The Elements

Two days riding in the hills of Sebring was a study of riding in the wind and rain. Like an illustration from Jo Burt the group remained in tight formation with the force of nature surrounding us like the darkness of night. Respite is found only for those skilled in the art  of sucking wheel. In front of me a rider begins to struggle with the affects and allows gaps to open then work his way back to the wheel causing the accordion effect I despise. Others in the group had less patience than I and began voicing their opinions emphatically. The gentleman rotated out and was gone.

It is the way of the cyclist. Keep up, contribute, and share, else go it alone. No one waits or hardly cares.

I spent a bit too long at the front in the wind. Failing to rotate before exhausting reserves I found it difficult to hold onto the back and I too was gone.  I was amongst the dropped in just over 20 miles leaving me alone and more than a little disappointed. A small groupetto of five formed that quickly became three. We three worked together pretty well but the work was hard and the result was marginal. The wind was winning.

I spent the balance of the day in recovery.

The news was foreboding. Heavy rain was expected on our second day and the morning sky confirmed its impending arrival. The peloton travelled at a fair clip over the hills, through the orange groves, and along the lake. “You must have had a good night’s sleep”, Ken News commented noting my arrival to the rest stop in good position. 

The sky grew grim and everyone instinctively mounted their bikes to finish the ride before it broke loose. We rode around the lake in formation with Sindicato taking lead. Jackie Leon was just in front of me riding confidently. I could not help but be impressed by the progress she has made in the past few years and when it was her turn she rode the front steady and strong.

Once again I spent too much time at the front and just before a set of hills that loosened a few of us off the back. About six in all we rode as the heavens poured rain like a waterfall in spring. We arrived at a gas station with 15 miles left when a rider said let’s hold up for a couple of guys. I played along and enjoyed a hot tea while we engaged in idle conversation.  The time seemed to be slipping away when I eventually asked, “for whom are we waiting?” “The SAG” was the response.

“I came to ride”, I muttered as I mounted the Mooney. “You’re a wild man”, was the response. I shuttered at the thought of spending hours with five shivering cyclist at a gas station waiting to be rescued rather than ride a mere 15 mile.  The rain continued to pour from the sky. Beads of water formed on the bill of my cap moving side to side with the cadence of my pedal stroke. Again like a Jo Burt illustration I had to breathe from the side of my mouth to avoid breathing water into my lungs.

Sleep came easy like it always does when you spend the day exposed to the elements.

Festive 500 – Day Two

88.7 miles

143 Kilometers

Today I woke an hour later than yesterday and I am sure tomorrow will be later still a pattern that repeats itself each year of the Festive 500. I am sore from yesterday’s ride and so I move around the condo slowly.  I sit down with my coffee and listen while the wind outside roars so loud it sounds like heavy rain. I slowly peel back the vertical blinds to reveal the trees bent over and their palms pointed straight south west like invisible strings are pulling at their tips. Yesterday’s strategy to collect as many miles as possible has now proven sound as wind like this can weigh heavy on a riders mind, body and spirit.

The legs are heavy and my mind is already focused on the return trip. A strong tailwind makes light work but I am cautious and so keep the pace easy. I must reserve my energy for the return. It wasn’t long into the ride I when my arse begins telling the story of yesterday’s ride. I shift down into a higher gear and raise myself from the saddle to provide relief. The sharp pain shoots up as the material separates from the skin conveying the presence of raw skin; a product of too many miles, too soon. I was not prepared for yesterdays 116 mile ride.  My 2013 training has been riddled with fits and starts separated by illness and injury. I am not even prepared for today.

I take my rest and grab a coffee. My mood is somber and I stew on the miles ahead. I sit down next to St Nicholas out for a relaxing ride on his Harley after completing his whirlwind journey across the globe bring cheer to deserving  girls and boys. I ask him for a new set of wheels and he tells me I must wait until next year.


I smile and follow a family riding shiny new bicycles in single file formation from Dad to the tiniest tot in order from tall to small. I could not help from interjecting myself into their moment and asked, “Did everyone get a new bicycle for Christmas”? They all replied with a resounding “YEESSS” and flashed big smiles. They were kind enough to pose for me and politely repeated “Merry Christmas” with enthusiasm as the shutter clicked.


As I prepared to mount and continue my ride I asked a weary cyclist, “Are you heading south?” “No”, he replied as he stared into the distance. “Going north”, he finished after a long pause. He had that far away look in his eye. “How is the headwind?” I ask. To which he slowly shakes his head, looks down and says, ”I just gear down and spin until I run out of road.”

Sage advice.

So I continue my ride through the palm trees, past Roberts and into the Homestead “Killing Fields”.


Here the farmland although picturesque with its patterns of deeply furrowed bare earth and long green lines of vegetation provides no obstruction to the wind. Here the wind consumes you like some invisible beast, surrounding and forcing you to submit to its overwhelming and relentless power. You cannot simply power against it. It will ruin you if you do. Instead, like a long climb, you gear down, find that steady pace and ride it out.


I come out of the fields towards Robert’s and see the American flag completely unfurled in my direction. Inspiration to a patriot, yes but to a cyclist, it foretells of a long wearisome ride home.


It’s Christmas day and Robert’s is packed. Families from neighboring towns and tourists escaping the Northern winter climes enjoy the fresh fruit, smoothies, vintage trucks and jovial mood. The usual hoards of cyclists are absent. I am alone in a crowd.


I drink coconut water for its heralded hydrating power but I abhor its flavor. There is no other way to describe it. It tastes like ass.


The return trip home bears no pleasure. My feet hurt, the left foot metatarsal is particularly painfull and I must concentrate on pulling up to provide relief. My triceps are tired and ache from bearing my weight as my abs and back have wearied from the task. The perennial region screams at me and I am forced to ride out of the saddle every 100 yards to reduce its effect on my mind.  I am not complaining mind you. This is not the first time nor will it be the last that I subject myself to this sort of self inflicted torture.

I am a cyclist.

My legs still strong turn the crank until I run out of road and I am home.