2014 Horse Farm Hundred: ride report
Yesterday I rode the 2014 Horse Farm Hundred in Gainesville, Florida, and it was every bit as fun, challenging and scenic as I’d hoped it would be.
The ride started and ended at Loften High School, with wheels rolling at 8:30 AM sharp. I left my house shortly after 5:30 AM, and made the two hour trip up to Gainesville with my friend William Cruz (thanks again for driving, William!)
We arrived in plenty of time, found a good parking place and set off to pick up our packets and wrist bands. As we walked over to the registration/packet pickup area, my teeth were chattering! The temperature was in the 40s (F), but I didn’t care: I knew it was going to warm into a spectacular day with perfect riding weather.
After we picked up our packets we prepared for the ride, and chatted with some of our friends. There were about a dozen cyclists from my club, “We Must Be Crazy” (WMBC), and they were all in full WMBC kit. I also saw a bunch of folks from Winter Springs Cycling, Anywhere 18+ and other local clubs.
While I was picking up my packet my friend Jeff Stephens walked over and lifted up my shirt. He saw that I was wearing a Brick City Bicycles jersey, and said, “Traitor!” 🙂
The reason I was wearing my Brick City kit was because I was going to ride with my friend Roger Sutton and the other Brick City cyclists, who would all be in the lead group and not stopping for any SAGs. The Crazies chose to do a more social ride with SAG stops.
With memories of the recent Mount Dora Bike Festival century fresh in my mind (I did that ride with just two bottles, and ran out of water with with 20 miles to go), I decided to tuck a third bottle of water into my jersey pocket. As I pedaled around the parking lot waiting for the ride to start, I could not stand how the bottle felt. Just minutes from the ride start, I yelled to William, “Hey open the car, I’m ditching this third bottle.” I knew I might regret that decision, but I also knew that the weather was going to be significantly cooler than it was for the MDBF century, and so I reasoned that I would be fine with two bottles.
Once the ride started, the wind chill made it feel even cooler than it was, and it cut right through the light cycling kit I was wearing (I knew it was going to warm up quickly, so I didn’t bother with arm warmers or anything like that). My Garmin recorded a low temperature of 46°F about 3 miles into the ride.
By mile 20 the air had warmed into the the mid-50s, which felt very comfortable.
Shortly after the 20th mile the flat terrain became hilly. Once we hit those hills, the big group began to shed riders. After about 20 miles of rollers, we had a pretty well-defined lead group–at least for awhile.
At about mile 50 we were averaging 23.3 MPH. I was feeling great, and my bike was riding like a dream. I noticed some of the riders seemed to be struggling with the pace, and so I was not surprised when we lost a significant portion of the lead group when they dropped off at one of the mid-point SAG stops.
I drained my first water bottle about two-thirds of the way into the ride, and I knew completing the final 30 miles on one bottle would be no problem. This provided a bit of mental relief, as I definitely did not want to go through what happened at the MDBF century again. Riding dehydrated sucks!
At mile 70 the hills had done very little damage to our average: we were sitting right at 23.2 MPH, and I was feeling really solid.
There was a small breakaway group that managed to gap the lead peloton by about 2 minutes. The Brick City guys–all of whom are exceptionally strong riders–organized a rotating paceline to bring the breakaway back in. It took about seven miles of very hard riding, but eventually the pace car was back in sight, and the breakaway was shut down. That was an impressive display of teamwork and really strong riding.
Roger Sutton added a much more detailed recounting of the breakaway chase on Facebook, and he has graciously allowed me to re-post it here:
“John mentions the breakaway that had a 2 minute (maybe more) gap. I’m going to expand on that a bit…
They were gone and would have soloed to the end. The lead GCC pace car was completely out of sight. John Murray (powerhouse of Brick City Bicycles group) told Steve Mace and I that if we didn’t close the gap ASAP it was over. Our group still had 40 riders, but no one wanted to take responsibility for a chase so far from the finish (hell, I didn’t want to either). John, Steve and I went to the front and lifted the pace hoping some riders would join in and help, but that didn’t happen. After a few of miles of hard riding, a couple of more of the familiar Brick City Kits appeared at the front: Brad Scott joined us, and also John Stone.
John had the BCB jersey on and, although he didn’t really know the other guys, he joined in for the chase. It became clear that no one else was going to help, and the five of us went from long pulls into a quick rotating paceline. John Stone is fairly new to this (at least at the speeds and power levels we were riding) but after only a few turns through he blended right into the group. We did not stop until the lead car was back in sight and we had actually pulled all the way to that breakaway. It was cool.
In the process we also shed about half of the chase group and the remainders fought it out to the finish, only to be buried in the final few miles by a solo effort off the front by John Murray (BCB).
Not a race? Yeah, that’s true. But, tell those 20 guys at the end (many of whom are Cat 1 racers) that they weren’t racing and I think they’d hesitate before answering.
Great to have you as an honorary Brick City rider for the day John!”
Reeling in that break was tough, and the pace lifted quite a bit during the chase. As Roger mentioned above, many riders from the lead group were dropped during that section. We were a relatively small group of about 20 riders as we approached the final 20 miles…
With 10 miles to go we were riding on long stretch of road, and right into a headwind. I was determined to break my previous best 100 mile average of 23.1 MPH, which I set a few weeks ago at the MDBF. The pace was below my liking, so I jumped up front and pulled, lifting the pace. After a long pull I motioned that I was coming off the front, and rotated to the left; the riders behind me did not come forward and moved over to stay in my draft. That was pretty annoying, as I really could have used some help.
At one point I said to myself, “Okay, fine” and attempted to break away from the wheelsuckers. I lifted the pace to around 28 MPH, and my heart rate was in the mid-180s. After about a half-mile I looked back and they were right on me. Sigh.
I kept pulling, and just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more, Roger Sutton appeared on my wing and said, “We need to keep this over 23.3, right?” 🙂 Roger and I rode side by side pushing one another and keeping the pace. That was awesome. I need to point out that Roger was on a fixie (one gear, no freewheeling/coasting). He’s a beast.
Roger and I rolled over the finish line together, and I set a new 100 mile speed PR, which I’m very happy about. Total distance of 100.5 miles, total ride time of 4:18:49, average speed of 23.3 MPH.
The ride was amazing. The rolling terrain was beautiful, the weather was spectacular, the roads were lightly trafficked, the motorists we encountered were polite and very safe and the lead group was strong and safe. The only incident I witnessed was a dodgy move by one of the riders that almost caused a pileup, and sent one guy off the road into the weeds. I happen to know the guy who made the error, and he is a very strong and experienced rider with exceptional bike handling skills. It just goes to show you that anyone can make a mistake, especially once fatigue sets in. Unfortunately William told me that there were two wrecks in his group. I hope everyone is okay.
Here’s my entire ride with all data on Strava.
It was a super fun, exciting and challenging day in the saddle. There’s no question the HFH will be on my ride calendar next year!