300 KM Brevet

Clermont Florida, 2006

Distance: 300 km or 188 miles.
Time limit: 20 hrs
Date: 4 February 2006
Terrain: rolling to flat
Conditions: Rain first six hours, cloudy, then sunny last hour
Temp: 60F to 63F
Wind: 10-20 S (first hour), 0-5 S (5 hours), then 5-20 W
Sun rise/set: 7:13 AM /6:09 PM

Total Elapsed time = 11:18:12 (4:56 to 16:15)


Well the 2:00 AM weather radar confirmed my worst fears for today's 188 mile brevet. There were dark green blotches with smears of yellow generously peppered with orange and red covering the entire state and extending well out into the Gulf of Mexico. In short, no place would be dry and there was no end in sight.

The only silver lining was the forecasted 14-20 mph westerly winds. How sweet it would be to swing off the Withlachoochee trail onto Lake Lindsey road with a big tailwind for the last 50 miles.
Sporting my $0.25 helmet cover (my wife's shower cap)

Shortly after the 5:00 AM start, it began to rain. Hard enough to sting my face at times and other times lighter. My protection from the rain was as good as it could be: shower cap over my helmet, breathable cycling rain jacket, and shoe covers. I am most proud of my $0.25 shower cap I borrowed from my wife. It fits perfectly over my helmet, its cheap and can even accommodate my helmet light. Sure I look like a duffuss, but my head stays dry and free of road spray grit.

As the pace on the General James Van Fleet Trail (miles 18 - 32) picked-up to 20-22 mph our group of about twelve riders pulled away from the others. A solo recumbent rider maintained a several hundred yard gap over us, his taillight taunting us in the pre-dawn darkness.

Exiting the Van Fleet Trail, I was second wheel behind the strong tandem team of Wayne Phelps and Melanie Ashby. Responding to Melanie's question about our course, I said, "If its bumpy as hell, it must be Dean Still Road." And it was rutty and bumpy - I hate this eight-mile stretch. A minute or two after I said that, I hit a deep water-filled pothole at 21 mph. The force was so great my handlebars rotated in the stem. Despite pleading with the cycling gods not to have a pinch-flat, it was not to be.

There I kneeled on the side of the road, watching the taillights of the group disappear into the yonder. Surely I wouldn't see them again today. Now my only companions were raindrops. My bike covered in mud, everything I touched was gritty. As I replaced the tube, I wondered how much grit had gotten on the tube and inside the tire. How much was too much? Was another flat in my future? This concerned me enough to consider abandoning, as I had just one more tube left. That would be the safe thing to do - perhaps even the smartest thing.

Instead I pressed on. Unfortunately my Crank Brothers mini-pump wasn't up to the task and I had to make do with only 30 psi in my rear tire. Worse yet, this was still a very bumpy road and I'm now more vulnerable than ever to a pinch-flat.

Surprisingly, no rider came by even after a longish 10-minute repair. Perhaps someone back there also flatted. A few miles up the road I came upon Paul Harris and John Nelund. Paul was just finishing fixing a puncture of his own. The three of us rode to Control 1 in Lakeland.

I generally prefer quick and efficient 4 to 6 minute stops. Just long enough to do the essentials and off again. The 11-minutes we spent there however, allowed the large group behind us to join us at Control 1. This turned out to be a godsend as Ellen Bone was among them and she graciously lent me her excellent pump. I once again had 100+ psi in my rear tire.

John, Paul and I rode out together and a few miles later we passed another rider who left the control before us. The rain continued and despite the rain gear I was wet just about everywhere except under my helmet. Thankfully, the mid-60s temperature was about perfect... any warmer and I would steam-up under the rain gear, any colder and I wouldn't be able to stay warm as wet as I was.

I really love riding this hill country from Dade City, San Antonio and Triby. Such a pity that weather wasn't better this time around. Last year I struggled a bit on the steeper pitches, but this year I felt noticeably stronger.

Our stop at Triby Control 2 (84-mile point) was a very long 19-minutes. There wasn't a good reason for the long stop and I was disappointed at the lost time and how cold and stiff I felt remounting my bike.

Michael was waiting for us on the Withlachoochee Trail with undoubtedly a nice lunch spread and my drop bag of dry clothes. However, as I slowed John and Paul rode by. Did they see him? I sped up to catch them and they said they saw him and intended to stop on the way back. Unfortunately, we would not pass this south on the return leg. They were surprised when I told them this was our only chance at lunch.

I briefly considered turning back for lunch, but decided against it. My liquid diet of Perpetuem was all I really needed and it was still raining too much for dry clothes to be of any use. Besides, not stopping allow me to gain back some of the time lost during the flat and at the last two controls.

At about the 100-mile point Paul thought it wiser to slow down a bit. A few miles later he and John asked me to ride ahead as they didn't want to slow me. I really appreciated that and riding the previous 70 miles with them really lifted my spirits. But now I was free to hammer out my own pace.

As I pulled away, the rain was finally subsiding and I encountered a strong WNW crosswind all the way up to the Hernando Control-3 (118 miles). Depending on the angle of the road, exposure to wind and the gentle grades I cruised at 16 to 22 mph.

Within a mile from the Hernando Control I saw the group including the Wayne and Melanie tandem coming back from the turnaround. I estimated they were about 12 minutes ahead of me. I saw other riders before them but I didn't recognize them as being on this ride. After a respectably short stop at Hernando I was on the return leg myself - 20 miles south on the Withlachoochee trail to Lake Lindsey Road.

I felt good on this stretch and managed a little higher speed (than outbound) mostly due to the improved angle to the wind - a strong crosswind slightly behind me instead of slightly in front. Turning onto Lake Lindsey Road was everything I imagined it would be: a gusty kick-in-pants tailwind. I hit 25-27 mph on some of the early exposed stretches. But later its effect was diminished by wooded areas.

After a 5 minute stop at Bushnell, I felt refreshed and picked up the tempo a bit. To my surprise about 12 miles later came upon the Wayne and Melanie tandem group (including Tim Bol, Joe Fritz, Jim Solanick and one or two others). They were going slow as they had just repaired their second flat. I cruised past them at about 21 mph thinking there were still other riders up the road. I quickly opened a 100 yard gap, but Wayne and Melanie tandem were having none of that and closed it down. When all seven of us came together, I learned that there were no others ahead, so we were the leaders after all. Melanie later said they decided to take it easy after their second flat, but picked it up again when I flew by.
Profile of "Hospital Hill climb (on Citrus Tower Blvd.)

Together we fought a tough crosswind on CR-33 taking a few hard pulls. In general our pace was strong, but not overly aggressive. As the ride wound down and the sun emerged, just one more obstacle remained: Citrus Tower Blvd., a 6% to 14% climb for 260 yards. Powering up the slope I faded slightly at the top, but still felt stronger and more confident climbing than last year.

At the finish I felt a great satisfaction from persevering through an early flat and near abandonment, riding through 6 hours of rain, then battling for 130-miles (including more than 50 miles solo) to the front of the field. I was rewarded with a great final 30 miles riding and chatting with this group in the long awaited sunshine.




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