The Spaghetti 100 is an event hosted by the Capital City Cyclists of Tallahassee, Florida, benefiting several charities relating to children’s cycling. 2015 marked the 32nd running of the event, which features rides on paved and dirt / gravel surfaces. The dirt variant encompasses the beautiful canopied clay roads in the Red Hills plantation country of north Florida and southern Georgia.
Three of four years ago, Jack Tomassetti decided the 100 mile paved and 62 mile dirt epic rides would compete for the “Tallahassee World Championship” jersey – a homage to the real deal. Even though the weekend’s events are touted as rides, we all know when a large group of cyclists congregates, with a jersey up for grabs, things can become competitive…
The exact number of entrants for the 2015 edition of the Dirt Epic is unknown, but I (JOM) will hazard a guess and say about 40 riders. The Gravel Cyclist crew fielded six riders – K-Dogg (two-time winner), JOM, Pfaff Daddy, Jimbo, The Headmaster and last year’s winner of the Dirt Epic race, Pfaff Junior (Pfaff Daddy’s son). Missing was the 7th member, Dr. Pain, out with a broken / knackered thumb, which temporarily resides in a cast.
Weather for the November 7, 2015 event was a complete contrast to the 2014 edition. Gone were the temperatures in the low 30’s Fahrenheit, replaced by the heat and humidity of low 70’s F around ride start, climbing into the 80’s F as the day went on.
Also making an appearance on dirt and gravel roads for the first time, was Magda of the Delafina Women’s Racing Team out of Jacksonville, Florida. Magda advised us post event she loved the experience, and will return for more in the future!
The First Hour
Several known riders local to Tallahassee were in attendance, including Jon Mason of Buckler Skincare fame (think handcrafted embrocation and chamois cream, and you get the picture).
Jimmy Railey, part-time resident of Florida and full-time bad arse was there, as well as the lads / lady from Team Truly Spokin / Pensacola Off-Road Cyclists team (referred to as Team TS for the remainder of this article), and fellow Gainesville-Florida-ites, 352 Racing, with Terry (we don’t have a nickname for him yet), Fake Todd and Jackrabbit.
Several of the Gravel Cyclist crew have raced alongside the Team TS crew, long before Gravel Cyclist was founded – they are strong and ride as a cohesive, well-drilled unit. Among their ranks was a newbie to the Spaghetti 100 Dirt Epic – “The Donald” – not the mob or Trump kind, but the kind who is a talented bicycle racer with many victories under his belt, including 2 x Masters 40+ wins at Rouge Roubaix.
ROUGE ROUBAIX IS A SERIOUSLY TOUGH RACE, not to be taken lightly. When JOM pointed out “The Donald” to his Gravel Cyclist teammates and commented directly to him, “look who it is… we know you and know all about you…”, we think “The Donald” may have been temporarily miffed his cover was blown. JOM may have angered “The Donald”. Uh oh…
Moving along, the first hour could be be described as a stalemate. Nobody from any team was interested in pushing the pace, or launching moves off the front. Many of the riders with no team affiliation would poke their noses to the front and do a bit of work, while the Gravel Cyclist crew and Team TS lads shirked the work and continued watching each other.
Somewhere around this time, Jackrabbit (Justin) of 352 Racing crashed – we understand a touch of wheels was the issue. He finished the race in one piece, but off the back.
The sound your tire (tyre) makes when you begin losing air, indicating you’ve got a puncture. Such was the case for our team’s trump card, Pfaff Junior. His rear tire was deflated worse than a collapsed lung. Pfaff Daddy stopped to assist the fruit of his loins, and for a moment, our team *thought* about stopping, to assist and help with a chase.
With so much firepower in the group, that was a bad idea, so we pressed on. In fact, not long after Pfaff Junior’s untimely flat, K-Dogg of Gravel Cyclist launched the first serious attack of the day… well, he sort of rolled away in some loose sand, and for a while, nobody was interested in chasing.
Eventually, K-Dogg would be reeled in, but only after a bit of blocking by Rusty aka The Headmaster of Gravel Cyclist, and subsequent chasing by one of the lads from Team TS. Almost immediately, “The Donald” countered this move, and the Team TS lads proceeded to block. Remembering “The Donald” had attacked solo from about 20 miles out during one of his prior Rouge Roubaix victories, I (JOM) jumped hard with Jimmy Railey on my wheel to bridge across. Behind, I assume the Team TS lads were glued to our wheels.
Cue the next attack by the Team TS lads – another solo rider – and this attack seemed to stick nicely. With the G.C. team (Gravel Cyclist) now missing half its compliment – Pfaff Junior – flat tyre, Pfaff Daddy – helping Junior, Jimbo – horrible legs and possibly off the back, it was up to JOM, K-Dogg and Rusty to cover five blokes from Team TS. A big ask.
With everyone else in the front bunch knowing it was up to the G.C. team to chase, I (JOM) launched hoping to bridge across solo. Sadly, the move fizzled, but Rusty of G.C. countered immediately, and was joined by another lad from Team TS. They successfully bridged across to the leading rider from Team TS. K-Dogg and I breathed a temporary sigh of relief, knowing our man Rusty would play the tactics game, and work only when he had to, particularly in the company of two teammates.
