Ride Report: 2016 Heartbreaker Cycling Invitational Charity Ride – by Dr. Pain

Heartbreaker-DrPain2016-21Saturday Feb. 27, 2016 saw 86 gravel cycling enthusiasts line up for the 5th Annual Heartbreaker Invitational Charity “ride”. We call it a gravel ride, but there is very little actual gravel on our roads here in Florida. They are referred to as “limerock”. I don’t really know what this is, but it can at times be packed pretty hard for smooth fast rolling, or it can be full of washboard, or it can be axle deep “sugar sand”. Flat to rolling terrain, except for the so-called “Flappalachian” mountain chain on Old Bellamy Road (oldest road in the USA). We had perfect weather starting in the mid-50’s Fahrenheit and ending in the mid-60’s F, with brilliant sunshine. This is why we live in Florida. Don’t ask in August.

I will preface this report with a disclaimer about knowing what went on in the race peloton as a whole by saying my experience the week before (Doc Hollywood Invitational) meant I was determined, NOT to see the back of the group.  See last week’s video for details. I had a few goals for the Heartbreaker event:

  1. No flying over the handlebars or anything resembling that.
  2. Ride big tires to help with number 1.
  3. Finish.
  4. Don’t finish last.
  5. Have fun.

Anything else was just a bonus.  So, to accomplish all those goals, I was determined to stay at the front of the group, thinking it was better to crack and get dropped than fly over the handlebars as someone lost it in front of me.

The group met at the “One Love Café” for the start, and for some excellent beer and food after the event. Nice folks, and our modest entry fee got us a beer, and the rest of the money went to a local retired horse farm. A fun bike ride on deserted roads, good lasses and lads to ride with, perfect weather, beer, food, and live music! This is the life.

The group rolled out at the shockingly gentile hour of 10:45am. JOM, the organizer is a nice bloke (sometimes) and had a late start to let the folks who lived 2-3 hours away get up at a reasonable hour. Neutral start for the first 24 kilometers / 15 miles to get us out of traffic. There were two sectors of gravel prior to that, and keeping the surging herd under control was just barely possible.

Small surging herd ahead of the group – behind JOM in the lead vehicle.

Dr. Pain did his best to keep them in check, hoping there would be some respect for an old guy, but that only goes so far, apparently. Plus, he had none of his laboratory pain devices on hand to assist with the herding. The group was mostly together when we got to the “start”. Prior to that, there was one of Dr. Pain’s favorite “sand pit of doom” sections.

Riders heading into the "neutral" sand pit of doom.
Riders heading into the “neutral” sand pit of doom.

I didn’t see any of the carnage behind, because tribal knowledge allowed me to go immediately to the front and have an unobscured line through the short sector. No problems. Behind was carnage, with spills, and much walking.  We waited and regrouped as we were still in the neutral zone.

Dr. Pain's view.
Dr. Pain’s view.
View behind the lead vehicle the "neutral" phase.
View behind JOM’s vehicle during a later sector of the “neutral” phase.

At kilometer 24, the virtual flag dropped and the not-race was on.

The hammer drops for those riding hard!
The hammer drops for those riding hard!

Determined to stay out of trouble and to thin the herd as much as possible, Dr. Pain immediately rolled off the front. I’ve often thought that on a group ride you can find out how many friends you have by rolling off the front, or off the back. I have no friends in the group.

K-Dogg's view of Dr. Pain's attack.
K-Dogg’s view of Dr. Pain’s attack.

Left to flounder into a headwind, I settled into a futile solo effort off the front. Brilliant. Finally, the group put me out of my misery and came up to provide me some draft. Fortunately, it was an unsuccessful suicide attempt and I was able to continue with the lead group, now whittled down to 30 or so.

View from JOM's vehicle cam.
View from JOM’s vehicle cam. Antje of Delafina Racing closest to camera.
End of the sector.
End of the sector.

There were some serious legs in this event, including at least three prior “winners” (Ryan Woodall – 2015 30-34 National Cyclocross champion, Dr. MSG, K-Dogg) and a bunch of others from in and out of town.

L to R: JOM in car, Ryan Woodall, K-Dogg troublemaker.
L to R: JOM in Honda camera vehicle, Ryan Woodall & K-Dogg troublemaker.

The pace was jacked a couple of times by Ryan, who was egged on by K-Dogg because the Dogg is just a troublemaker. Since the good Dr. Pain was already up there at the front, a leg searing, but thankfully short sprint brought him back and the group stayed together for the rest of the next couple sectors.

The next obstacle was Dr. Pain’s other favorite sector which is a short sandy and probably private road. A small group was off the front that included two of the Gravel Cyclist crew (Pfaff Daddy and Jimbo). Dr. Pain latched on to a gent who bridged us across to that group just as we turned onto the second sand pit of doom. It was fast and furious across this sector, but it was too short and too far (kilometer 51) from the finish to permanently split the group. It did hurt some legs.

