, this section had riders strung out, not helped by varied levels of experience in loose conditions or the hills east of Bronson.
At the end of this sector, a regrouping was called. Despite some challenges, everyone was in good spirits.
The next dirt and gravel sector rolled almost directly down the middle of a country subdivision, located just north of US27, a major road in the area. NE 117th Terrace was its name, and it proved to be the most challenging of all the sectors ridden thus far. I had almost no trouble blasting through, although the surface was noticeably softer and sandier than during the pre-ride. But alas, as ride leader and organiser come responsibilities, and the calls of another crash in the sand ended my near perfect run through the sector.
Unfortunately, this crash took a while to sort out, and the front group of riders didn’t wait around. Riders formed small groups or rode solo for the remaining miles towards the store stop in Williston, Florida. Incidentally, the video captures below were taken from the footage of Gravel Cyclist’s own Rusty Dosh, aka The Headmaster. If you didn’t hear, Rusty was recently involved in a near life-threatening hit-and-run crash between a vehicle and his bicycle. Sadly, the perpetrator has yet to be caught. We will be assembling an article about Rusty’s recovery in the near future, but we were stoked to see him up and around and filming!
The lengthy dirt and gravel sector of NE 20th Street / NE 130th Avenue / NE 10th Street proved difficult for many. With its rolling hills, wind and open terrain, many riders were dropped – despite the fact this part of the ride was still considered “neutral”. Yours truly paid the price for cat herding, stopping, starting and chasing, and bid farewell to the second chase group along this sector. My plight wasn’t helped by my knackered ribs, damaged in a crash the week before during the Heartbreaker pre-ride (ouch). Team Gravel Cyclist has had a rough run of luck lately, but we hope that changes in the near future!
It took a while before all of the riders at the 2016 Doc Hollywood made it to the appointed store stop, but when they did arrive, they were greeted by the sight at right. Former event organiser Tim Hayes experienced double flat tyres, and cut the course to enjoy a somewhat questionable libation. I don’t know if Tim has ever finished an edition of the Doc Hollywood, but his “I left my shoes at home” excuse is legendary. Apparently he spent an hour and a half at the store – well rested.
Riders took their sweet time hydrating and downing food at the store. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded a massage, nap and a $hit ton of ibuprofen.
The Doc Hollywood Fires Up
In a tradition established during the last four editions of the Doc Hollywood, the last 25ish miles are ridden at a hard pace all the way to the ride finish in Micanopy (the first edition featured a different course with no store stop).
But before the pace could lift, the ride would remain neutral one last time until the main road of US27 was crossed again – safety first!
The bunch was split into two distinct groups. Those who were riding flat-out for the honour of reaching Micanopy first – even though the Doc Hollywood isn’t really a race – and those in the JOM Gran Fondo group – a group of injured or completely knackered riders.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a blow by blow commentary of what happened in the front group, but can report that ride favorites Sebastian Morfin and Gravel Cyclist’s Pfaff Daddy were out early with flat tyres or mechanical issues. However, the photos of Bob Croslin do help to tell the story some.
In the photo below, Tim left the store early to surf the back of the fast group. Could he have hung with the lads? Post your comments below
I don’t know the order of affairs for the final sprint into Micanopy, signified by the end of the dirt and the beginning of pavement into town. But I understand the 2016 Doc Hollywood came down to three men at the finish – Ryan Saylor, Curtis Eaby and Shawn Hebb.
With a past “win” under his belt, Ryan Saylor had tribal knowledge of the course. He timed his final jump at the right moment to just hold off Ben and Curtis and take “victory” at the 2016 Doc Hollywood Invitational. While not a race, there was a prize of sorts for the first and fastest. Namely, JOM re-gifted his winnings from the inaugural Doc Hollywood, in the form of the Doc Hollywood movie on DVD – although VHS tape would have been more appropriate. Ryan has yet to collect his prize.
From all the reports I received, everyone in attendance enjoyed themselves, despite the challenging conditions and sometimes faster than usual “neutral” pace. For me, it was a case of herding cats, filming, socializing and worrying about everyone in attendance. Holding and riding your own event is tough, but everyone’s positive attitude made it a good experience.
For those who are interested, this is my Strava data from the ride. Not my fastest of exploits, the Strava Flybys option gives a nice insight into the movements of at least 19 attending riders.
Later this week, I hope to have the 2016 Doc Hollywood Ride video ready. The video will feature four cameras, and should do a nice job of re-telling the tale of the ride experience, before and after the store stop. Thanks so much to Rusty Dosh for his invaluable video contributions.
A HUGE thank you to Bob Croslin for his photography work. He and driver Andrew Bridgman took time out of their schedule to follow the event and photograph, all for no compensation.
Finally, this Saturday is the 2016 Heartbreaker Cycling Invitational. Read more about this fun charity ride here – Cyclocross or gravel bikes required for this one.
Thanks for reading!