Cross Florida 2012

Crossing as a Team

by Joe Jacoby

What a difference a team makes.  Cross Florida is a long ride.  It’s the kind of ride that once completed, you might find yourself checking it off the list and vowing to never return.  Only about 170 participants make the transit from Cocoa Beach to Weeki Wachee each year.  Given the distance, one could easily find themselves in the middle of Florida with no other riders in site.

East Side Cycling club had good representation at Cross Florida in 2010.  We sort of skipped a year in 2011 when four members went, but only two rode together. I was one of the 2011 riders, and had vowed never again.  But the level of interest in the club prompted me to join the cause. For 2012, we fielded a pretty good team consisting of Jason Ingels, Joe Jacoby, Jerry Hertzler, Joey Manzanares, Don Morris, Jim Perry, and Bill Vincent.  The team was gifted with a fabulous support group consisting of Jason’s wife, Bill’s wife and daughter, and a fellow club member Tim Reese.

We met together in the Avalon Publix parking lot.  The smoke from the power plant smoke stacks could be seen pointing directly towards the ride start to the east.  The smoke did not rise, it only billowed from the top of the stack and then rolled horizontally.  The ride  is one of the few point to point rides, and the points were in the wrong order.  We were going to face a headwind for the better part of a 170 mile ride.

xfl_2012

The first 45 miles can be ticked off efficiently by staying with the peloton.    However, nervousness influences many cyclists to over hydrate prior to the start, resulting in the need for a natural break as we hit Nova Road at mile 20.  As other cyclists pulled over, Don pealed off, and then the rest of the team followed suit.  We regrouped and led a charge, pulling for five miles at up to 28mph, taking us and a large number of other riders back up to the lead group.

We stopped at SR-192 and unfortunately, we took too much time.  All the other lead group members had departed.  There were still plenty of other groups somewhere behind on Nova road.  We took off and somewhat soft pedaled thinking a group would appear.  We were wrong, and minus seeing two individual cyclists along the course, we were destined to ride the last 130 miles in just our team. Despite the headwind, we made our way efficiently across the flat section of the route, traveling between 20-23 mph.

At one point, Joey started getting a headache and we pulled in the reigns to keep him going to the next SAG.  Fortunately, our support team had been leap frogging us and we came upon them and got the assistance we needed earlier than expected.  A simple aspirin cleared up Joey’s issue, and we were free to press on to the hills at mile 120.

We fell apart as a team at the hills.  They aren’t that big, but at 120 miles, they can hurt.  We lost Joey, Jason, Don, and just towards the end of the hills we lost Jim.  It’s tough to stick together in hills.  You just want to make forward progress at the exact speed your legs are willing to do.  A slight stop allowed Jim to catch back up.  He really hadn’t dropped back far and had been pushing steadily forward.  The four of us pressed on and finished right around 10 hours, with a moving time of less than 9 hours.  The other three finished up shortly after.

xfl

Other random things happen on these long rides.  A small group experienced a wreck near the lake in St. Cloud.  I witnessed two other wrecks in St. Cloud during the 2011 ride.  It’s hard to understand why these wrecks happen.  Certainly, all the participants must be experienced cyclists.  After 45 miles, the groups become small and manageable, and there isn’t a lot of participants to begin with.  You’re not pushing yourself at or above threshold.  But somehow, a couple of cyclists seem to biff it each year.  Mechanical issues can and will happen too.  Bill’s tube spontaneously and spectacularly blew after sitting at a SAG for five minutes.  We were about to remount when POW!

It was an amazing experience to be part of a team that rode well together. I’m unsure how the team could manage the hills better, but that’s something we should manage more effectively in the future.  The team made the ride much more enjoyable and gave strength to each of us.  Being part of a team changed my reaction from “check… never again” to anticipation of supporting another, hopefully larger team.