Participants in yesterday's CFT/Sommer Sports "Assualt on Sugarloaf"
bicycle ride were greeted with kind weather and a new course. A rare
overcast and relatively windless day kept participants cool in this tour
of the old farmlands and orange groves in Central Florida. Many
athletes use this event as a warm-up or tune-up for Ironman Hawaii or
the Great Floridian Ironman both held in mid-October. In general,
participants were delighted with the event.
The new course proceeds from Lake Minneola in Clermont (about 30 miles
north of Orlando) directly to the famous Ferndale loop. The loop is
modified to add the rolling hills of the Howey-in-the-Hills area. By
mile marker 40 or so, particpants return to the lake and on to the flat
section of the course.
The flat section of the course differs from previous Sugarloaf and Grand
Floridan rides. The course roads are smooth as silk and weave through
the farmlands and boggy swamps of Lake and Sumter counties. Rural towns
like Center Hill and Groveland punctuate the fields and forests.
Traffic is light.
On the negative side, the aid stations were sporadically placed, with as
little as 10 miles and as much as 30 miles in between. Despite having
plenty of cookies, bagels, bananas, and Gatorade, one of the stations
lacked water - major problem! Also, with the farmlands and rural county
roads come the occasional belligerent high-speed pickup truck and the
occassional belligerent high-speed pit-bull terrier.
In traditional manner, finishers feasted on Fred Sommers' bounty of
Entenmann's cakes and boiled hot dogs. Most riders took the ceremonial
dip in Lake Minneola. Hardy riders went for a 7.4 mile run around the
lake. In general, the commaradery and good spirits were high.
Here are a few hints for those participating in the Great Floridan Ironman
in late October:
1. Wear plenty of high protection sunscreen. I lathered plenty of
sun protection factor 15 sunscreen on my sun-conditioned skin.
In spite of the overcast day, my skin was slightly burned.
2. Bring pepper spray and plan your defense from the dogs. One dog
almost grabbed my leg but could not get the hang of my 120 RPM
cadence. I was travelling nearly 30 miles per hour to escape him.
3. Attempt to be self-sufficient on the bike. There is little escape
from the hot Florida sun on this course, and one should carry
plenty of water between aid stations.
4. Be as fast as you want to be. Heat and wind will be your enemy, but
the course will be your ally. After mile marker 40, the roads are
desolate, smooth and level - perfect for that heads-down time trial
bike with the 105 degree seat tube angle.