March 1, 2015 marked the 4th running of the Heartbreaker Cycling Invitational, an event organized by JOM of Gravel Cyclist, with assistance from some very helpful people. Originally a loosely formed annual ride, the Heartbreaker has turned into an event involving a local charity, a local brewery, a local cycling club, and cyclists from places afar, such as South Florida, and Gainesville, Georgia… and Gainesville, Florida.
Heavy rainfall preceded the event for several days, including the evening before, meaning the dirt, limerock and gravel sectors of the course would be a bit sloppy, but overall smooth, provided you didn’t mind getting a little dirty. Dirt and gravel cycling go hand in hand, right?
One hundred cyclists braved the potentially sludgy conditions for the ride, meeting at First Magnitude Brewery in Gainesville, FL, at 9am, with the ride benefiting the Retirement Home for Horses at Mill Creek – Alachua, Florida.
Notable attendees included:
- Ryan Woodall of Ocala, FL, 2014 / 2015 Men’s 30 – 34 USA Cyclocross National Champion.
- Last year’s “winner” of the event, Dr. MSG.
- The crew from SCORR of Sarasota County, Florida.
- Craig Bailey who made the trip down from Gainesville, Georgia.
- Local shop teams Swift Cycle, 352 / Bikes and More, Cycle Logic / Bike Works, Pleasant Cyclery, Super Cool Bike Shop and that Fred Lintz guy… from Gator Cycle.
- Jack Tomassetti, former promoter of the Tallahassee Spaghetti 100 event.
- And everyone else who came out for some awesome fun!
Special mention to Joel Rierson, who slept in his car in the Winn-Dixie parking lot, after a late Saturday evening drive to the event from Delray Beach!
9:45am Go Time
After assistance from Roger of the Gainesville Cycling Club with rider registrations, approximately 95 riders of all abilities rolled out from the brewery, towards the plethora of dirt, limerock and gravel roads north of Gainesville, Florida.
The merry bunch chugged along on a quiet Sunday morning, politely taking up a lane on in-town paved roads that called for it, and keeping to the bike lanes where present. As it goes with such a large conglomeration of cyclists, some poor bugger invariably suffers the malady of a flat tyre (tire). One such visitor from Ocala, Bill Officer, punctured twice in the first five miles, and had to hitch a ride back to his truck. Not so cool.
Your editor and event organizer, JOM, also suffered a rear wheel puncture, but lady luck was on his side. Said wheel puncture happened very close to his house. This gave JOM the opportunity to hurriedly ride home, swap bikes, and rejoin the group after a rapid chase with help from his good friend Nature Boy. Between you and me readers, I (JOM) dreamed this would happen, so I’m rather stoked my contingency plan was in place 🙂
It isn’t a race, but…
When there are ninety plus riders in a group, and at least half of them are bike racers, it is a given that a ride, charity or otherwise, invariably turns into a race. Matters aren’t helped when there are two sweet “Gainesville World Champion” jerseys up for grabs, to the first male and female finishers of the Full Monty route.
Consequently, once the “neutral” portion of the ride was over approximately 17 miles in, those riding for fun and taking in the scenery, were left behind by those looking to make the ride a little more competitive.
Sectors One and Two
Gainesville, Florida may not have mountain ranges and unforgiving steep climbs, but it does have little roller hills here and there when ridden at speed, really hurt. Sectors One and Two were ridden very rapidly by the leading pack, faster than the usual Tuesday Worlds Ride pace. Because I (JOM) had changed bikes earlier, none of my cameras were present, meaning I didn’t capture the carnage that was going on behind me.
The non paved roads were a combination of hard packed limerock, very fine gravel, dirt here and there, and concrete like sand. The wet sand absolutely sucked the power from everyone’s legs. Wet sand doesn’t discriminate, tyres of all sizes are drawn like a magnet to it.
Several attempts were made by the big guns of the ride to break clear, but due to solid chasing by people or teams not represented in those moves, it was gruppo compacto for the paved road haul to the bustling metropolis of Lacrosse, Florida.
Approximately two miles from Lacrosse, Florida, one of the bad arse riders from Clermont, Florida, Mr Tic Bowen, snapped the cord and broke clear of the group with Cycle Logic rider, The Belgian Diesel. Not to be left out of the mix, but with zero interest in aiding other teams to bridge across, Top Gear Cycling of Ocala, roused their troops at the rear of the group, and plotted what I (JOM) call the “express train”. Three of Top Gear’s riders with teammate Ryan Woodall in tow, launched from the rear left side of the group in single file, headed rapidly towards the two man breakaway that was at least 20 seconds ahead.
Each of Top Gear’s riders sacrificed their own chances of joining the breakaway, solely to get their man Ryan into the move. Absolutely brilliant tactic, and one that any aspiring bike racers involved with a team should take note of. Cycle Logic’s man, Dr. MSG knew what was afoot, and jumped hard to the Top Gear express, to fill the caboose spot.
A collective sigh of relief
With the three strongest riders of the group now in a move up the road, the remaining group of thirty plus could be heard taking a collective sigh, knowing the pace would slow down. The Belgian Diesel was kicked out of the breakaway shortly after, and relegated to pack fill with the rest of us.
