The last time I rode at Soldiers Creek was October of last year, and the trails were in terrible shape at the time. There had been considerable rain that month, and many of the bridges were partially, or even completely, washed out. Sugar sand, mud, standing water… no fun at all.
Yesterday I was in the mood for something a little different, and so I decided to head over to Soldiers to see how the trails were running. A few people had mentioned to me that the trails were being maintained again, and that they were in excellent shape.
For my first lap I decided to just sort of ride at a moderate pace so I could check out the trail. I’m happy to report that the trail is indeed in phenomenal condition–perhaps the best I’ve seen it over the past three years! Whoever is maintaining the trails (it’s not officially maintained by any organization) is doing a terrific job. The bridges have all been repaired or rebuilt, several new features have been added, carpet has been brought in to cover the really sandy sections and the overall flow of the trail has been improved.
The new bridge pictured to the left was added as a bypass to a section of trail that often floods out after heavy rains. This is just one of several improvements that I noticed. There are also a few new elevated skinnies, several new bridges and a couple of new kickers. I had a blast riding out there, and I am very happy that Soldiers is back and better than ever.
I pushed the pace a little more on my second lap, but there are so many alternate little bypasses along the trail that I’m sure didn’t select the fastest route on half of them. My time on the second lap was 6m30s, which almost put me in the top 10 on Strava (I’m 12th out of 32 riders). Not a great showing, but as I re-learn the trail my time will improve considerably. I’m 100% sure I can shave at least another 30 second off my time just by picking the correct/fastest route, and even more as I become better acquainted with the trail. That should get me into the top 5.
JSF Member Andrew Ward pointed out that the first place time of 4m50s was turned in by professional rider David Wood. That time is absolutely insane–probably beatable by a handful of elite XC riders. I’m also familiar with (by reputation) all of the local riders in the top 5: Ted, Dale, Tommy and Wesley are well known around here as formidable riders. Dale Serge mentioned that he saw David’s incredible 4m50s run, commenting: “I was there to witness what flawless perfect riding looks like…“. Indeed.
The top three times are probably outside my grasp (for now), but I believe cracking the top 5 is possible.
As an aside, I’ve been riding the trails at Mt. Dora so much that I forgot how comparatively flat Soldiers is! From a cardio standpoint I felt like I was on a recovery ride.