The Cross Florida Ride
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One Day-170 miles of HEAT
It's been a decade. almost? The Spacecoast Freewheelers Bicycle Club have taken the ride back over. It was missing or had a different "format" for 6 years. I'm not sure what all it entailed, but for a while, "licensed" riders would race legs of it -or something.
So, oddly enough, this ride was started the same year as the Assault on Mount Mitchell. This would be the 35th year-this year without that 6 year lapse.
When I rode this many moons ago, it had a lot of prestige. I rode the "ride" for 9 years. I quit riding it in 1999, I'm sure. It was not a race. It, indeed, was not run up any flag poles as a race. Let me tell you- there were hundreds of cyclists wanting to lay waste to you and finish in front of you.There were big names before my time, Larger than life people. There were big names while I was riding it too.
The distance was 170 miles. You needed water, energy drink, or food at the exact point you needed it or all was lost. If you were "dropped" from the lead group, you would never see them again.
The reason for breaking the streak of continuous "ridings" of the Cross Florida Ride was to focus on the "Bicycle Inn" that was built or being built. I was a bit weary of doing "point to point" rides. "Point to point"rides start at one point and finish at another point. Three of the "classics were of this format. Cross Florida started in Cocoa Beach and ended on the other side of Florida, at that time- the Pine Island that is north of Tampa. There is a Pine Island south of Tampa. Once you arrive "across" Florida (170 miles), you now have to have transportation back to Cocoa Beach unless you have left a car or someone has driven support for you. The Assault On Mount Mitchell starts in Spartanburg, South Carolina and ends atop Mt. Mitchell (the highest point east of the Mississippi) after 102 miles. The Mitchell folk do not want any support vehicles up there. You have to take a bus back to Spartanburg. Bridge To Bridge is also "point to point". A bus or support is needed. These rides require money. Cocoa Beach is 1100 miles from North Carolina, or some parts. Cross Florida is a three day event at least. One day is required to drive down, one day to do the ride, and one day to drive back home. It's a lot of time to spend away from a bike shop or bike related business. Time is money and I had little of either.
How do you make a million dollars in the bicycle business?
You start with two million!
Spacecoast Freewheelers-Cross Florida
We had a "Floridiot" to move up to the mountains named Bob Scofield. He shamed us into doing Cross Florida every year.
There were "classics" that were just commonly known, matter-of-factly, gotta do 'em rides. Among these were: the Cross Florida (170 miles-May), Assault On Mount Mitchell (102 miles 11,000 ft. climbing-June-now May), Bridge To Bridge (102 miles up Grand Father Mountain-September), and 6 Gap (100 plus miles-mountains of North Georgia-over 9000 ft. climbing). There were local United States Cycling Federation (now USA Cycling) races. There were other centuries (100 mile rides). There were metric centuries (62 mile rides). Many of these were/are treated as races by the participants. United States racing is consisted of short fast as heck dangerous racing. The longer "rides" were more important to many of us.
To many racers in Florida and North Carolina (us) the Cross Florida Ride was a "classic". It was hard, one day, 170 miles of scorching heat. Occasionally the "love bugs of Florida would join us and make it even more "special".
You had to be "trained up". The riding was different. The Florida folks had an advantage on us. They could train all year. With many of us in the mountains it could and did snow in May.
During the ride you would be forced to spin tall gears just to keep up. The pace was often ridiculous. Occasionally we could keep up a 25 MPH average and be able to speak. I remember us averaging 25 MPH for 90 miles and Scofield was telling us about some deals he had gotten on some Russian tires.
Scofield was the best of us. We tried to put him across the state first every year. If the winner had not drafted behind a car- perhaps....
I made the
mistake of stopping with Bob to pee twice on two different Cross
Florida Rides. It was senseless. I stopped to help him get back to the
pack. He was so strong he would almost drop me, but really put a
hurtin' on me to get back up to the main field. I quit stopping when he
had to pee.
There was one ride where after 90 miles Bob attacked. We looked at each other. We knew that it was too early. It definitely was for some of us who had tried years ago. Four strong guys chased him. They caught Bob. Then they returned to us. They couldn't keep up to Bob. I revolved around the front of the pack. If the pack was going 25 MPH I would slow it to 24, then 23. I would slow it down as much as possible and avoid as possible to make it "not so obvious". I was trying to keep Bob out of sight. I stayed on the front as long as I could without drawing attention to what I was doing.