Back in Reality
Those riders who attended to enjoy the day, the scenery, and ride at a moderate tempo, were having a marvelous time. Not concerned with chasing a “World Champion” jersey, or placing first in a charity ride, they enjoyed each other’s company, and the “culinary” delights of the rest stop at mile 35. For some of the local cyclists attending the event, it was the first time they had ridden the dirt, limerock and gravel roads that litter some areas around Gainesville. Suffice to say, we at Gravel Cyclist are pleased to see people getting outside of their comfort zone, and taking the road less traveled.
Several of the riders who signed up for the 57 mile shorter route took it upon themselves to improvise, and ride the last few sectors of the Full Monty route. Improvisation is encouraged around here, and we thank modern technology like smart phones and GPS satellites for making this possible.
Meanwhile, up ahead
The three man breakaway of Tic Bowen, Dr. MSG and Ryan Woodall were expanding their lead over the pack behind. Because two of the stronger teams were represented in this move, their teammates were not eager to chase, and actively dissuaded chasing (i.e. they blocked), or sat on the wheels of those folks trying their luck at breaking free. Thus, the we’re-not-chasing-group were relegated to riding a strong tempo, and admiring the flora of North Central Florida.
Ensconced within the main pack of riders was The Fraulein; the only woman strong enough to hang with the group. She raced the prior day in Lakeland, Florida on the road, AND took second place. Did we mention The Fraulein is strong?!
By the time the leading trio reached the rest stop for the second time at mile 58, they held a six and a half minute lead over those behind behind. A three man sprint was inevitable. All three cyclists were seemingly matched in terms of power, and nobody was breaking away from anyone.
Unfortunately, Gravel Cyclist didn’t have a man at the “finish line”, nor a camera on a bicycle of any of the three leaders. But, from Tic Bowen himself, we can report the following. “After the final left hand turn, we continued taking our pulls. Ryan knew the sprint was ahead, and ‘faked’ a sprint, then almost immediately sat down”. Readers, we suspect this was an attempt by Ryan to switch positions in the group for a better attempt at the real sprint.
Tic continued, “Gears were shifting, and the pace slowed down a bit. Dr. MSG jumped from behind with approximately 100 metres remaining, but Ryan had enough in the legs to catch and pass him by the line”. Not only is Ryan Woodall the current Men’s 30 – 34 USA Cyclocross National Champion, he’s also the 2015 GAINESVILLE WORLD CHAMPION!! Cue applause please! Mr Woodall will be receiving his Gainesville Worlds jersey shortly… expect photos of that momentous occasion.
Results – 1st, Mr Ryan Woodall. 2nd, Dr. MSG. 3rd, Mr Tic Bowen.
The last few miles within the main grupetto was hotly contested. Despite the first three places being taken, it is always completely normal for everyone to kill themselves trying to win the pack sprint… or break the cord and roll in solo. But, the group was angry and nobody was being allowed any freedom. A pack sprint was inevitable.
Without going into grandiose details, primarily because I (JOM) was hurting a bit and don’t remember everything and my cameras were on my other bike, a group of about 10 riders broke free near the final corner, all trying to reach the “finish line” first. I have no idea who took fourth, maybe someone will chime in? But I know the Belgian Diesel finished seventh, because I heard about it from three other people :), including the other Belgian who rode the event for fun, Ludo.
More important than posturing for the minor places, was The Fraulein’s “win”. She crossed the “finish line” to become the GAINESVILLE WORLD CHAMPION! Did we mention she’s also the TALLAHASSEE WORLD CHAMPION?!
With the big pack safely home to the “finish” in Alachua, all that remained was a nice relaxing ride to the brewery. Stories were traded back and forth, and we assume new friends were made as we rolled for home. We can reliably report those folks who rode the event purely for fun, short or long route, had a blast. Nobody called 9-11, nobody was reported lost, and the rest stop didn’t run out of food.
I must again thank Cathy and Gary, who volunteered with the setup, running and tear down of the rest stop. Without their help, yours truly would have been relegated to rest stop duties, versus getting covered in crud and writing about it.
Fun times were had at the First Magnitude Brewery post event. Each entry to the ride included two beers, and most people love beer. Beer + bicycles = win. On top of that winning was the food truck, catering to all dietary choices, several bands, and belly dancers! Overall, an epic day!
To top it off, I (JOM) am super stoked to announce that after expenses related to the “World Champion” jerseys, the beer (heavily discounted – thank you Christine and Meg at First Magnitude), sales tax and insurance, the Retirement Home for Horses at Mill Creek will be receiving a cheque (check) for $1,000 US. I’ll be paying them a visit sometime after my regular work hours this week. Stay tuned.
Thanks again to EVERYONE involved with the event; attendees, the volunteers and the brewery. Your editor JOM is still blown away by the support shown for this event. Not speaking ahead of myself, it’s a safe bet to assume the 5th running of the Heartbreaker Cycling Invitational Charity Ride will return for 2016.
JOM aka Gravel Cyclist aka Jayson.
Photos by Cathy Bester Part 1 – Click a thumbnail image to see full size (hosted by Flickr).
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Photos by Cathy Bester Part 2 – Click a thumbnail image to see full size (hosted by Flickr).
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