Today was the Delray Twilight Gran Fondo (loosely translated from Italian it means big ride). It's a mass start event. The start is somewhat staggered by projected speed, since Kathleen is substantially faster than I am at this point, we opted to ride seperately. Kathleen rode with the B+ group (~24mph average speed) and I rode with the C group (~17mph average speed). Since the start was at 7:00AM, we were up super early to be there on time. It was dark out, here's the scene before the start.
But we got underway about sunrise, here's our group rolling down A1A (the coast road) towards Pompano Beach.
It was a gorgeous morning, mostly sunny, and since this was a sanctioned thing, we had the whole road to ourselves, the motorcycle in the distance is our escort, and there were police at all of the intersections to wave us through and hold traffic :)
Seriously, how much nicer could it get in March?
We even had spectators :)
Here is the A+ (USA Cycling pro license and resume required) group coming back the other way, the route went down to Pompano Beach, then all the way back up to Palm Beach, then back down to Delray for the finish.
Then the A group passed by (27mph average speed)
Then the B+ group (Kathleen is in here somewhere).
Here is more of the B+ group, I was hoping to catch Kathleen in there, but with so many bodies, it was pretty unlikely.
We continued on down to Pompano Beach where there was a rest stop with food and drinks, then doubled back to head north towards Palm Beach.
Sunny skies and police support made it a great time.
Just after this I actually spotted Kathleen coming back the other way (which meant she was at least 15 miles ahead of me at that point), but since I didn't have my camera in my hand and on, I totally missed it. We pressed on towards the rest stop at mile 42. More sunny skies and Atlantic Ocean abounded.
Just after this is where it all went wrong. We turned into the rest stop at mile 43 (Here's the map of the course) in one of the beach parking lots, and the signage beyond turning off A1A was non-existent, so there was some confusion as to which way to go once we got off the highway. I turned into the parking lot after spotting the rest stop, but the marshall behind me (she's in the pictures with the blue ribbon in her hair) was going straight (as were about half of our group) and ran into my rear wheel. She ended up injuring her hand in the fall and had to be driven back. This really sucked the wind out of my sails, I felt like a total moron for screwing up her day and ride. That coupled with the fact that I have also been struggling with cyclist's hotfoot which had manifested itself pretty solidly at that point, I ended up heading back. I cut over to the mainland at Boynton Beach to get a coke and mentally regroup, then pedaled by myself down Highway 1 back to Delray Beach. I caught up with Kathleen there, she did the whole thing in 2:46 including stops for a 63 mile ride . Not quite fast enough to win her age group (the ride is timed, everybody wears transponders), but pretty darn quick. At the finish they had a big party, with food and drink, music, massages, and the like. I also ran into (not literally this time) the marshall, who called out to me by saying "I beat you back here" with a big smile on her face. This helped quite a bit, but I still feel pretty crappy about the whole thing. Kathleen said her group had a wreck at the same rest stop, so maybe the organizers will have a little better signage for next year. We hung around for the podium ceremonies to see if she had won her age group, then back to the house to get cleaned up.
So a bit of an anticlimatic end to the week, but I learned a few things, and pushed myself a little harder than I would if left to my own devices. I would like to come back next year and try it again, and to that end, get a bunch more miles in before coming down, besides the hotfoot, my butt started to get pretty sore :), but that is cured by hours on the bike. Toughens up the butt :) At any rate, here's my map and stats for the day, it ended up being 57 miles for me. Now we get to repack the bikes and get ready to head back up to Baltimore tomorrow, it's supposed to be rain/snow on Tuesday, I imagine it will be quite the shock to the system :(