The "ride" went as usual. Somewhere Carl Westergrin attacked from the rear. If you weren't watching from the very rear, all was lost. He would explode. When you're 100 miles or so into hell and Carl attacks- it's an explosion. Very quickly he and another rider can be a half mile in front of the group. I'm sure I blew up somewhere right near here trying to keep up, bridge up, only to blow up. After about 8 hours or so of torture Pine Island finally came. Even though I was beat up pretty bad, I was also glad that we never saw Bob. He must have made it in first. Where's Bob? "We haven't seen him." Bob came in later. Bob had joined "another" bike ride out there and had gone the wrong way. He saw a rider up ahead turn on a road and he followed. There was always another ride somewhere out here near "Howie In The Hills". Imagine our chagrin.
The "Cross Florida-War Of Attrition", below, was written about 11 years ago. I rode it for 9 years. I believe only one ride I failed to be in the top 20. Most finishes were in the top ten. My last I finished 11th.
CROSS FLORIDA-WAR OF ATTRITION
The "Cross Florida" sounds like another charming bike ride. It's flat. It's fun. It's a vacation. It's Florida. Many are lulled into the illusion of what could be on a different day with different mileage. It can be a war with fierce battles, one after another- medieval.
Only the stout of heart and the unaware participate. You must be valiant and foolish to return year after year.
There are plots and potions. There are good knights and bad knights, black knights and white knights and you can never be sure of who is whom. There are battles against each other, against equipment-theirs and yours. One battles against time, against thirst and hunger-against one's self!
There are battles against the cruelest smoke puffing dragon ever. The Auto. One warrior was slain before the gauntlet was thrown. Surrealism was overwhelming as we rode by our fallen comrade as he lay on his stretcher. Another brave warrior slain by the "dragon".
This war is held annually in May. If it were held in any month warmer, the warriors would burst into flames. It is a race against the sun. The longer one is exposed to the sun, the more one withers and dies.
The "white knight" is the champion virtually every war. Year after year the fearless return with harder training, newer and better weapons, better support, newer and better nutrition, magic potions, renewed spirit, and determination.
Maybe this year the White knight will show a weakness. Perhaps someone, an under-dog will out-ride him. Maybe his "steed" will fail him. Maybe he will get sick like I do every year. Maybe God will intervene.
Is the "White Knight" the hero or the villain? No one knows. He's cool and cold. He doesn't appear to be affected by the sun. He's ice.
There he is. He avoids even being noticed if possible. He's a marked man but he eludes us all. Soon you wonder, where is he? He rarely speaks. When he does speak, it's usually to one of his pages through the electronic magic called "radio" mounted in his helmet. He's one of the best in all of the land. He's won battles everywhere. His fame is far and wide. He has the best plan of attack, always. He uses the best fuel available. He makes an order and his henchmen deliver. Sometimes he seems to win by trickery. It doesn't matter. He wins.
There was a knight dressed from head to toe, in black.
On this day we were well represented. There was Robin Hood and Maid Marion. There was Merlin, the magician, who quite often works his magic when all seems lost. There was Prince Valiant. There was Little John. Of course he's not small at all. There was Homer for comedy relief. There were all kinds of possibilities.
All was well for 100 miles, but after a late pit stop, Robin, Maid Marion, and Homer were left by the side of the road. Homer gave his fuel to Robin and Maid Marion. This was a new arena for them. Now- the battle was raging off in the distance. The dark forces of the world united to create winds to flail the trio as the giant burning, glowing orb turned their heads toward the ground. Their deaths will be slow and agonizing. The writing is on the wall as they pass the "Black Knight" wasted beneath trees by the side of the road.
Merlin, considered the greatest warrior of them all last year, would hold on and stand tall, but alas, even he now shows that he too is mortal.
Our hopes now lie with Prince Valiant who is the strongest of our small kingdom today. With little support, he has managed to "stay on".
With little mileage remaining, the small man with the "lion's heart" goes to the front and challenges them all. He "dukes" it out with the "White Knight". He fights with all his heart and leaves nothing in reserve. It was a "grave mistake".
To use Prince Valiant's own words, "He ground me into a fine powder!"
Once again we limped back home licking our wounds.
Once again, the "White Knight slew hundreds.
But- once again, we showed up and took the fight to him.
Next year we'll find that chink in the armor!
White Knight...................Carl Westergren
Prince Valiant.................Victor Martinez
Merlin the Magician.........Bob Scofield
Robin Hood.....................Don Acton
Maid Marion....................Joanie Acton
Little John........................Woody Graham
"Land Of Sky Page".........Dave Gehrman
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