Continuing from last week’s posting – this entry describes the mid-week riding antics that JOM and other members of the Gravel Cyclist crew + friends got up to.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015 – The Worlds Gravel Ride
This Tuesday marked the first 2015 winter / fall appearance of a usually regular attendee, Big Head Todd. Todd is an active member in Florida’s Cyclocross scene and promoter of Swamp Cross – host of the recent Florida State Cyclocross Championships. Consequently, BHT has been a bit preoccupied with these and other things going on in his life. Just like the return of Dr. Pain the prior week, the status of BHT’s form was a bit of an unknown.
Also appearing on the ride was the dynamic lady duo of Pauline and Amy. Pauline is rapidly becoming a regular fixture on these rides, while Amy appears now and again. Of note, Pauline was aboard an MTB on this particular evening. For that, she earns hard woman points just for showing up!
As has been the norm for the past few weeks, we chose the “medium” length route, which is approximately 34 miles in length – or longer if one rode to and from the ride start. For this week, we chose to ride in the counter-clockwise direction.
Dirt & Gravel Sector 1
For once, the pace was surprisingly mellow with no attacks.
Dirt & Gravel Sector 2
Depending on the direction ridden, this sector kicks off adjacent to a grave yard, followed by a shallow downhill. Gathering speed on the downhill, the gully at the bottom is best ridden at speed, as it usually comprises a bit of soft sand – or hard packed sand, dependent on weather. Following the gully comes the long uphill drag at around two to three percent, punctuated by a few loose spots along the way. You’re probably thinking – Ha! – how bad can a Florida climb be? When someone is holding tempo at around 20mph, this little grade hurts.
JOM is a fan of hard tempo type riding (sometimes), and set the tempo for most of this sector. Once the sector leveled out, Pfaff Daddy took it up a notch, forcing JOM and others to dig deep to hold his wheel until sector’s end.
Dirt & Gravel Sector 3
This sector has no nickname, but its draggy hills and known loose spots are challenging to ride in either direction. Pfaff Junior, Pfaff Daddy’s son (aka Scott) pretty much rode hard tempo on the front for the entirety of this sector. This lad is strong – Cat 1 on the road, he has amazing powers of recovery and a very hard jump. By the time our group can ever reel him in, he has recovered, and promptly attacks again, or simply rides us off his wheel, seated.
The mid-point of this sector is deep, dry sand, or a hard packed area of sand – so many sand options! However, on this evening, the crew encountered a third condition akin to pudding on glass – or if you prefer, sloppy sand and mud atop a base of limerock / hardpack. The six riders in the lead group – the ladies were smart enough to back it off – blasted through this section of the course. Unfortunately we have no video footage, but imagine six bikes sliding all over the place at about 25mph, interspersed with shrieks, cursing and temporary mud blindness. Thankfully, everyone has excellent skills, and nobody hit the deck.
Once the mud pit had been traversed, 60yo K-Dogg thought it a brilliant idea to attack, after mostly sitting on. Clearly this was a terrible idea. He was quickly reeled in by Pfaff Junior, who upped the tempo and and promptly dropped the Dogg on the final hill of the sector.
At the beginning of Dirt Sector 4 (in this direction) is Pinky’s Place – this establishment was mentioned in last week’s post. We’ve taken to photographing newbies to our rides by having them pose for a photo. While Amy and Big Head Todd (BHT) aren’t new to our rides, they had never been photographed at this landmark. Clearly, we changed that.
Dirt & Gravel Sector 4
This sector was ridden at a mellow tempo; a nice respite from the previous sector’s hard work and solid tempo on the paved road leading to it, which included K-Dogg sprinting (and failing) for the town sprint sign of LaCrosse, Florida. Who bothers messing with Pfaff Junior when he has such an amazing sprint? Thinking the Dogg needs to learn a few more tricks.
Dirt & Gravel Sector 5
Depending on the direction ridden, this sector is known as the “Aircraft Landing Strip” sector because of its length, lack of elevation and nearly straight course. Once again, Pfaff Junior set a hard tempo, while everyone sucked wheel. Eventually the young lad pulled off the front, and JOM took his place at the head of the pack. However, Pfaff Daddy thought it a better idea to increase the tempo again, meaning JOM was quickly searching for the rear of the group.
It didn’t take long before Pfaff Junior decided enough was enough, and launched an attack – against his own father – brutal! – on the left side of the road. Quickly joined by JOM (in severe oxygen debt and knackered legs), Dr. Pain and K-Dogg, they rode the finale of the sector barely glued to Pfaff Junior’s wheel. As JOM was second wheel, he could not lose the wheel of Pfaff Junior, else face the ridicule of K-Dogg and Dr. Pain – tough crowd. The rest of our humble group was spread all over the place.
