Normally we do rides like this by ourselves. Riding in a group is easier, but the views from a paceline are not as interesting as when you are riding by yourself. But this year a large group from the West Side Sunset Bandits team was going, and they were nice enough to extend an invitation to us to join them. The biggest part of their group was doing the hundred mile route which didn't interest us. But a small group was doing the 70 mile route, and we like that ride immensely.
We decided to follow our pattern from past years. Rather than face the mob scene of the Waterfront Park start and the fairly uninteresting warm up ride around the lake, we chose to ride our bikes from our motel and join the route after the pretty but ho-hum ride around the lake but before the first climb of the day up North Ridge. We'd stop at the top of the climb and wait for our group to ride by. Which they did, and we hopped on our bikes and pedaled on down the road.
There were six of us in our little group. One rider was only doing the 35 mile route, which meant he would ride with us for a bit over 25 miles. He was just beginning to develop his climbing skills, but his descending skills were amazing! He was a natural: fearless, a perfect tucked position, body fluidly shifting as he maneuvered down each hill to rejoin our group. We caught up with the larger hundred mile group and rode with them for a while. At the rest stop before our two groups would head in different directions, one of the guys from our small group felt confident enough to commit to the hundred mile group. So there were then four in our small group.
So on down the road the four of us pedaled. We had some minor climbs and then Sugarloaf ahead. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Finally it was up Sugarloaf, the well-earned rest stop at the top of the climb, and the short 10-ish miles to the finish. But it was in these final miles that we had our treat for the day. The route had been changed! Two mean climbs near the end had been replaced by a route that gave us a long awesome descent! Best end to a ride in the hills of Central Florida ever.
We left our friends not far from the finish to head back to our motel. As we pedaled towards the motel, we made our plans for the evening. The evening's plans whispered louder than our plans for doing a few more miles. We laughed and headed back to our room for a shower.
Miles: 66.8. Climbing: 2637 feet.