Shawn Smith close to the front on the second sandpit of doom.
Shawn Smith close to the front on the second sandpit of doom.
These riders were collateral damage from the sandpit of doom. Amy smiles anyway :)
These riders were collateral damage from the sandpit of doom. Amy smiles anyway 🙂

Next up were the Flappalachian chain of not-so-high altitude mole hills. That said, there are a couple of inclines of 9% in the three climbs. None is more than two minutes long, but it regularly causes considerable carnage in the Heartbreaker, and in the Tuesday Night Tallest Midget Contest (also known as Tuesday GCX Worlds).

The hammer is down on the Flappalachian sector.

This is not Dr. Pain’s favorite terrain. I employed the well known “fat man fade” technique, moving to the front, drifting back to stay in the draft over the top. Then I used tribal knowledge and big tires to move back up and repeat. There were a couple of digs by Ryan Woodall, the former National Cyclocross Champ, but enough strong legs to leave most of the group intact at the end of the sector.

A very short relaxation of hostilities occurred, until Dr. MSG launched a shocking acceleration on dirt, and rocketed off the front, followed by Ryan Woodall. There was a long line of shucking, jiving, weaving, frantic chasers that finally brought them back. Another brief pause followed and Shawn Smith, a local top-level MTB’r rolled off the front. Not thinking clearly, the good Dr. Pain jumped on his wheel. There were 24 kilometers until the finish. The next 15 minutes felt like about three days, as Shawn slowly crushed my legs.

BJ Hargrave smiles (suffers?) in the breakaway.
BJ Hargrave of JC’s Bike Shop smiles (suffers?) in the breakaway.
Dr. Pain in the breakaway. Suffering galore.
Dr. Pain in the breakaway. Shawn on his right. Suffering galore.
Shawn Hebb of Winter Park Cycles suffers hard to bridge across.
Shawn Hebb of Winter Park Cycles suffers hard to bridge across.

A couple of folks managed to bridge across, just as I was about to lose contact. Let’s be clear, JOM “sits up”, I was getting dropped. I’d like to note that young Bryce Kovi (15 years of age) bridged across to me, and almost made it to the leading trio, but the group caught us just as we turned onto the “three sisters” sector.  This sector is noted for three mile hills and some deep sand in a tree lined tunnel with high banks… sort of a sand luge track.

Ryan Woodall has the hammer down on the "3 Sisters".
Ryan Woodall has the hammer down on the “3 Sisters”.

This section was where Dr. Pain got to see the back of the group. The careening and floundering observed through the sand was not comforting given his catapult activity from the week before. Apparently out of sight at the front was a vicious attack by undoubtedly two of the strongest in the group (Ryan Woodall and Dr. MSG). Dr. Pain used his fat tires and tribal knowledge to get past the flounderers and back to the front, only to find the eventual winners ahead with an insurmountable gap.

JOM Vehicle Cam - Chaos at the back in the sand luge.
JOM Vehicle Cam – Chaos at the back in the sand luge.

All of the Gravel Cyclist crew were still in this lead group, with only about 6-7 kilometers to the finish. Relieved to still be in contact, Dr. Pain decided to use up the remaining paltry supply of watts and did a couple of all out surges at the front to see if there was motivation to chase. What was I thinking? I successfully dropped myself after the second surge and got a long distance view of the front group finishing.

L: Ryan Woodall, R: Dr. MSG. These guys worked HARD.
L: Ryan Woodall, R: Dr. MSG. These guys worked HARD to stay clear.
Ryan leads Dr. MSG on the final sector.
Ryan leads Dr. MSG on the final sector.

I have no idea what antics occurred during that last few km… I had no binoculars. Apparently, Ryan Woodall repeated as winner, with Dr. MSG repeated as 2nd behind him.

Ryan dances away on the tough climb to the line.
Ryan dances away on the tough climb to the line.

Ryan received a clapped out (JOM slang for broken) silca pump, and Dr. MSG received a cool Wolf Tooth Components beanie with tassle to cover his bald pate. Serves them both right for leaving us behind. Thanks to Shawn Smith for organizing this and other great schwag!

15 year old Bryce Kovi after his top 10 finish. He's tired.
15 year old Bryce Kovi after his top 10 finish. He’s tired.

All in all, it was a fabulous event. We returned to the One Love Café for live music, accompanied by beer and good food on the outdoor patio. The horse farm charity will receive over a thousand dollars or so to buy carrots. Dr. Pain didn’t fly over the bars, didn’t get hurt, finished, and didn’t finish last. Success!!

Event Ride Video by JOM coming soon!

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Moose

    First of all, great event and big thanks to everyone that helped organize.
    In terms of conditions … The weather was great (better than last year) but the dry, windy days leading up to Saturday really turned a few sections into sugar pits. Since I don’t get to ride with groups much, this was my first taste of a gravel ride (not race) where my 33 mm cross tires really came back to hurt me. Knifing into the sand is no big deal when you are on a solo jaunt. It’s much worse when you are trying to negotiate the attacks of this type of ride.
    Had great fun and now I’m going to see what the biggest tired I can jam into my cross frame are.

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