As the break now contained riders from the two strongest teams, the onus lay on everybody else to chase.
This little town marked the almost half-way point of the race… err, ride. Entering Boston, the three man break of two Team TS riders and Rusty lingered ahead by about twenty seconds. By the time the chase group squiggled through town along the marked course (or following the GPS in JOM’s case) and onto Main Street, the break had been caught. By some error, the break took a wrong turn?, and ended up latching onto the rear of the group. A bit anti-climactic.
The respite didn’t last long – no attacks happened immediately, rather a steady tempo was set by one of the Team TS lads and JOM, who was disguising his then crap legs by riding at the front…
This section of the course had seen recent heavy rain, with sludgy soil and ruts formed by the passage of vehicular traffic. Consequently, these dirt roads were very heavy on the legs, but those with bigger tyres profited a little – JOM chose well, and was riding Schwalbe’s Furious Fred in the 2″ size on his Lynskey Monster CX rig. Two of the Team TS lads (forgive us for not knowing who was who at this time) bumped the pace significantly, causing much duress to the group.
Further duress was caused by a large rut that had formed across the dirt road – especially if you were on the right side of the road. Those in the front 10 – 12 riders bunny-hopped or rode through it. Those who slowed to take a more gentle line, were dropped as the pace was lifted once the obstacle was cleared.
To further put the nail into the coffin of those suffering, the pace was lifted again on what seemed like a never ending climb. I (JOM) was completely at the end of my tether when this happened, and was hanging off the rear of the group by five metres – a gap that is near impossible to close when you’re max’d out. Thankfully, the road turned sharply to the right, and the front group sat up – whew!
The Temporary Truce
Peace and serenity would reign over the group for the next few miles. The pace was kept just high enough, making it nigh on impossible for those dropped earlier to regain contact. Looking around, all of the strong riders and teams had all riders accounted for, barring those who disappeared before the town of Boston. With five Team TS team riders in the mix, these lads were the ones to watch. I (JOM) used the temporary respite in hostilities to consume more chow, recover a little (as in shirk some work), and wait for the next move.
It didn’t take long before the front group rolled the downhill gravel sector – if you know JOM, you know he loves descending. While not a legitimate descent, it was strewn in deep and loose gravel, which caused difficulties for some. Jimmy Railey and a Team TS rider streaked ahead as soon as the gravel began – I (JOM) jumped onto the wheel of another Team TS rider, who had excellent skills in the loose gravel, to join the two leaders. I was hoping this move would stick, as we’d made an excellent gap on those behind us.
The cord is finally snapped…
With approximately 19 miles / 30kms of riding / racing remaining, “The Donald” bumped the tempo significantly on the right side of the road, on yet another ascent. Knowing this would be a move to follow, I (JOM) yelled to our man Rusty to “go now”. Rusty quickly joined the move, followed by one of “The Donald’s” Team TS teammates (Billy Hudgens), Jimmy Railey and Terry of 352 Racing – who had been hiding during most of the entire event – which is how you ride if you have a small team / no team. Smart riding on Terry’s part.
Thus, the breakaway of the day was created. The gap quickly increased, and with all of the teams represented plus one privateer, everyone released a collective sigh of relief. Now the not-so-chasing bunch could tap out a steady tempo, happy in the fact our respective teammates would fight it out for the win.
If you think the ride / race is over at this point, you would be wrong. About three miles / five kms later, our not-chasing-group made the left turn onto Simpson Road. If you’ve ridden in this area, you know Simpson Road begins immediately with a short but tough climb. Griffin Jones, wearing a tri-color red / white / blue jersey took this opportunity to attack, joined by Nic Patterson of Team TS. K-Dogg of G.C. and Jason Lee (wearing a grey jersey), tried to follow the move but were gapped by Nic and Griffin. Everybody else in the group was dropped / obliterated, and crawled up the grade with whatever energy remained – including JOM, who was completely blown.
A few miles later, K-Dogg and Jason returned to the group, beat down by their failed pursuit of the duo of Nic and Griffin. However, K-Dogg and JOM were happy in the fact we had Rusty in the front group, and there was no way that Nic and Griffin would bridge across to the them.
While K-Dogg, JOM and the rest of the third group on the road rolled a steady tempo towards home, Nic of Team TS made the bridge across to the front group – solo! That made for three Team TS lads (“The Donald”, Nic and Billy) in the front group, Rusty of G.C., Terry of 352 Racing and Jimmy Railey.
Courtesy of Rusty’s camera footage, we know the lead group was split entering the final dirt sector. Jimmy Railey and Terry of 352 Racing were off the front with a small gap. Nic Patterson of Team TS bridged, but rode straight through the leading duo to take a solid lead.
Rolling through the final right hand turn onto the finishing straight, Nic maintained his lead to take the victory and be crowned the 2015 Tallahassee World Champion!
Behind, Jimmy Railey did a lot of work on the front all the way until 200 meters from the line. Billy Hudgens of Team TS launched his sprint to take second, while Rusty of Gravel Cyclist, aka The Headmaster, rolled in for 3rd place.
JOM’s Strava stats (he only uploads dirt / gravel stuff)… ouch.
Stay tuned, the ride / race video will be online soon…
Thanks for reading!