Ride report by Big Head Todd, filming, and video production by JOM
A Little about the Tour of the Quilt Country II
Gilchrist and Levy counties in North Central Florida each have Quilt shops and Quilt museums. They also have a great network of low traffic limerock roads. The second running of the tour consists of two separate stages: the North loop is 62 miles (46 miles of limerock) and the South loop is 44 miles (27 miles of limerock). There is one traffic signal over the entire 106 mile route!
Even if you expected carnage on this two-stage, 106 mile ride, you were probably still surprised at how early it began: i.e. before the ride even started? That’s right, ride organizer BHT’s truck broke down somewhere between Newberry, Florida and Trenton, Florida on the way to the starting line. With JOM on the road behind him though (confined to filming duties due to injury), he knew he could make the start. Suddenly an unknown vehicle (pronounced vee-hick-el) rolled up: it was K-Dogg in a new Prius with his Monster CX rig on the rack ready for its maiden voyage. A quick transfer of equipment and we rolled into Trenton right at start time much to everyone’s wonderment, since BHT’s rides always leave within the minute of posted time.
There were 16 on the start line – including several newcomers to the GCX scene – with three of those having already proclaimed a rock steady cruising pace worthy of this quilting community. The group rolled out and within 30 seconds cruised through the only traffic light of the entire day. At onset of sector one, the pace lifted slightly but remained somewhere between an “acceptable warmup” and “grumbling at the back” pace. Sector two would bring some of the worst sand of the stage and not surprisingly, a few really struggled causing the first split of the day (see the video below!). But the group mentality remained charitable and much slow rolling ensued as the victims managed to ride back on.
Thereon the group impetus fluctuated between fast double paceline and strung-out single file, but nobody was seriously gapped on the dusty flatlands. Only an unfortunate encounter with one of the few substantial pavement holes, resulted in an string of cursing in another language and soon after that a pinch flat. These events slowed the hard tempo pace back towards Trenton and whatever people had brought for lunch. A mile from Trenton on the paved Nature Coast Trail, Big Ryan flatted and attempted to ride it in. We all thought he would manage that feat but suddenly the tire and tube were completely off the rim and stopping was the only option.
Lunch between stages is proclaimed as a break, not simply a feed zone. Some had brought sandwiches, others hit up the Kangaroo* for the usual weekend ride fare. BHT delved into a container of leftover pasta and downed a beer (winner: most Euro lunch stop award).
* Kangaroo – Comment by JOM – petrol station chain ripping off Australia’s favourite marsupial.
After bidding farewell to those only game for stage one and finishing off lunch fixings, nine contenders rolled up to the line. As it turned out, Dr. MSG (also known as Dr. WTF) had arrived late in the AM and spent several hours chasing before cutting the course back to Trenton. Now he was ready to rumble. Big Ryan, Belgian Diesel, Pfaff Senior, Pfaff Junior, BHT, Gator Scott, JackRabbit and SingleMalt Thom (SMT) rounded out the field. Even tempo across the pavement and into sector one led to the hope that the afternoon might just be survivable, despite 90 degree Fahrenheit temps and a complete lack of feed zones over the next 100km. That changed in the first 500m of sector two, as the pace lifted and several were immediately off the back with post lunch legs. BHT proclaimed it too early to drop fellow sportsmen, and the pace altered to allow a regrouping before the end of the sector.
Perhaps predictably, the sandy bits (OK, it was a freaking beach!) of sector three shortly thereafter blew the group completely apart, as only Pfaff Junior was able to hold Dr. WTF’s wheel through the worst sand of the entire day. Pfaff Senior and BHT emerged shortly thereafter, but BHT decided to wait for the Belgian Diesel, since that was his only ride in a vehicle back to Gainesville, after K-Dogg left early “do chores” or something. Big Ryan came past and it looked like the front group of four had established itself for the rest of the day.
The Belgian Diesel, JackRabbit, Gator Scott and SMT all rolled out of the shade canopy eventually and it quickly became apparent that Diesel’s machine had suffered a series-ending injury. After hitting a log, his derailleur would only provide the very lowest gear and thus he was spinning out at 14mph. With directions back to Trenton given, the second group was down to four and prepared mentally to complete the ride without seeing the front again.
Sector four is a series of long limerock straightaways and despite the best intentions of keeping the group together, SMT went off the back fairly quickly. When he caught back on at a convenient nature break, directions back to Trenton had already been formulated before he asked for them. And then there were three. Or so we thought.
As we emerged from sector four, we were surprised to find the front group waiting – or circling like vultures – for the rest of us. SMT was resigned to his fate, so as we turned left and entered sector five, he continued east to Bell and then south back to Trenton. Sector five had the most shade we’d see for many miles ahead. As we transitioned to the sunbaked rollers of sector six, only the canines just before CR340 managed to split the group. Charity prevailed and knowing how many miles of pavement lay ahead before the next sector, the front group of six waited on those split off behind.
Cracks Start to Form
A smooth single paceline developed, but after a few miles JackRabbit announced his probable caloric deficit and decision to return to Trenton on SR47. Shortly afterward a slight increase in pace left him behind, alone to contemplate life for at least another hour. The remaining six rolled together onto sector seven, and the terrible surface conditions immediately produced a fracture: three off the front together and three each suffering solo behind. With Dr. WTF, Pfaff Junior and Big Ryan off on a break together, the remainder fought their own solo battles over the next six miles until a phone call-prompted regrouping at CR232. At this point it became evident that Pfaff Senior had gone deep into the pain cave – he was done and only capable of hoping for a church water spigot somewhere up the road. And then there were five…
Once you enter sector eight, it is essentially all limerock for almost 20 miles to the finish. BHT and Gator Scott rode together for miles – there was little incentive to go solo at this point. With just over 12 miles to go, Pfaff Junior sat by the roadside staring into the pastures, completely shattered. After ascertaining he would survive and had a ride coming to fetch him (he called his mum), Gator and BHT continued onwards. Despite splitting up on Tyler Grade into Trenton, they emerged as the only riders to complete the event behind Dr. WTF and Big Ryan.
Everyone was on empty over the final miles – three bottles simply weren’t enough. Two bottles were complete surrender.
Ride Video of Stage One
Thanks for reading and watching!