Monday, December 26, 2005
I first heard of Sugarloaf Mtn. after the 140 mile Race Across Florida last year. The field was full of triathletes who had trained at or had raced the Clermont hills. Clermont is a hot bed for national talent and home of the National Training Center for Sports, Health and Fitness. There are 2 Iron distance Triathlons in Florida (you can't put man on the end Iron anymore without paying someone to use the name :-) . The oldest of the 2 is called the Great Floridian and doesn't pay for the use of the Iron--n moniker. During that race participants have to go up Sugarloaf twice. I've heard the race is rated close to the Kona Iron--n in difficulty. SO anyway, I always wanted to check it out, and today would be the day.
I needed a day to go long. Not just to get some distance in but to try out new hydration/food stuffs. It was also a day to work on some navigation skills which I'll certainly be needing at T-IV2. So I printed up some Mapquest maps, drew up a cue sheet, and let my bike take me somewhere I've never been.
The BOBbies have a nice map of a hill route on their site called "The Sugarload". A 17 mile loop that includes Sugarloaf and some other nice climbs. SO off I went - to find the infamous Sugarloaf and score the Sugarload. I'd planned on leaving (at the crack of dawn) early, but decided to wait till after the 8AM morning traffic. I went with a (squeaky clean -->) 12-25 instead of the 11-23 cassette, in hopes that would be enough teeth to get me up the hills. Also removed my BB and reinstalled it as I was getting a troublesome click. Unfortunately it didn't help as the click was there the WHOLE day. It must be in the pedal. Nevertheless by the time I hit the road I'd already missed 2 hours of daylight.
It was "cool" by Florida standards with temps in the high 50s - low 60s. The wind was kickin' 15-20 with gusts to 25 out of the W. My cue sheets/maps/navigation skills failed in the first hour of the ride - WHOOPS. I found myself in Maitland AND going the wrong way. This required a quick stop in a 7/11 to purchase a map which got me back on track. It would be the only time I got off my bike during the ride. The next 2 1/2 hours were a brutal beat DIRECTLY into said wind. I started worrying if I'd even get to the hills in time to make it back before dark.
I went through Wintergarden (the third town on this ride with "winter" in the name - are there that many towns up north with "summer" in their name?) and was pleased to find the West Orange bike path on the other side that ran 5 miles to Killarney. Florida is REALLY a bike friendly state. There are trails everywhere that will "eventually" be linked up. Even a Cross Florida Trail that will go, you guessed it, the whole way across the state. (<---) Saw some interesting riders/rigs on the way.
The hills started after Killarney. The area certainly didn't have the look/feel of Florida. NO, this isn't the Rockies, the Shenandoahs, or even Decorah Iowa, but hey - hills are hills and I was hell-bent on riding some. Even if it meant pedaling 3 hours to find 'em. Up Old Route 50, through the nice town of Monteverde and I could tell the hilly grail was close. I started seeing cyclists out training and the shoulder was decorated with lots of "road hickies" marking the routes for many rides. I wasn't too worried about time now. There should be enough time for at least 1 Sugarload loop. Up "The Wall" which sort of took me by surpise, then Buckhill, then there she was. First I see the the Street sign then take the turn and look ahead - SUGAR baby. Time to put your head down and power up. Looking down at the ground I see "OUCH!!" Gave me a good chuckle. I tried to imagine what it would look like the second time up toward the end of a 112 mile ride knowing you STILL had 26 miles to run............no thanks.
The rest of the way up the road had some cool spray-painted cycling graffiti. The 25t cog did fine, but hey - it HAD too. I finished the loop and started another one, but time was getting tight. I was over 5 hours into the ride and had to make it back before dark, so I cut out Buckhill Road by turning up Rt 561 and went back for another run up Sugarloaf. You get a great view of Lake aPOPka at the top of the climb. The downhills were fast, and most of them had a wicked cross wind. Lucky there wasn't any traffic out there 'cause I got blasted sideways a few times while cruising down at near 50mph.
The best thing about riding 3 hours into a 20mph wind -----you got it----RIDING BACK! Man that was FUN. I felt like I could've coasted at 18-20. Pedal to the metal spinnin' on the 12 and 13t, getting funny glances from cars in the 35 mph speed zones. Why is it cars ALWAYS want to pass, even if it means going over the speed limit?
In the end I made it back just before dusk after 8+ hours in the saddle. I'd guess 210-220km. Only stop was to buy a map. A camelback full of PowerBar Recovery, 2 large water bottles filled with Hammer Perpetuem, and a bunch of Orange Gu's got me through. If I was going further I'd of stopped to refuel probably at hour 7 as I was a bit behind the energy/hydration curve in the last hour, but I was almost home and it was getting dark. I really felt great, even at the end of the ride, but that could of been due to the tailwind. My stomach handled the protein laden drinks fine, so I guess Gatorade (my old standby) is history. Oh Yeah - If I can get lost and off track on busy Florida streets in the daylight, how will I do in the middle of Iowa in the middle of the night? GULP. I guess we'll see!
And there is a good chance you will always be riding with someone.