I think it is safe to say that besides the absolutely ridiculous Webster-Roubaix race, this Road Race was the hardest race of the year. We had 90+ degree weather and clear skies (where is the rain when you actually need it?). The course itself was a 10 mile loop with a 3 mile rollout to the start/finish line. They kept saying we were going up the “easy” side of sugarloaf, but there was nothing easy about it for me. I heard several people complaining at the beginning of the race about that, but the funny part was that after the race those same people were glad to just sit down and have survived.
The Masters 35+ and 45+ fields were combined to have a nearly 80 man field. The initial 3 miles started slowly but by the time they hit Sugarloaf, people were already starting to get dropped. Rumors were flying around at the start line that Brian Lancaster (Orlando Road Club) had been training in these hills for the last month. Before the first lap was even finished, you could see Brian followed by Blain Reeves (Bike America Racing Team) off the front of the field. In between, was Ron Ray (ZMotion) doing a valiant solo chase in no-mans land. These guys were scheduled for 43 miles (4 laps+) and by the time the second lap came around, the field was already splitting with a select group of riders having caught Brian. By the third lap the field had split into three distinct groups that stayed that way pretty much to the finish. Karl Fele was the best placed rider for ZMotion and made the select group of 11 in the front group. He came in 6th overall in the 35+. Ron Ray was the best placed 45+ ZMotion racer at 11th.
The Criterium course on Sunday continued the theme of pain and presented a 1.5 mile loop shaped roughly like a figure 8 that was either up or down. There was no flat anywhere and with the off camber turns made for a highly technical race. The finish line was at the top of one of those uphill sections.
The fields were noticeably smaller today and the Master’s 45+ had around 25 riders on the starting line. The warm and dry weather trend continued with no shade in sight for those watching these guys in their suffering. Alan Badia (Florida Velo #1) launched the first serious attack just begging for the field to come chasing. By the time the field had re-grouped, there were some noticeably tired legs. As the race neared the end there ended up being a select group of five racers with a gap on the rest. Ken Schofield (Orlando Velo) led a lot of the last lap trying to setup Alan Badia for the win, but the ever dominant Peter Aldridge (Team Performance Fitness) showed again that he is the fastest 45+ racer in Florida by grabbing the win followed by Dallas Rose (Gearlink Racing) with Wills Powell (Bike America Racing Team) in third. Ron Ray was again the best placed 45+ ZMotion racer at 10th.
The Master’s 35+ starting field was even smaller but definitely not slower than the 45+ field with two guys off the front in a breakaway attempt on the very first lap. Soon after the field was back together and we saw Curtis Juteram (Bike America Racing Team) attacking the field. Jeff Fleming (ZMotion) also tried his hand several times but was shadowed by Carlos Soler (Team 19 Cycling) who sits just behind him in the overall FPS series. Carlos, if you are reading this, please work with Jeff, not just chase him down.
Early on Alex Yarnell did some work up front to control the breakaways with Karl Fele taking up that same role for the rest of the race. In a similar pattern to the 45+ field, the final laps saw a select group of six riders off the front of the main field. Chad Spicer (Orlando Velo) launched early and managed to hold off the hard charging field for the win followed by Jeff Fleming in second and Didier Fresne (Florida Velo #1) in third.