A Gravel Fable by Pfaff Daddy
Fable: A short tale to teach a moral lesson.
This story begins many days before the start of the event; on the Monday before, with an email. The subject line of the email read, “What are your plans for the weekend?”. This is an email we generally circulate among the Gravel Cyclist crew to figure out how we are going to torture each other over the coming weekend. JOM had already laid the ground work for a 160 mile ride on Sunday to prepare for the Dirty Kanza 200. Happening on the same day was the DeLeon Springs Gravel Ride, put together by the guys from JC’s Bike Shop in Deland, Florida.
Most of the time, the Gravel Cyclist crew is more than happy to help their fellow teammates prepare for an upcoming event. However, there were virtually no replies forthcoming about participation in a a 160 mile gravel slogfest, which comes just a couple of weeks after the Strada Bellamy, an event almost 130 miles in length. Therefore, the decision to attend the inaugural DeLeon Springs gravel ride was a no brainer.
But wait! The start time for the ride was 8:00 am. Can you say dilemma? Wake up early and travel to a new ride or stay home and sleep in, but ride 160 miles. You can surely imagine the banter that went back and forth between the crew about which ride to do. The banter finally ceased on Friday when Jimbo and I decided to stop crying about getting up early, and commit to driving to DeLeon Springs on Sunday morning.
As every good cyclist knows, “Race Time is Chamois Time”. In a nutshell, this means you travel to the ride in regular clothes and change into your kit upon arrival. Keeping this in mind, Jimbo and I decided it would be best to leave Gainesville, Florida by 5:45 am, allowing for plenty of time to change. Leaving at 5:45am means an alarm time of no later than 4:30 am… ughhhhhh! This is where having teammates is essential – you can trade off telling stupid stories to keep each other awake.
The facilities at Chuck Lennon Park, which is where the ride began, were very nice. However, my motor skills were still laying in bed in Gainesville, a side effect of a horribly early awakening. A simple operation such as flushing a toilet was difficult to fathom… or execute. This silly little incident had Jimbo and I laughing out loud… but I did finally manage to flush the toilet.
The ride started almost exactly at 8:00 am, a departure from the casual start times I’ve seen at some events. We rolled out of the parking lot with almost five miles of pavement to warm up on, before we entering the first sector of limerock, dirt, gravel and stuff. The pace was tame; no attacks or shenanigans, just a nice steady effort to get the legs warmed up and let everyone get into their rhythm.
Sector two, one that I will refer to as the “Lollipop of Sand”, was a combination of rural roads and old fire roads that had recently been raised by about two feet with a fresh layer of sand/dirt. As any good gravel cyclist knows, the only way to ride sand is with the power on. Most of the guys we were riding with understood this principle, so for approximately 15 miles, it was a steady hard tempo to keep moving through the sand and occasional shell road. We would regroup at key points along the way, another of the great things about gravel cycling. People abide by Gentlemen’s rules, knowing that a regular regroup leads to a better experience for more riders, which is always a good thing.
Sector three was the section that lead into the planned rest stop for the ride. As with any ride, the journey into the rest stop always becomes a place to “stretch” your legs. I can report this ride was no different, and the pace gradually got faster and faster until we were flying down the double track road, bouncing from side to side to avoid the occasional crater in the road. The store stop served as another opportunity for everyone to regroup and enjoy the second half of the ride together.
One of the unique features of the store stop was it’s proximity to Barberville Roadside Yard Art and Produce. This store has the most eclectic collection of yard art I have ever seen, and it never ceases to amaze me every time I pass by it.
After the store stop, sector four allowed us to get our legs used to riding tempo again on the dirt, meaning the shenanigans were on hold until later in the ride. This allowed my Pop Tart* from the rest stop to settle to the bottom of my stomach, and not come back up later in the ride. * – The Gravel Cyclist crew really likes Pop Tarts.
Sector five and six were a warm up for the final selection, with different members of the group taking turns putting the screws to each other. These sections were a nice mix of double track and shell bed roads that kept the weaving and bobbing to a minimum. By the end of this section, the group that would enter the final section together was almost finalized.
The final sector was advertised as the section that goes on forever. It was a little over eight miles long which doesn’t seem like much, but it did go on forever. Naturally, everyone could smell the barn and were anxious to finish. Curtis, one of the riders from JC’s Bike Shop, timed his attack perfectly, leaving us to flounder during our attempts to close the gap. We were unsuccessful and Curtis was hailed as the victor of the day. Remember, some rides invariably turn into races…
The story was touted as fable and readers are probably sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear the moral of the story.
Here it is: Don’t be the guy who chooses sleep over a ride with good friends, you’ll only kick yourself later.
There’s a famous quote out there, “The early bird gets the worm”. In this case, two birds grabbed one big and fat worm in the form of a great day on the bike, with some old friends and an opportunity to make some new ones.