The 40th Annual Mount Dora Bike Festival was a huge success!
Friends, this past weekend was an absolutely incredible three days of fun and riding at the 40th annual Mount Dora Bike Festival (MDBF)! It was wonderful to see so many of you there enjoying the various fully-supported rides (with distances from 8 to 100 miles), the festivities, the contests, the food and our beautiful Florida weather.
The festival attracted thousands of people from all over the state and beyond, and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. Tracy Draper, 2014 MDBF Director, said the unofficial final count of registered cyclists was 1,362–a new record!
This year’s event had a number of changes from years past, and those changes combined with the huge turnout presented some fairly significant challenges. It took the support of hundreds of hard working volunteers to pull the event off, and everyone involved did a great job.
Thanks to Tracy Draper, Rob English, Eric Baker, Paul Ricci, Bob Porter, the entire Mount Dora Chamber of Commerce staff, the vendors, Lou Ann, all the awesome SAG volunteers and helpers, the local businesses and my fellow We Must Be Crazy (WMBC) cycling club members who marked more than 500 miles of road and Marshaled all of the rides. Sincere apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone.
The Festival began on Friday, but I did not ride that day. In fact, I was out with my friend William marking the Assault on Sugarloaf route on Friday. We saw a lot of MDBF cyclists while we were out marking, and everyone seemed to be having a blast!
My first scheduled ride was the “Rockin’ Century Remix”, a 100 mile/162 kilometer ride that rolled out at 7:30 AM on Saturday morning. I was Marshaling that ride, and so I had to be there early for a pre-ride meeting. When I arrived for the meeting at about 6:50 AM, the crowd of cyclists was already quite large, and growing quickly. There was electricity in the air, and I had a sneaking suspicion this was going to be a very fast ride for those who wanted it.
After the meeting I made my way to the front of the group. I think there were about 500 cyclists registered for the 100 mile ride:
My friend Mark grabbed this shot of me just before we set off:
The 100 mile route for this year’s MDBF is all new, but I’ve ridden it a few times with my club so I knew what to expect. The first part of the ride is fairly slow-going as we wind our way out of town, but after about 15 miles the city gives way to scenic, open country roads.
There were a number of ride Marshals on the Century ride, and each of us had different positioning assignments (front, middle and “sweepers”). My job was to stay with the lead pack, and I knew that was going to be a challenge as there were some extremely fast and skilled riders. Sure enough, once we made our way out of town the pace lifted considerably, and hundreds of riders began to fall off the back.
As we approached mile 60 the lead group consisted of perhaps 100 riders. At this point no one in the lead group had stopped for a SAG, but there was a “major” SAG stop (with my club’s SAG bus “Lou Ann”) at mile 60. I heard some chatter amongst the riders–many of whom were on the rivet and about to pop–about stopping. Most decided that they were going to make the stop to rest and refuel.
When we got to the SAG, there were three Marshals in the lead group: Jim, Brian and myself. I saw Jim and Brian make the turn to stop along with the vast majority of the peloton, and I made the snap decision to go with the 20 or so riders who elected to continue without stopping.
I was feeling great, but I had less than 25 ounces of water remaining. The temperature was rising, and I knew I was going to run out of fluids before the end of the ride if I didn’t SAG. I’ve done lots of centuries, but I’ve never done one without stopping and I really wanted to (I’ve been known to complain that our club rides have too many rest breaks). It was around this time that I decided that, no matter what, I was going to complete the entire 100 miles without a stop.
I was down to my final sip of water with about 20 miles left to go, and I knew the last 10 miles were really going to suck. I never suffer from leg cramps on rides anymore, but I knew that cramping was becoming a possibility thanks to the dehydration. I thought, “I’ll handle fighting through the dehydration, but legs, please don’t cramp up on me!”
The pace was blistering, but the riders I was with were strong, safe and experienced, and that really helped. Almost everyone did their time in the wind, and we had a beautiful rotating paceline going for quite some time. As thirsty as I was, I was having a blast.
About mile 90 we were approaching the final SAG. I knew my friend Rob Ern, whose company was sponsoring that SAG, would be waiting there with as much ice-cold water as I cared to drink. All I had to do was make a right-hand turn, and in less than a minute’s time cool, clear, cold and refreshing water would be rushing down my dry and dusty throat. It took every ounce of self discipline I had to pass that SAG stop.
I was so thirsty that I was nearly transfixed by the water bottle on the bike in front of me, which was almost full. Watching the water slosh around was making me feel even more parched. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly feel any more thirsty, another rider took his half-full water bottle and dumped it over his head before grabbing another full bottle from his jersey pocket. I wanted to cry.
