Our “Adminator” and “Grand Poobah” John Will Tenney gives his account of the 2016 Cross Florida Ride.
It was deja vu. Last year all over again. Climbing in to “Duncan’s” Ford pickup truck with Darren Hill and our bikes in the back. Fearing for my life as Duncan insisted on looking directly at me in the back seat while he drove. Arriving in Cocoa Beach mid-afternoon after getting our race packets, checking in to Fawlty Towers, which is not bad for a roach motel.
It’s also right next to the starting line for the annual Cross Florida ride.
Oh did I forget that part? Yes once again I was gripped by temporary insanity, three years in a row now, to ride in the Spacecoast Freewheelers Cross Florida ride. This year is the 35th anniversary of the ride.
It starts in Cocoa Beach, in Alan Shepherd park, which is right on the beach, and ends in Bayport Park in Hernando Beach, right on the Gulf of Mexico. 168.5 miles of beautiful scenery, lakes, country roads, friendly convenient stores, and a fair share of pain and agony in between.
So back to where I was. Darren and I had the afternoon to kill before a dinner with the rest of the “team”, consisting of the Blue Hammers and one or two fringe riders (like me.) We found an undiscovered jewel in Cocoa Beach, Frankie’s Wings, which not only serves great wings but one of the best grilled chicken salads I’ve ever had.
Back to Fawlty Towers for a quick nap and maybe a stroll around the pool, many heated discussions on various topics such as who makes all the pro wheels (Lightweight), is evolution a theory or fact, and how to make good home brew beer. Yep, deja vu.
And of course, repeating last year, headed over to Brannos for Pastafest with the Hammers, John, Darren, Tim and family, Jorge, James and Dave.
Fully fed and “carb-loaded” we headed back to the room to put our numbers on our jerseys, prep the morning ride and get some sleep.
Up at 5:30, doing what all cyclists do, drinking some fluids and waiting for nature to take its course. No one wants to start a 170 mile ride with full bowels, trust me. After a successful visit to the restroom I said good bye to the Full Manny and we headed down to the starting line around 6:40. Threw our bags on the truck which would take them to Bayport, and filled our water bottles.We were ready.
It was a slightly chilly morning, around 55 degrees, with a brisk wind from the north, a result of the frontal passage the day before. The start was rather uneventful, no real ceremony, just one of the sheriff deputies saying “OK let’s move out!” As usual the deputies gave us escort on 520 until we crossed I-95, when we were on our own.
The crosswind was challenging. I started out on the right side so got NO draft from anyone, and the crowd was very determined to keep those on the right side there. It took several miles but as things began to thin out I managed to get over to the left. The pace was slower this year, not the tailwind inspired 25 mph we did last year but a more reasonable 19 to 21 mph.
We knew this would change when we made the left turn on to Nova road though, as the crosswind would become a strong tailwind. All of us were expecting an immediate surge as someone would make a break for it. Oddly, this didn’t happen right away. For the next few miles someone would pick it up, but see that they weren’t separating from the crowd and drop back again. This was taking its toll on me. I didn’t like surging to keep up with the pack and then having to use heavy brakes to avoid running over the rider in front of me. Had to do it though, or risk losing the pack.
As we turned west past Deer Park Road intersection, it happened. A large group broke off the front and the chase began. It was nice for a mile or so but then the surging started again. I was slowly headed towards the back of the lead pack. When I finally dropped off the back there were about 80 riders in front of me.
I expected to see a more organized second pack but never did. I hooked up with a couple on a tandem and two older riders (older than me so I can say that) who were trying to do an echelon in to the cross wind. As more people got dropped off the lead pack we pulled them in. It was turning in to a nice, organized pack. The guy on the tandem was doing a great job explaining to people how to do an echelon and I was hopeful, as the lead pack stayed in sight.
Unfortunately, more than half the group stopped at SAG #1 at mile 33. After that and I found myself riding with 3 or 4 other people who didn’t know each other. We tried to keep the echelon going but nobody really ran it so it kind of fell apart. I started talking to one of the guys, Gonzo, a Miami resident, who stayed near me most of the way to SAG #4, where I lost track of him. I hope he finished with no problems.
