Sunday, February 13, 2011

Riding in Florida - Part II - Giro d' Blanton 100k - Tampa

Yours truly about to climb Happy Hill Road
After our succesful 300k in Gainesville, Paul and I looked forward to the 100k permanent we had signed up for in Tampa.  We would take a day off from riding on Sunday, undertaking the two and half hour drive from Gainesville, and readying the bikes and gear for Monday morning.  The start of the ride was just a mile from our hotel. 

At 7:30am we depart the hotel riding on roads still wet from overnight rain.  It is overcast and mild, in the low sixties, as we head to the 7-11 one mile down the road.  Which is the official ride start.  After getting documented we set out on the 100k route promptly at 8am.  After a mile or two on a bike path we are routed through suburban streets to the outskirts of the Tampa area.  We quickly reach the first control in San Antonio, Fl.  The surroundings become significantly more rural at this point.  Also, the terrain changes from flat to rolling.  I enjoy the mild hills as the day warms pleasantly into the upper sixties.  The scenery is pleasant with a mixture of horse and cattle farms.  Frequently we pass by orange groves as well. The traffic is extremely light. On the occasions we do encounter vehicles we are treated with great courtesy.  It is really a pleasurable experience.  We continue with rolling to mildly hilly terrain to the Blanton control.  After a quick stop we encounter more of the same landscape for the next 10 miles.   As we make the turn onto County Road 579 things flatten out again.  However, the wind has picked up dramatically and we are dead into it.  We grind our way through the remaning eight miles to the control.
Pancho Villa's in downtown San Antonio, Fl
After a short break we head out, which is back into the wind for another eight miles.  It seems like an eternity before we finally make the turn into Flat Rock Park.  Immediate relief is felt as we enter the tree lined entrace to the Park.  The route utilizes an 11 mile roadway dedicated to cycling and pedestrian pursuits.  It is beautifully maintained and resembles a wildlife refuge.  Within a quarter mile a cyclist on a nice looking race bike zips past.  He offers no response to my cheery hello and wave.  This never sits well with me.  I ask Paul if he is up for chasing the guy down.  He agrees and we take off, but, we now have quite a lot of ground to make up.   Our speed is quickly up to the 23 to 24 mph area as we gain on the unsuspecting rider.  I pull us to within striking distance, then Paul moves to the front and pulls us past. I forget to say hello this time as we pass by.  We keep the pace up until he is well out of sight.  We have only about two miles left to our exit which is near the finish.  We back off some reasoning we will not be caught.  Unfortunately, we miss a turn allowing the guy to roll by us while we are retracing our steps.  The park roadway quickly ends and the rider heads back for another loop.  We exit onto the bike path adjacent to the main road less than two miles from the finish.  We arrive at the 7-11 and are politely welcomed back by the same clerk who signed us out in the morning a little over five hours ago. 

The 100k was most definately a nice experience for both of us.  The route had memorable scenery and the rolling terrain was an enjoyable change from the normal flat routes that prevail in Florida.  The brutal head winds we encountered added to the challenge making the experience that much more worthwhile.  We were both pleased with the decision to include this ride with the trip.
Paul at the finish
Next up Cape Canerval Explorer 200k.  Stay tuned!      

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