The Final Sector
Naturally, this sector was ridden at a hard tempo. K-Dogg, being the sneaky individual he is, chose a quiet moment on the paved road between sectors to roll away from the group. Once he was onto the dirt and gravel, he put the gas down, hard. Pfaff Junior once again led the chase, with everyone else suffering in tow. Pfaff Daddy took a turn on the front and made the catch of K-Dogg, while JOM, Dr. Pain and Pfaff Junior lurked towards the rear of the group.
To teach K-Dogg another lesson, Pfaff Junior launched a leg stinging counter-attack that nobody could follow. JOM made an attempt to bridge, joined by Dr. Pain, leaving these two blokes in no man’s land between the young lad, with everybody else chasing behind. The good Dr. Pain and JOM worked tirelessly together to almost close the gap, but the sector ended – it was academic really, Pfaff Junior was toying with everyone, and would have upped the tempo again to avoid being caught.
In all, another fantastic ride. Big Head Todd made a successful comeback, while the ladies rode superbly. People may be thinking, “why are these guys and girls riding so hard in December? Isn’t it supposed to be off-season?” To which we reply, “there’s a gravel off-season?” – this may explain why some of us have regular body meltdowns when the real riding and racing begins.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015 – The Winter Beer Ride
The southwest side of Gainesville, Florida, runs a once weekly Wednesday evening ride on pavement during Daylight Savings Time. The ride is followed by beer and socializing at a local establishment known as Tipple’s Brews. While the lads on that side of town have informally ridden on dirt, limerock and gravel roads at nighttime in the past, it was made official just this week; the Wednesday Night Winter Beer Ride! THREE killer dirt and gravel rides in one town, all in the same week!
Touted as an “A” level ride with regrouping at the end of each unpaved sector – in other words, more flat-out riding, just like the Tuesday Night “Worlds” ride as mentioned above.
The ride could be anywhere from 20 – 35 miles depending on group consensus at start. Post-ride, the group retires to the Queens Arm’s Pub to discuss the following:
- Why we didn’t show for Tuesday Night Worlds.
- How often we got dropped at Tuesday Night Worlds.
- How shattered we are from Tuesday Night Worlds.
- What is this “hanging your legs in cotton wool” thing we keep hearing about?
JOM has ridden the dirt roads on this side of town in the past, but these roads are in a constant state of flux. In other words, JOM has zero tribal knowledge. Also featuring are obstacles such as fallen tree limbs and deep ruts. Without doubt, the sketchiest sector along this route is “Embezzlers Road” – a homage to the Embezzlers sign that can be seen in the daylight. To quote the sign directly, “Embezzlers are the lowest form of life”. Fair enough.
The Embezzlers sector is sketchy due to the massive stretches of sand that it features. Some days it is hard packed, others it is semi-hard packed and the rest of the time, a veritable sandpit.
JOM thought it prudent to hide a little behind the front two or three riders, and follow the wheels of those more experienced with this side of town. Remember – riding dirt roads at nighttime at speed is a whole different ballgame compared to the sunshine hours.
Not remembering the sequence of sectors on which to report, JOM could only remember the hard tempo being set. This seems to be a regular theme on most Gainesville, Florida nighttime rides.The rider setting much of the hard tempo was uber strongman, Dr. MSG (aka Dr. Meshugganah).
Happenings of interest (at least to JOM):
- Unfamiliarity with the latest conditions of Embezzlers Road was JOM’s undoing on that sector. Taking the wrong side of the road through a particularly deep and sticky area of sand, JOM’s wheels (riding a regular CX bike with 40mm tyres) promptly sunk and ground to a halt. He screwed up by not changing to a smaller gear fast enough – game over. Half the fun is trying to get rolling again in deep and sticky sand.
- Lots of suffering – JOM’s legs were feeling the previous night’s effort.
- An adult cow, sleeping standing upright, directly next to the paved Archer Braid Trail that is towards the end of the evening’s ride. Possibly an escapee? JOM deeply regrets not stopping to take a photo – that would have enhanced this tale!
- Post ride hang out at the Queen’s Arms Pub with Bodingtons Ale on tap! Yum!
Thursday, December 17, 2015
This is usually the more “civilized” ride of the week. However, this less than civilized rainstorm appeared, and JOM blew the ride off. But that didn’t stop several members of the Gravel Cyclist crew from riding on this dark and rainy evening. JOM is expecting a berating for being “soft”, sometime soon. Expect a ride report from those who rode…