Mt Dora – Day One

Taking off on a road trip and especially one that leads to a three day cycling weekend fills me with anticipation. I left work early to do some last minute packing and head north on a four hour drive to Mt. Dora. There is some mysterious and inexplicable force that pulls at me, holding me back, slowing me down, and keeping me from escaping the comfort of home. There is always one more thing to pack, to do, and check before I bounce.

Once on the road the sense of freedom engulfs me as I enter the freeway and gain cruising speed. Old school music streams down from the heavens and through the speakers adding to the road trippin’ vibe reminding me of old times with the Rudy’s. “Have tunes, will travel” was announced before every trip and just prior to inserting the latest cassette tape.

The morning’s ritual includes donning brand new Rapha Classic kit purchased and received just in time. The folks are keeping a gentleman’s pace as we ride through some residential areas and around East Crooked Lake beneath tree cover dripping with moss. It is a beautiful, cool morning. Heading north we crossed a highway and turned west towards Lake Eustis this time with the sun warming our backs. The lake is glowing a turquoise blue usually reserved for the Caribbean ocean and what little ripples exist are gleaming with a bright yellow and Chartreuse green stained by the sun.

As we roll up and over the first set of hills we ride tempo along a huge rolling pasture lined with horse fence. The sun continues its magic across the open field. “A perfect day for riding” is being muttered throughout the peloton. The tempo quickens and so silences the group. A series of rolling hills increases the effort even more creating gaps in the pace line. I lose the lead group reminding me I am not the man rider I was just 12 short months ago.

After rolling into town and receiving a post shower massage I am greeted by Sal and family, David and Marilyn. Sal invites me to join them for lunch and we sit on the shade covered patio of Cecile’s French Corner and casually pass the time away with conversation and crepes. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Century Season

Autumn is Century Season in South Florida. It begins with The Tour of Sebring and ends with the Highlands Bike Fest. Unfortunately, I am in base building mode and just not ready to take on 100 miles at speed. So this year it will be Metric Century Season and begins this weekend with Mt Dora Bicycle Festival.

I have participated in this festival for the last three years. This year marks it’s 39th annual and is one of the best run, most attended bicycle festivals I have attended. For three days, hordes of cyclist of all shapes, sizes and speeds descend upon this quaint little town nestled in Lake County, Fl. Lake County contains some of the only hills in Florida of any significant grade so the festival has appeal to those looking to climb a little.

Friday’s ride is a nice warm-up for Saturday’s century.  Some energetic riders itching for a fight are reeled in by the ride leader who reminds them of the weight of the following day’s labor.

Saturday’s century starts in the dark in cool temperatures and is an all out road race for anyone trying to stay in the lead group or groups. It includes a short steep hill affectionately referred to as “The Wall” which serves to filter out the pure flatlanders from the experienced hill riders. A true Grimpeur  will scoff at the small climbs but in Florida you have to take what you can get. Cyclists who choose to ride the full century are rewarded with 15-20 miles of head and cross winds that will cause some to question their resolve.

Sunday’s ride will just take whatever energy or will you have left and consume it dry. Give it away willingly.

There are two or three alternative routes on Saturday and Sunday for those riders interested less in speed and distances and more interested in the pure love of riding, in a bucolic setting, free of automobiles, and full of joy.

Century season continues with the following festivals/rides:

October 20th                                     Speedway Century

November 10th                                  Miami Gran Fondo

December 6th & 7th                            Escape to Key West

December 6th -8th                              Highlands Bike Fest

Then there are those rock’ em – sock’em SAG supported century rides that Keith Harrod organizes from November through December. These rides will find you in a large group barreling down the highway at 22-26 mph while working in organized echelons against some serious cross-winds. If you are feeling Belgium, order the fries with mayonnaise and find Keith on Facebook.

So, if you are suffering with cabin fever in colder climes and praying for warmer days and short sleeve jerseys, sign up for one or all of these rides and change your latitude.