The next 60 miles were very much like that. I would find some people I knew or at least rode a comparable speed, and they would pull over for a stop, leaving me on my own. I planned on stopping at the Van Fleet Trail at mile 89 for water, lunch, etc. One time I found a good group, affiliated with D2 cycling I think although I saw some Seminole Cyclefest jerseys, and they stopped about mile 80 for a private SAG. They asked me to stop with them because I had taken a few pulls, but they had no water other than personal bottles for the riders in the group. Their SAG guy hadn’t planned for extra riders, which is not unusual. I thanked them and rode on to my next stop, mostly alone.I had an unplanned stop around mile 55. It was not pleasant. One of the ESCC riders, Carter Lane, had touched wheels with someone and fallen. He was being loaded in to the ambulance as I got there. I talked to a few folks, walked around a bit, offered to help and was politely told “No there’s nothing you can do” so I slipped off and continued riding. Carter had three surgeries yesterday (shoulder, hand and hip) and will be down for a while, but all went well and he should recover perfectly. Carter is a good guy and was my Six Gap buddy two years ago, as we shared a room. I will always remember that he carries an Espresso maker with him and shared a cup with me each morning we were there. Heal quickly Carter …
At mile 89 I took a decent break, refilling water bottles with a Fizz and some Heed provided by SCFW, and ate some of the little munchies they provided, including a White Chocolate and Macadamia nut Clif Bar which really hit the spot. So far my nutrition plan was working, as I brought along Clif shot blocks, Clif bars and a gel or two, and I planned to eat at SAG #2 and #4. I also planned to hit a convenient store for a sandwich if I started to get hungry for “real” food (didn’t happen).
The rest of the ride I was alone, with another rider, or in small groups of 3 or 4. Mostly alone. Especially in the hills, as my speed was either slower or faster than anyone I was near (usually slower.)
I saw the ESCC gang at a convenient store at Mile 102 so I pulled in to grab a coke and say hi. It was also a good time to text Darren and tell him I would not make it in 10 hrs, by 5pm, as the headwinds were slowing me down quite a bit. I texted him my ETA would be 6pm.
I made it all the way to mile 142, SAG #4, without a serious stop, although I got some rest at several lights. Gonzo was around for the earlier part of this section, but he dropped back in the hills. Every time he caught up at a light I asked him if he was OK and said yes, fine, go on ahead, don’t worry about me.At SAG #4 I was pleased to be served by one of my TT friends, James Scianimanico (try spelling THAT one) who had volunteered to man one of the usually unmanned SAGs. It was nice to see him. Paul Ricci took a photo of me which is one of the few I’ve seen that proves I was on the ride.
An interesting thing happened as I started to leave SAG #4. I saw a guy opening up a Coke bottle at the back of his car. It looked really good. (I think I needed the sugar, and I remember how Tracy Draper saved me from bonking last year with a small Coke), so I offered him $2 for a bottle. He was gracious and said “You can have it free if I can find one!” He was unable to find one but his wife handed him a paper cup and he filled it for me. Never got the guy’s name but that was awesome. I saw him once more as he was apparently drafting behind me for a mile or two and passed me at a light around mile 155. He said “I guess that Coke worked! You just pulled us for quite a bit! ” The light turned green and they rode off. There was a small hill that they left me on.
The last 50 miles were in to a brisk headwind. It was definitely taking it’s toll on me but I managed to keep it going. I was counting down the miles every time one incremented on my Garmin.
I passed some interesting riders in this part. I saw the guy on the ElliptiGO (Thomas Russo). Later I passed the 7 year old girl riding with her mom and dad, setting the record for the youngest person to complete the (2 day version) of the ride.
Leaving 142, I knew I only had 26 miles left but the relative pain I was made the expression “only 26 miles” sound horrible. I figured two more hours. I was pretty close. One hour and 45 minutes later I took my patch from the SCFW person in Bayport park.
I know we were issued a wrist band that would get us food at the end but I was not hungry at all. In fact, I just wanted to go home. Fortunately I was the last one in my car to arrive (by 45 minutes I think), so it didn’t take us long to get everything packed up and hit the road.
We made our usual stop at the Sunoco in Tarrytown, the only clean bathroom for 30 miles around, and I had a snack – a short can of Original Pringles. Yes they were awesome, as I needed the salt. The stop triggered a conversation that may go down in history however, as we started discussing an app that would help travelers find a clean bathroom while on the road. Charles was the technical know-how, but Dave and I came up with the name: Clean Restrooms and Potties (C.R.A.P.) Look for it in the app store soon!
The puns and double entendres continued well in to the ride, as I was having a ball with this. I had a lot of C.R.A.P. on my mind. We were all looking forward to telling our friends to download C.R.A.P. (“You won’t believe this C.R.A.P!”)We arrived at my house in Waterford Lakes and had a terrific after party, enjoying some home brewed beer and LOTS of snacks laid out by my lovely wife Kathleen, who had the place spotless and ready for us.
Once I got Dave home to Chuluota, and back home to bed, I could finally relax, look at Kathleen and say, “It’s over.”
Until next year anyway …