Monday, March 31, 2014

The 2014 Roland Mazzotti Snowbird Century

The Everglades Bicycle Club's Snowbird Century is special. It's held at the end of March, a windy time of year. The Snowbird wheels about the rural agricultural Redland area in south Miami-Dade. It's a wonderful area with long stretches of open road. There's a route for everyone, from short rides to long rides, all with SAG cars sweeping the roads for cyclists in need of assistance and wonderful rest stops with water, sports drinks, yummy snacks, and friendly faces. Some years the wind is more challenging than others. This year it was a bit windy, strictly Cat 1, but certainly not a legendary HC. It would be challenging but fun.

It was dark when we pulled our car into the Homestead Air Reserve Park and followed the waving flashlights of the volunteers who were keeping order in the parking area. We slipped into a parking space and unpacked the bikes.

We follow the Everglades Bicycle Club page on Facebook. It's where you can go to find information on rides, both EBC sponsored and informal ones being put together by EBC members. We saw a group forming to ride a metric century (62 miles) at the Snowbird at a friendly 16-18 mph pace. The people joining up were fun to ride with. Excellent.

We quickly found our group among the sea of riders milling about under the floodlights, waiting for dawn and the ride's start. Slowly hundreds of riders filled the road leading out of the park. We were about in the middle of the pack. Then it was pedals up, and we were off down the road. While it was a mass start, it was a polite, orderly, and pleasant mass start. Nice.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. We wheeled happily down the road, chatting with friends. Our group had decided before the ride to ride straight through to the Aerojet rest stop at 29.4 miles into our ride. The wind was predominately from the north at around 16 mph with gusts into the lower 20s. We were doing a great job with the wind, moving along in a nice double paceline. The speed inched up. No problemo.

Then we turned into the wind. Oh my. I was in a lucky place. There were eight strong riders in front of me. There was no way I was going to let myself loose the wheel of the guy in front of me. I glanced into my rear view mirror. A gap was forming behind me. I put my head down and pedaled, forcing myself to ignore anything behind me, focusing only on the guys ahead of me. Ever see a pack of big dogs with a little chihuahua wildly running at the end of the pack as they boogied down the road? Yep. Well, that's what this group looked like for sure.

Just in time we turned. The wind was at our backs! Hallelujah. The little group up front was quickly rejoined by the rest of the riders. Pedal, pedal, pedal. The rest stop was just ahead!

We pulled into Aerojet rest stop. We wandered about chatting with friends in other groups, munched snacks, and sipped fluids. Mary Beth Garcia, the chair of the rides program, was there with the volunteers, laughing, teasing, handing out snack bars, and cheering us on. Refreshed and cooled down, we headed out again.

Once again we were heading into the wind. We'd talked it over at the rest stop. We'd keep the pace a bit slower heading back. We kept the paceline tight and moved down the road at a pleasant pace. Then my bike had a sudden flat. Rear wheel. Al and I waved for the group to keep going.

We'd just pulled out a spare tube and tools when the Andante Bike Shop SAG vehicle stopped and offered to help. They fixed the flat in minutes, and we were back on the road. (Thanks, Mauricio!)

Now we were on our own. We could see other riders in the distance. We became a little paceline of two, switching places every mile. Pull for a mile, draft and recover for a mile. We gradually caught up and passed some other riders who were pedaling down the road on their own. Then we saw in the distance blue StormRider jerseys in a paceline. Our day would be a lot better if we could tag along with them to the next rest area. So we began the chase. Using shorter turns at the front, we dragged ourselves closer and closer to the StormRider paceline. Finally (pant-pant-pant) we hooked on. Yeah!!

Down the road we pedaled. In no time at all we were at the rest stop. We rolled over to our group. We'd caught up to them! We told our tale, sipped fluids, and munched. Then it was pedals up for the last leg of the ride.

Once again in with our group, we chatted and pedaled. Soon we were at a point where the 100 mile riders turned left into the wind and the 62 mile riders turned right. Our group headed right, but a couple of riders headed left. "Well, that's one way to separate the lazies from the crazies," quipped someone. "Lunch ahead," said someone else. The last miles flew by.

Back at the Homestead Air Reserve Park we grabbed some lunch from the excellent buffet. We socialized, wandered about, watched and listened to the raffle, then headed back to our car.

We'll be back next year. This is one fun, well-organized ride!