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My first real road ride: Sugarloaf Mountain. Surprisingly high Strava placements.

Friday, October 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

This is "Sugarloaf Mountain". At 312 feet above sea level, the top of Sugarloaf Mountain is the highest point in peninsular Florida.

This is “Sugarloaf Mountain”. At 312 feet above sea level, the top of Sugarloaf Mountain is the highest point in peninsular Florida.

While I’ve had my new Madone road bike out a few times since I bought her about a week ago, I’d still not done a “real” ride on public streets. My friend Mike (who, like me, is primarily a mountain biker) also does some riding on his Specialized road bike. Mike invited me on a road ride yesterday, and he suggested a place called “Sugarloaf”, which is located in nearby Clermont, Florida.

Sugarloaf is extremely popular with the roadies, and somewhat infamous. The reason for that popularity (and infamy) is because the entire area is decidedly non-Florida-like: there are amazing elevation changes and some of toughest climbs in the state.

The most well-known and difficult climb is Sugarloaf Mountain. Yep, that’s the actual name of it, so don’t give me any crap if you live near real mountains–I didn’t name it! The top of Sugarloaf is 312 feet above sea level, and is the highest point in peninsular Florida. The information on the average/maximal grade, total distance and total elevation change varies a bit depending on the source, but the steep side (which is what we climbed) involves about 200 feet of climbing over a little less than a half-mile. I think the average grade is around 8%, with a couple of spots hitting in the 15%-17% range.

Because the Sugarloaf climb is relatively short, the real challenge is to see how fast you can get up it. Obviously this climb is one of the most popular local segments on Strava, and the competition is fierce: pros, semi-pros, Olympic athletes and very strong amateur riders all come here to ride.

Mike and I decided to do a 16 mile loop, which included the Sugarloaf climb. As we rode I was blown away by the elevation changes! I could not believe we were in Florida: rolling hills, tough climbs, super fast descents… one after another.

Here I am just past the crest of Sugarloaf climb.

Here I am just past the crest of Sugarloaf climb.

As we approached the Sugarloaf climb, I told Mike I was going to hit it with everything I had. As someone who is brand new to road riding, I was not really sure what I was in for, but I was definitely excited. I took a couple of deep breaths, and dropped the hammer…

I was doing about 25 MPH with a cadence of around 115 as the elevation began to sharply rise. I decided to stay on the big ring for the entire climb, and I think I did a pretty good job of shifting: my cadence was about 90+ for most of the climb, with a couple of brief dips to around 80. About three quarters of the way up the climb my legs were burning, probably because they were still a little tired from yesterday’s 1.5 hour training session.

That climb, giving it all I had, hurt.

Because so many strong riders flock to this place and I am new to road cycling, I did not expect to be very high on the Strava leaderboards. When I uploaded the data to Strava and saw where I placed, I was very pleasantly surprised.

At the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. That's Lake Apopka off in the distance behind me.

At the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. That’s Lake Apopka off in the distance behind me.

On the “Sugarloaf Mountain The Real Climb, No Flat Section” segment, I placed 22nd overall out of 373 riders and 1,555 total rides.

I placed even higher on the “Pre-Loaf segment“, which is the run up to the climb + part of the climb itself.: 11th overall out of 375 riders and 1,397 total rides.

I was already fired up about my new cycling training program, but after seeing what I was able to do yesterday on my first real road ride I am extremely encouraged about what I’ll be able to accomplish with a few months of hardcore cycling-specific training and some more experience.

Mike also kicked some serious butt yesterday, and set several new personal records of his own. On the “Backside Sugarloaf Downhill Run” Mike set a new PR and placed 23rd overall out of 355 riders and 1,226 total rides (I was 5 seconds slower than Mike on that segment, and placed 53rd overall).

The total ride was just 16 miles, but that included more than 1,100 feet of climbing. If you live in a mountainous region 1,100 feet of climbing over 16 miles may not sound unusual, but in Florida that’s pretty unheard of. Our average speed on the ride was 17.4 MPH, and my average cadence was 92 (Mike doesn’t have a cadence sensor so I don’t know what his was). I hit a maximum speed of 40 MPH, which is a little scary for someone who is not accustomed to riding on skinny, bald tires. It was a fun, but tough ride.

Sugarloaf is going to be one hell of a training ground for me. I’d love to get to the point where I can do 10 repeats on Sugarloaf mountain. Just typing that hurt.

No riding today, and my legs can use the break. I’ll be giving my upper body some attention with an intense workout later today.

John Stone Fitness Comments

2 Responses to “My first real road ride: Sugarloaf Mountain. Surprisingly high Strava placements.”
  1. Pretty impressive. I was going to comment on an older post before you started road cycling where you said mountain bike riding was “harder” than road. As my friend and I argued that he perceived running was harder than riding, I scoffed at idea stating it was all about effort.

    So many people see riding a bike as leisurely. Attacking a hill that is 9-17% grade is a whole other ballgame. Keeping a 22-25 mph pace for any stretch on a solo ride takes effort.

    Running and mountain biking are perceived as more difficult because of the impact. Road cycling takes away the impact but all you efforts are put into cardio. I defy anyone to hit a hill like that and push themselves to point of passing out and tell me it is leisure.
    Good job.

    Fyi, big ring was possible due to compact ring. I own 1 bike with compact and it is sublime, but real racing gearing 53/39 with a 23 tooth cassette would be harder, a lot harder.

    GD Star Rating
    • It’s funny you mentioned that post, as I also brought it up as Mike and I completed this ride. I turned to Mike and said, “Oh man, I’m destroyed. I sure have some crow to eat!”

      My intention was to post a mea culpa in the above blog, but I simply forgot.

      So, I stand corrected: it’s not about whether you ride on dirt or asphalt, it’s about how hard you ride.

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