I was not surprised when our efficient little group came completely apart as we hit the rollers on Round Lake Road. This road is near my home, and I ride it nearly every day; I knew exactly how hard I could attack the hills without blowing up, and for that I was thankful. By the time those rollers were behind us it was just me and 5 or 6 other guys as we headed down the final stretch towards the finish line.
When I finished the ride, I made a beeline for the first water cooler I saw, and downed 4 cups of water in about 20 seconds. I then filled up my water bottles, and continued to suck down water like it was my job.
My final time for the 100.2 miles was 4:19:55, which is a 23.13 MPH average speed (my Garmin indicated a slightly longer distance and faster average of 23.24 MPH). Either way, that’s definitely a new personal record for me, and it’s also my first century ridden without a stop. I felt great the whole time, except for the lack of water during the last 20 miles.
I thought me and the 5 or 6 guys who rolled in together were the first to finish, but I discovered on Sunday that professional cyclist/gold medalist Grant Potter (Team Graner-Stradalli) had staged a breakaway somewhere along the ride and finished a few minutes ahead with a time of 04h12m. I never saw Grant and the three guys who went with him take off, but if I had I definitely would have latched on and tried my best to hang with those monsters. I think (I’m not 100% sure) the breakaway group consisted of Grant, Tom Steinbacher, Nivio Diaz and one other cyclist whose name I do not know.
When I zoomed in on the ride and eliminated the slow sections in and out of town, the bulk of the ride (~80 miles) was actually done at a 24.1 MPH pace. We were definitely moving along!
Here’s my entire ride from Saturday on Strava.
On Sunday I rode and marshaled the 39 mile/63 kilometer “Assault on Sugarloaf Mountain” ride. This ride was short, but I had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be fast. Oh man, I had no idea…
Any thoughts of a recovery ride were quickly eliminated. I actually started the nonsense, breaking away early to see who would chase. It didn’t take long for the peloton to get organized, and they closed in on me like a pack of hungry wolves. As we burned towards Sugarloaf, it truly felt like a race and not a ride. Somewhere around mile 15 or 16 I swiped over and checked the average speed to that point: 24.4 MPH. Some of the riders were looking around like, “WTF is going on here?!”
I was loving it. It was a fairly cool morning, the atmosphere was charged and, while I was definitely not at 100%, my legs felt surprisingly strong after the previous day’s century ride.
As we turned onto Sugarloaf Mountain Road, I knew the group was going to blow apart. I climbed Sugarloaf quickly (I turned in my 2nd best time on the main climb, and my best time on the whole road), hoping to hook up with a strong group for the return trip. I got my wish, and then some…
I slid in with a group of about 11 or 12 riders who were killing it. After one of my pulls I was drifting back, and one of the riders–noting the zip ties that indicated I was a ride Marshal–said, “You guys are doing a really great job.” I thanked him, and as I got back into the paceline I suddenly realized who had spoken to me: it was Tom Steinbacher, CEO of Stradalli Cycles! Very cool. I actually broke away from my spot in the paceline, rode back up to Tom and told him that I’d just recognized who he was, and that it was great to be riding with him.
After Sugarloaf we hit the last really steep hill, which is known as “The Wall”. Some of our group popped on that hill, and dropped away.
Once The Wall was behind us, we set a fast 24-25 MPH pace for the return; one by one riders started cracking until our little group was whittled down to just three: me, Tom and a rider from South Florida whose name, unfortunately, I did not get. We all took strong pulls, and shared the work as we blazed towards Mount Dora. I thought, “I sure lucked out this weekend–what an amazing group of cyclists I’ve had the good fortune to ride with!” Even though I was hurting, I couldn’t help but smile.
Me, Tom and the cyclist from South Florida all rode over the finish line together. Once again, though, I was in the second group to finish: yep, Grant Potter and a few other Team Graner-Stradalli cyclists were done and cooling down.
My average speed for the ride was 23.2 MPH, and I came very close (within a couple watts) of setting several power output PRs. Here’s the entire ride on Strava with all data.
After the ride Tom and I started talking, and he was even kind enough to have one of his team bring me an ice-cold Coke. Very cool guy, glad I got to ride with him.
While I was talking with Tom and some of the other riders, Tracy Draper came up to us, and we started yacking a bit. Tracy introduced me to Grant who, despite being a beast on the bike, was extremely personable and friendly.
Here’s me, Tom and Grant after Sunday’s race, er… ride (click to enlarge):
Wow–what a weekend! I set 27 PRs for time, 1 new power output PR on Saturday, completed my first “no stop” century and rode my fastest ever 100 mile time. I enjoyed riding with my friends, and got to make lots of new friends. Being surrounded by so many strong riders not only inspired me during the rides, I continue to be inspired.
Again, thanks to everyone who made this year’s celebration of bikes and the great city of Mount Dora the best yet. Well done!