Sunday morning finds me drinking beet juice in the dark. Yesterday’s metric has left me with fuel in the tank and ready to take on the 40 miles out to Sugar Loaf Mountain and back. Today is less about enjoying the ride and more about getting it done, packing up and driving 4 hours south home to Miami.
Still the weather is perfect for a ride and we travel at a pretty steady 20-22MPH for 15 miles out to where the climbing begins. We hit a mile long hill leading to Sugar Loaf with a 2.7% grade. I struggle to hold onto wheels and loose some ground in the group whilst other riders slide on back. One of which is the huff and puff dude from yesterday’s ride shouting in recognition, “I remember you” as he is dropped without remorse. A short descent provides some respite just before the base of Sugarloaf. The 9% incline slows me down to a crawl while I watch manorexic sons of amateur racers float effortlessly past. Some quick math reminds me this will all be over in just ten minutes as I make new pledges of dietary discipline.
A well placed and crowded rest stop atop of the climb has everyone filling bottles, eating bananas and lining up at the port-a-johns. The mood is relaxed and quite social, so I take my time and partake in some idle conversation. It is not long before a small group prepares to roll, quickly I lineup and leave with them avoiding the crowd that will soon follow. We head out to take on the final climb of the day affectionately known as “The Wall”.
Once again it begins; chains begin dropping on a 2% climb preceding The Wall. On a 2% climb! The pace line splays open like buckshot forcing me to dodge the chain droppers and other riders scattered across the tarmac in an effort to remain upright and unscathed. Another descent brings me to the base of The Wall where I prepare for the 8% climb with a steady pace in the saddle; no attack, just spinning through. My pace is slow but I feel no pain. As I approach the top I have a rider passing with intent. slowly I stand up and raise the pace just enough to leave him behind. No hero here, just a little selfish pride.
I return to Mt Dora in the comfort of a small group. Stories of chain droppers can be heard as volunteers serve up some soda and brats cooked to perfection. Now the race to beat check out time begins with a quick shower and ends with the key in the mailbox. I say goodbye to The English Rose Cottage I called home for the last three days, turned the key, dialed in the tunes and pointed the Explorer south.
“Have tunes, Will travel”, I whisper with a nostalgic grin.